Rajnikanth Unarguable ‘Thaliavaa’ of Indian Cinema - Part II

Renowned for his trademark gestures viz. flipping a cigarette in the air and catching it in his mouth or rotating his glasses a number of times, Rajnikant’s life story is a rag to riches tale. The superstar before joining films was working as a bus conductor in the Karnataka State Transport Corporation in Bangalore. However, his passion for cinema and his liking for his role module, Bollywood actor, Shatughan Sinha, motivated him to join the Madras Film Institute. 

Born on December 12, 1949, in Karnataka, Rajnikant’s real name is Shivaji Rao Gaekwad. It’s quite astonishing that despite being a Tamil megastar, he is not Tamil! His mother tongue is Marathi but he has not done a single Marathi movie. His near and dear ones lovingly call him by his nickname – ‘Baba’.

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It’s reported that during his tenure as bus conductor, he caught the fancy of the bus travelers with his mannerisms and style of issuing tickets. Aspiring to become an actor, he moved to Chennai and joined the film institute. It was here that he caught the eye of K. Balachander, a director known for introducing talented, new faces into the Tamil film industry.

Balachander gave him a small role - as the no-good husband of Srividya - in ABOORVA RAAGANGAL and the rest, as they say, is history. 

Rajnikanth soon graduated to playing main villain and his style, swagger and casually unique brand of villainy vowed the movie-going public. Be it the sadistic husband of Sujatha in AVARGAL or the wolf in sheep's clothing in MOONDRU MUDICHU or the lust-filled village rowdy in Bharathiraja's 16 VAYADHINILE, Rajnikanth was the villain the people loved to hate.

Soon filmmakers decided to bank on the popularity of Rajnikant and from villain he was made a hero in BHAIRAVI

Rajnikanth firmly captured the vacant, action-hero slot in Tamil movies with a series of movies where he routinely bashed up the bad guys who had done him injustice in one way or the other. Once in a while he did movies like AARULIRUNDHU ARUBADHU VARAI or JOHNY which gave us glimpses of his acting potential. 

In fact in 80’s, he played a Hindu saint in his 100th movie, SRI RAGHAVENDRA. And later he played an out and out comedy in 'THILLU MULLU', a remake of Bollywood hit GOLMAAL. But action was what the fans expected from a Rajni movie and action was what he gave them. 

NOTE: In the next issue read about Rajnikant’s foray into Bollywood.