Almost all show-world success stories in India appear the same. What sets individuals apart
is the approach and the attitude once they reach the top. No one can resist a rags-to-riches
story. It is every common man's dream. But Rajinikanth's story is irresistible. He continues
to be an enigma to both his fans and contemporaries. He is simple Shivaji Rao Gaekwad who,
by way of luck and hard work became a superstar, and continues to remain on top
notwithstanding the vagaries of time.
His starrer Muthu gave him an enviable identity globally, and sky seemed the limit
after its unprecedented success in Japan. His latest, Shivaji has further spread his
charisma globally. One can love Rajinikanth as millions do, one can hate him, as his
detractors do, but the fact also remains no one can ignore him. None can shrug away his
presence unless he or she is extremely insensitive to the film world.
The book, written in cinematic styles, painstakingly seeks to record every nuance of
Rajinikanth's life: the joys and sorrows, the pains and ecstasies, loves and betrayals. It
also does not shy away from underlining the two extremes that have remained an intrinsic
part of his highly eventful career: the human and the divine. The book tells the essential
truth about Rajinikanth that has thus far remained unknown to his vast fan following.
Dr. Gayathri Sreekanth is a practicing ophthalmologist in Chennai. The idea
of this book took seed when she saw the book: Still Reading Khan by Mushtaq Shiekh, while
participating in the famed show Kaun Banega Crorepati. Much inspired by it, she felt that
the South-Indian film industry should also be talked about in such books; and who else to
start with, but Rajinikanth! Gayathri has been an ardent fan of Rajini for decades and this
adulation, coupled with a lot research and hard work has resulted in: The Name is
Rajinikanth. A movie buff, lover of music and reading books, this is her first book as an
author. Gayathri lives in Chennai with her ophthalmologist husband and two children.
His readers Before you get into the world of Rajinikanth, I have a small exercise for
you. You need a pen and an analytical mind to answer ten simple questions. It is easy
really. There is only one rule for this activity: the answer has to be spontaneous. And yes,
the answer should not be Rajinikanth.
Pen ready? All set?
1. How many superstars do you know who sleep on the floor, minus air conditioners,
pillows, bed, comfortable cushiony bed sheets?
2. How many stars do you know who come out with a white beard, bald head, sans make up,
sporting just a cotton kurta, even for an international function?
3. How many superstars do you know who refuse luxury caravans and five star hotels and
prefer to stay in a basic lodge along with the film unit?
4. How many superstars do you know who help the poor and needy with a little more than
what is required and yet do not publicize it one bit?
5. How many superstars do you know who don't care / bother about payment and are
content with just Rs 1001 as token advance? (Sub question 1: How many superstars do you know
who are not in the habit of carrying wallet with wads of cash / credit / debit cards and
6. How many superstars do you know who despite multi crore offers refuse to endorse
brands? (Ok, if any of you give Kamal Haasan as an answer, you get an extra point)?
7. How many superstars do you know who hate adulation and shy away from limelight and
publicity as if they are burdenous packages? (Sub question 2: How many superstars do you
know who are happy with a good old Ambassador car, with no automated windows and hi tech
8. How many superstars do you know who have zero ego and zero attitude, and love having
their snacks and tea at the roadside shop and dhabas just like any of us?
9. How many superstars do you know who call a spade a spade and has it in him to own up
his vices, habits and weaknesses and lead a transparent, open life?
10. How many superstars do you know who refuse to lie under any circumstance, do not
cheat others and are generous in praising their costars all the while giving them enough and
more space on screen, demanding an equal footage to the others?
How is it that everything is still blank? Interesting isn't it? Now fill it all with one
The Tamil representative of Kollywood, superstar to admirers, thalaivar to his
ardent fans and a way of life to his even more ardent followers. Rags to riches stories are
nothing new. In fact, there are many such fairy tales. Needless to say Rajinikanth's life
too represents one such story, but what really sets him apart?
I have met probably hundreds of people who were directly / indirectly associated
with the superstar. Everybody has his won explanation about his success. Some say it is
god's grace. Some attribute it to hard work; some point it out to be blind simple plain
luck. Some referred his success to his directors; many felt his style to be the reason for
his fame. Some said he is blessed.
After hearing many such comments about Mr Rajinikanth's success, I felt there were
two explanations that came in proximity to my logical reasoning.
One was by lyriscist Vairamuthu. He opined that the Tamils in the mid-70s were laid
back and were used to melodramatic acting. The brisk, alert, stylized casual Rajinikanth
with very attractive eyes was very different from the rest of the Kollywood heroes. His
common face became his asset. The masses could instantly identify themselves with him. He
was not fair faced, had no airs, and could not dance too well, just like them. Plus Tamils
loved to adulate and celebrate somebody. Rajinikanth came in at the right time where there
was vacancy post MGR-Shivaji phase. The bi-actor comparing Tamils wanted somebody to be
pitted against Kamal Haasan. Rajini was but the natural choice.
The second simple reasoning was by Radhika, producer, actor, and politician. "Why
analyze? He is a phenomenon. He is successful and that's what matters. What he does, none
else can. Can you imagine any one else doing a Shivaji? I told my husband, had you ventured
acting in a movie like Shivaji, people would have pelted you. People accepted him and that's
why he is successful. He is a clear exception to the rule. Full stop." I had it to her for
Rajini magic defies logic.
There is no concrete explanation for his highly successful 35-year run in the Tamil
film industry. Yes, he is hardworking. But so are others. He is humble and obedient but hey
so are others. If one compares his north Indian contemporaries like say, Amitabh Bachchan,
there are many qualities that can be pin-pointed in favour of Amitiji. He is tall, endowed
with a deep guttural voice, could sing, could act, could carry any role on his shoulder,
represented youth portraying the angry young man. On the other hand, Rajini is not as tall,
he averages 5 ft 9 inches, has normal voice, cannot pronounce Tamil words too well (even
now), is dark and not an exceptionally talented actor. Again, like MGR, for instance, he was
not image conscious, he did not select heavy duty roles like Shivaji Ganesan (though he
claims to have imitated him in the initial movies), cannot dance like his fellow
"competitor" Kamal Haasan. Yet he stayed on and how.
Take my sister's three-year-old Sanjay, for example. My sister takes him for a
school admission (Lower KG), The child has to go through the formality of an interview. My
confident sister looks around the room casually and her eyes freeze over a particular spot.
Part of the interview is identifying musical instruments. There were toy drums, toy piano,
toy banjo and (shudder) toy guitar. My sister called on all gods, she could think of, for a
rescue mission. For Sanjay, a drum is a drum, a piano is a piano, a banjo is a banjo but the
guitar is not a guitar. It is "adiradi kkkkkkaaaram machchan machan Shivaji", not
just that, whenever he sets his eyes on the guitar he has to do the epileptic Rajini style
dance with quivering jowls. My sister's prayers were miraculously answered. She was spared
on the "Shivaji" embarrassment. She is no exception, just another one is a million mother of
a three and a half year old Tamil.
Like KS Ravikumar and Satya Raj say "a star becomes successful when he can connect
to children and women. It is common sight now to observe children beat their fore scalp up
and down with their fingers, pout their lips fully, tilt sideways and say in their most
unnatural voice "motta boss, dub dub dub". I am sure it is a cliché for all the Tamil
mothers with children aged 2 to 15, imitating motta boss Shivaji. I have seen my children
Roshan and Samyukta do it. I simply don't react. I prefer to overlook his / her hero worship
Rajini. I have no right to, really. Even I try to imitate in front of the mirror when no one
is around (confession time).
Children keep quiet when they watch Rajini movies. Their mouth is semi open and
their eyes sparkle. Language no bar, race no bar, religion no bar. Like Khushboo puts it
"when you watch a Rajini movie, yet let go of your self. If you could somehow peel your eyes
from the screen and watch others in theatre silently you will realize faces, connecting to
the hero on screen." Just to know if she is telling the truth, I went for Shivaji (third
time) to observe people. I found out three things.
1. People let go of themselves. The rigid, conservative, not so humour happy Tamil
disappears to be replaced by a carefree whistle happy, bindaas Dravidian. No sir, I am not
talking about the illiterate cinema crazy frontbenchers. I am talking about highly educated,
intellectually pitted, high salaried soft-ware engineers and professionals.
2. They clap and hoot, convinced of Rajini's bravery when he bashes up 20 men single
handedly. I could visibly see their faces brightening when they see their faces brightening
when they see him mouth a punch dialogue.
3. Khushboo is right.
Jyothika again has an observation, "Rajini started the punch dialogue trend. My heart pains
to see when you are forced to watch the present heroes desperately trying to imitate
Rajinikanth. They simply refuse to understand, just by blabbing a few words and attiring
them selves like Rajinikanth doesn't make them a Rajinikanth. Many try and almost fail to
match the superstar. They only end up annoying the audience." How true.
Rajini style is inevitable for anyone who wants to make it to the movies. Right from
the debut actors (daiiiiii
followed by nauseating oh so heroic punch dialogues) to bashing
up 100 goons and sidekicks with little finger to the stars on the second step of the success
ladder, it has to be Rajini ishtyle. Audiences are smart. They jeer and boo the bad imitants
When I started writing this book, my well-wishers asked me, "Why Rajinikanth? Why
not Vivekananda, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa or Abdul Kalam?" my answer was "Why not
Rajinikanth?" I believe him to be one of the best living human beings. Vices don't maketh a
man, quality maketh. Habits don't make a man bad, only his attitude. Rajini hasn't forgotten
his roots; he is still the basic well-grounded Shivaji Rao and enjoys the company of his
driver, conductor and depot friends. He is spiritual, hates hypocrisy and loves simplicity.
I still am looking out for a hero who owns up to his mistake, is open to criticism and has
lived life to the fullest.
Familywise, he is an ideal husband and a perfect father.
Wife wants to do something creative, feels the need to set up a school, he sets up a
school for her. She is creatively satisfied. Dream husband.
Daughter wants to set up a million dollar worth studio, daddy dear instantly gives
her a go ahead. No questions asked, daughter gets the Ocher Studio. Dream father.
Rajini has a complete life and is at peace with himself. I am yet to come across a
person who has such inner peace. I am glad I wrote about the star and I consider it an
honour to present my viewpoint about this phenomenon to the readers.
Without Mr M Saravanan (AVM Studios), this book might not have been possible. They
say help comes in the most unexpected forms. When one door closes, the other opens. Mr
Saravanan is god sent, he is my open door. Thank you sir. I wish there are many people in
the world like you. I also am indebted to the director who wishes not to be named. Thank you
uncle. I could not have met or interacted with Mr Rajinikanth without your help. I have kept
up my word is not mentioning your name in the book, but you are the most humane person I
have ever seen. I know your blessings are with me always.
I thank KB sir, who despite his internal, mental conflicts and external pressures
understood my plight and penned a beautiful foreword. Without KB's foreword I could not have
a book on the superstar. He made Rajini. He gave Rajini to us. I thank him for giving us a
treasure like Rajinikanth.
I also thank the superstar for meeting me, giving me a beautiful write-up for my
book, going with his intuitions.
I thank his friends Rajmadhan, Bahadur, Raghunandan, Prakash, Rajanna, Baba and many
others. My special thanks to thalaivar's elder brother Satyanarayana, who is as humble and
as simple as the super star (I guess, the simplicity runs in their DNA. Tamil language has a
proverb "a pot full of water never spills out", Rajini and his brother are pot full of
I thank Swami Dayanand Saraswathi, who stood by me when I needed him the most. Great
people remain great, come what may.
I thank the Chief Minister of Tamilnadu Kalaignar Karunanidhi, Padma Shri Dr Kamal
Haasan, actor politician Vijay kantha, and all the actors, producers, directors,
distributors for their cooperation.
I have to thank Mr Sivakumar, the veteran actor. He recorded his first interview and
also presented me the beautiful Sony tape recorder to carry on with my other interviews. He
is my mentor and a father figure. I look up to him (and bug him some times when my mind is
disturbed). He and his wife were very understanding during during tough phases.
I thank "stills" Gnanam for the photographs; I also thanks Nikil Murugan, Mohan
(KB's PA) and the film archivist, "film news Anandan". For all the posters used in the book,
I thank Mr SMM Ausaja for providing access to his private collection.
How could I not thank my publishers? Ajay Mago of Om Books International in an ideal
publisher. Friendly, understanding and bindaas. I am glad to be associated with Om.
Last but not the least, my list of thanks would be incomplete if I do not mention Mr
Suresh Kohli and Mrs Sunita Pant Bansal. Thanks you Suresh ji, for shaping the book into
what it is.
I finally thank Mrs Lata Rajinikanth for giving me the initial go ahead.
Back of The Book
"I am extremely happy to see the book, written by Ms Gayathri Sreekanth on superstar
Rajinikanth is an exemplary personality in the cine-field. He is a man of
honesty and simplicity
I congratulate the author."
"Precious little private details about the superstar fill the book. Though I know
most of them, it is still a good read. Dr Gayathri has not destroyed truth for the sake of
"The book is the result of the extraordinary efforts made by Dr Gayatrhi. She has
gone through many trials and troubles to put together this book. She has woven together
numerous incidents into a kind of screenplay which is stylish and beautifully presented."
North Indian Music (293)
Original Texts (64)
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