Others 'kanth', what Rajini can: Turn larger-than-life cinema into an art-form

No one makes larger than life entertainment like Rajinikanth does.

They don’t make them like Superstar Rajini anymore. In the 1980s, as a certain Kamal Haasan was taking Tamil cinema by storm, the working class found its saviour in the form of Rajinikanth. Was it rich acting? Stunning dancing? Or mind-blowing action? Fortunately, we have a part of the answer today. It is Rajinikanth’s steely conviction onscreen and his ability to pull off impossible stunts that got everyone’s attention. Outrageous is one way of describing Rajinikanth’s films and his personal style. And yet, has anyone even batted an eyelid as he beats up multiple henchmen, without getting so much as a scar. No one makes larger-than-life cinema look as good as Rajinikanth.

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Do you remember the way he draped his angavastram in Padayappa, or the way he holds his cigar in Suresh Krishna’s Baassha? Or the way he swings his sunglasses on his fingers and wears them just on the bridge of his nose. And obviously you remember his signature way of catching a cigarette between his teeth after flipping it in the air. Because if you don’t, what are you even doing with your life?

It isn’t just his films that are often treated as cult classics even before their release. The applause rolls in much before Rajini does and that’s okay. Thailaiva is the hero we get, but do not deserve.

Sometime after Whatsapp became a rage, the world was introduced to Rajinikanth jokes, a la Chuck Norris. As people forwarded messages like ‘only Rajinikanth can answer a missed call’ with glee, it was a reflection of how far and wide the legend of Rajinikanth had spread.

Only in Rajini’s world, can the hero shoot a bullet, throw a knife after it cutting it into two, and end up hitting two people. Rajini has perfected the art of suspension of disbelief and done it with such flair that you accept it despite its ridiculousness. Rajini mania will not bow down to logic, in fact the farther it is away from sensibility the more applause it will garner.

Here’s a man whose offscreen quaint persona is a picture of humility, but when he comes to cinema, everything from his exaggerated mannerism to his clothes, hairstyles and make-up  seem intent on making an impression. He’s self-aware enough to indulge in self-deprecating humour, like that scene in Sivaji: The Boss, where he literally says gibberish and then taps his bald head right before delivering a punch line. And who else can confidently strut down a road, as the village behind them morphs into ‘Tokyo’ with the help of some over-exposed VFX? Only Rajini can.

After more than four decades of work behind this living legend, if Rajinikant doesn’t deliver that lame punch line after beating up the bad guy, the audience is disappointed. If he doesn’t utter that gibberish with his right hand raised with the index finger pointing at the person he’s talking to, fans feel let-down. If he doesn’t go around parading in outrageous outfits and hairstyles, the people will come out of the theatre completely confounded. It has taken four decades of painstaking filmmaking to perfect this fantastical realm, where God chooses to be Thalaivaa.

With the release of Karthik Subbaraj’s Petta around the corner and his blockbuster entry into politics, the legend of Rajinikanth isn’t diminishing anytime soon. In a world that has seen many angry young men, many romantic leads and multiple khiladis, there is but one superstar, Rajinikanth.