My tryst with RAJNIKANTH started with RAJA CHINNA ROJA – the adorable children’s film which had the famous song Superstar Yarunu Keta Chinna Kozhandaiyum Solum ( Even a kid knows who the Superstar is ). But his destiny with cinema started way back in 1975 with Apoorva Ragangal.There were early signs even as the ragged young man opened the gates in a huge multi starrer with KAMAL HASSAN, SRIVIDYA, JAYASUDHA and MAJOR SUNDARRAJAN. It wasn’t a conventional film neither was RAJNI’S role.
He wasn’t a conventional by any means. He was dark, brooding and quite different from the fair skinned heroes of those days. But his mentor K.Balachander knew he had a precious diamond in his hand. All he had to do was polish it. His early career was marked by hardcore villainy. Be it Avargal, Moondru Mudichu or the famous Parattai in 16 Vayathinile the punches were spot on. Here was a villain who was loved. Even as a villain his magnetism and charisma could not be ignored
His first break as the protagonist came with Bairavi the story of a faithful servant who sets out to take revenge on the master himself. But what followed was a series of path breaking films. Be it Mullum Malarum, Bhuvana OruKelvikuri or 6il irundhu Aruvadhu varai. All films which broke the mould. Films which showcased Rajnikanth the wonderful actor. If you ever doubt the Superstar’s acting credentials do watch these films on DVD. Directors like K. Balanchander and Mahendran knew how to extract the best out of Rajnikanth the actor.
His elevation as a hero meant he had to choose a path and he also had to break away from his most famous on screen pair KAMAL HASSAN. The famous jewels of tamil cinema once rocked the big screen together. What started with Apoorva Ragangal extended till NINAITHALE INIKKUM where Rajni played an admirable foil to Kamal the star. Kamal Hassan was already a star while Rajni was just taking his baby steps towards SUPERSTARDOM.
He choose a path – A path which would eventually crown him in the hearts of the masses and give an answer to the long pending question after MGR who ? The late 80’s were marked by films which made him a mirror image of AMITHABH BACHAN down SOUTH. When i see films like Dabbang nowadays I merely laugh. It had already been done by two SUPERSTARS in their respective fortresses. Why start all over again? Films like Billa, Murratu Kalai, Pokiri Raja etc firmly established Rajni as a bankable star. But greater success beckoned. The gold had to glitter like none before it.
ANNAMALAI – A landmark film in many ways produced by his mentor K.Balachander and directed by SURESH KRISHNA. The flashy SUPERSTAR sign with the trademark music.The scene where Rajni strides to take his rightful place as PRESIDENT is vintage. It can be watched over and over again. In a way it made a statement the KING has arrived. The heir to the throne. The STYLE SAMRAT.
Baasha followed – A story which would make way for numerous shameless imitations. But none could match the aura of Manik BAASHA.. RAJNI was no longer a star. He was a phenomenon, a demi -god who took the box office by storm. He was in more ways than one- A ONE MAN INDUSTRY. MUTHU, PADAIYAPPA,SHIVAJI, ENDHIRANeach taking turns to smash existing box office records.
Even as the search for the heir continues courtesy the VIJAY – AJITH fight at the box office. The aura of the KING refuses to die.
LONG LIVE THE KING – HAPPIE BIRTHDAY SUPERSTAR