Monday 29 August 2016
facebook.com/Outlookindia twitter.com/outlookindia digimag.outlookindia.com instagram.com/outlookindia youtube.com/user/OutlookMagazine

God Flips Cigarettes To His Lips

Those who know what it is to be elevated into ecstasy by the first-day-first-show electricity of a Rajni film will hover there as they learn of who goes into its making
Rajinikanth: The Definitive Biography
By Naman Ramachandran
Penguin, Viking | Pages: 290 | Rs. 699

Watching a newly released Rajnikanth film in one of Chennai’s cinemas is like being under a seismic attack while riding a roller-coaster. You don’t have to ask if the ground is shaking beneath your seat. It is. The whole hall is heaving as the sound, the images, the larger-than-life hero (sorry, Superstar!) swirl and thunder around you. It’s for you to experience the phenomenon and decide whether it is magic, myth or mass hysteria.

Naman Ramachandran professes to decode the enigma by calibrating the Richter scale of his opus and assuring the reader it’s the  “definitive biography”. Future historians will be grateful he has kept to his brief. He follows the formulaic opening number that marks a Rajnikanth movie, a wham-bam introduction to his superstardom, as the credits roll for the 2010 film Enthiran at Satyam Theatres in Chennai. He mentions the giant cutouts of the actor, sanctified with votary dousings of milk, then cuts to the scenes inside the hall. “The decibel levels rise while the opening credits roll, and when the man himself is first seen on the screen they spiral into a crescendo. Grown men cry openly and scream ‘Thalaivaa!’ in the same tone that they probably reserve for entreaties to the Almighty...for his fans, Rajnikanth is God and for the world he is a cultural phenomenon transcending the trappings of a mere movie star. Not bad for a man who began his professional life as a humble coolie and went on to work as a modest bus-conductor before he became one of the most famous people on the planet and an Internet meme.” There you have the whole book in a nutshell.

Advertisement

Ramachandran unspools the star’s career film by film. He provides fine summaries of the storyline, descriptions of Rajnikanth’s fellow actors and his onscreen relationship to them. He includes crisp vignettes of the directors, their background and ideologies—all of which allowed an unknown to make his way up the ladder to fame.

Ramachandran is as meticulous as any of the superstar’s fans in enumerating his one-liners, stylistic quirks and gestures, now part of folklore: the superstar’s “cooling glasses” (which appear as an icon at the start of every chapter) and the mass of sweeping, unruly hair he sports in his screen appearances (though he isn’t afraid to show that he’s bald in real life). Are the shades worn like the protective covers laid over the figure of a god, as in the Tirupati temple, to shield mortals from his piercing gaze of divinity? Or does he wear them for mundane reasons, like some Tamil politicians, to hide his age or protect his sight from the studio glare? These are questions Ramachandran leaves to his readers to fathom.

He does, however, emphasise Rajnikanth’s dark complexion and how this became an asset when his first director K. Balachander decided to cast him. Or, as the filmmaker is quoted in the book, “I was thrilled by the fellow’s fragile health and powerful eyes and his chiseled face. The dark skin was an advantage, because again it is different from others.” It’s the opposite, one might note, of the Charlie Chaplin effect. When deconstructed, however, the Rajnikanth mystique is based on his being a small,  dark man making his way into a hostile world, learning to trick his way into the hearts of his heroines and audiences with those quirks, like the Tramp’s shuffling walk, the doffing of his hat or twirling of his stick that then become a trademark. Even by Ramachandran’s accounts, while MGR was always a hero to the women in the audience, Rajnikanth appeals to the men. It’s they who weep and sigh when he appears. Though no account of the actor’s life goes without praises to his devotion to God, family, friends and so on, there’s no denying the testosterone-driven edge to his performances. Rape, incest, lust and an aggressive maleness form a part of the tandava dance that marks the career graph of Rajnikanth. Is it a wonder that he’s hailed as a god of our godless times?

Advertisement

READ MORE IN:
AUTHORS: Geeta Doctor
PEOPLE: Rajinikanth
SECTION: Books
SUBSECTION: Reviews
OUTLOOK: 11 February, 2013
Download the Outlook ​Magazines App. Six magazines, wherever you go! Play Store and App Store

Post a Comment

You are not logged in, please Log in or Register
  • Daily Mail
THE LATEST ISSUE
CLICK IMAGE FOR CONTENTS
REVIEW
Review
These pacy thrillers put two southern cities on the crime map
MAGAZINE August 24, 2016
Review
The dark world Harry & Co inhabit changes little after 22 years
MAGAZINE August 24, 2016
Extract
How a brutal LTTE directive was lost in the static of intelligence
MAGAZINE August 18, 2016
Review
A RBI governor remembers his doughty fights, but cuts down on the math
MAGAZINE August 11, 2016
Book Extract
Abused by a relative at six, Laxmi saw how patriarchy tried to crush her femininity. And she made it come back to crush them, ‘those straight men with wives and kids’.
MAGAZINE August 10, 2016
read more>>>
OUTLOOK ON TWITTER
POLLS

In 1999, India and France entered into a $3.5 billion deal for the supply of these submarines. The first of the 6 subs is out on sea trials for the last three months and is to be commissioned later this year. At this stage, a newspaper in Australia has revealed secret data on the submarines, plausibly stolen from India. Indian Defence authorities have ruled out any pilferage of data from India.

POLL STARTED ON: Aug 26, 2016
Quiz
Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro is hosting the 31st Olympic Games from August 5 to 21. This is the first Olympics being held in South America and is going on even as a majority Brazilians are unhappy with their rulers. Here’s a quiz on some random Olympic facts and related trivia.
QUIZ STARTED ON: Aug 11, 2016
Advertisement