Sunday, May 28, 2023

Rajinikanth's Film Journey: Tracing Stories Which Made Him The 'Thalaivar' Of Indian Cinema

Rajinikanth's Film Journey: Tracing Stories Which Made Him The 'Thalaivar' Of Indian Cinema

'Thalaivar' means leader in English, a moniker given to superstar Rajinikanth, for his lustrous body of work in Indian cinema. Here's profiling some of his finest performances.

Rajinikanth turned 75 on December 12, 2021. Instagram

Superstar Rajinikanth has become a synonym to not just giving blockbuster films, but also winning hearts with his humble nature. The Dadaseheb Phalke Award winner was born in Bangalore and comes from humble beginnings when the film world summoned him in 1975. After earning an earnest living through multiple jobs like that of a coolie and a bus conductor, he finally found his way to the big camera and ever since there has been no looking back.

While it is impossible to fit all of his credible performances in one go, we have profiled some of the 71-year-old's most popular  performances chronologically, which has made him Thalaivar Rajinikanth, to his fans all across the world.

Apporva Raagangal (1975)

Actors Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth with director.

Director : K Balachander
Producer: V Govindarajan, J Durausamy
Co-stars : Kamal Haasan, Srividya, Sundarrajan, Jayasudha

This is where it all started for Rajinikanth. In his first film, he played a supporting character. The film explored an unusual theme of people falling in love with each other despite a huge age difference. The film worked wonders for Haasan and Jayasudha, while helping Rajinikanth enter the world of cinema with a strong director and producer. This film won three National awards amongst other films.

In the following years, the actor did many films, some in Tamil, Kannada, some bilinguals. Many films were appreciated, while others didn't do it so well. The next noticeable film came after almost 45 films and two years.

Mullum Malarum (1978)

A still from the film.

Director: J. Mahendran
Producer: Venu Chettiar, V Mohan
Co-star: Sarath Babu, Jayalaxmi

The film is said to be based on author Uma Chandran's novel by the same name. The movie marked the directorial debut of J Mahendran and was interestingly assisted by the renowned director and cinematographer Balu Mahendra. The story revolved around Rajinkanth's character Kali, who dotes over his sister Valli and locks horns with his boss, played by Sarath Babu. The film was a sleeper hit and eventually with strong word of mouth became a hit. It won Tamil Nadu State Film Award For Best Film and the actor won Tamil Nadu State Film Award Special Prize For his performance.

Aarilirunthu Arubathu Varai (1979)

Poster of the film.

Director: SP Muthuraman
Producer: Meena Panchu, Arunachalam
Co-stars: Jayalaxmi, Cho, Sangeeta

The film has every aspect of entertainment. It had tragedy, honesty, love and family values, which were appreciated by the audience. The highest claim to fame of the film is that it ran successfully in Chennai Midland theater for 25 weeks. Rajinikanth played the role of an ideal son Santhanam, son of a window and elder brother to younger siblings. His life was full of struggles as he worked to make the ends meet and provide for the family. The film was later remade in Telugu as 'Maharaju' and in Kannada as 'Poorna Chandra'.

NOTE: Post this film, Rajinikanth did many other films like the bilingual film 'Kaali', 'Johnny', 'Thee', 'Garjanam' and so on and so forth. His next film is a blockbuster, which is still loved by his fans.

Moondru Mugam (1982)

Actor Rajinikanth as Alex.

Director: A.Jagannathan
Producer: Thamizhazhagan, G. Thyagarajan
Co-stars: Raadhika

This film had a blockbuster written all over it! Fans got not just one, but triple the fun, with Rajinikanth playing three different characters. A story of reincarnation, revenge and family drama, the actor plays the role of Alex (a cop) and twins John and Arun. The film had so many twists and turns that fans had a hell of a ride with this one. The actor won the Tamil Nadu State Film Award Special Prize in the Best Actor category for this film. The character of Alex Pandian eventually inspired more films later with a Telugu film 'Mugguru Monagallu' being remade in Tamil in 1994 with the same name.

Nallavanukku Nallavan (1984)

A still from the film.

Director: SP Muthuraman
Producer: M Saravanan, M Balasubramanian
Co-stars: Raadhika, Karthik, Thulasi among others

This film is the Tamil remake of 1983 Telugu film 'Dharmaatmudu'. The film ran for over 150 days, marking itself as a commercial success and also fetched the actor numerous awards. In this family drama, Rajinikanth plays the role of a hardworking man Manickam, who saves a girl from her abusive uncle, marries her, revives his boss's sinking business and later fights the goons to save his daughter and son-in-law. The film has multiple emotional layers of love, family, revenge and animosity which were enjoyed by the masses. This film was appreciated and brought Rajinikanth another set of awards. He won Filmfare South, Cinema Express Awards, Film Fans Association Awards.

Note: The superstar also did many other film after this, including his popular Hindi films 'Bhagwan Dada', 'Bewafai', 'Dosti Dushmani', 'Tamacha', 'Uttar Dakhin', 'Chaalbaaz', Hum','Phool Baney Angaary', so on and so forth. Then came 'Annamalai'

Annamalai (1992)

A still from the film.

Director: Suresh Krissna
Producer: Rajam Balachander, Puspha Kandasamy
Co-star: Khushbu, Sarath Babu

This film is the Tamil remake of Hindi film "Khudgarz". The movie explores the friendship of a rich man and a poor man and the difference their financial status being used to create a rift in their long-lasting friendship. The Hindi film starred Jeetendra and Shatrugan Sinha in the leading roles. Rajinikanth took on Sinha's role of a milkman from humble beginnings, whereas actor Sarath Babu was the son of a rich hotelier (played by Jeetendra in Hindi film). Interestingly, it was this film which started the trend of introducing the lead hero with a graphic title, a practice, followed till date in almost every film in films. The film's dialogues, written by Shanmugasundaram also gained a lot of popularity.

Note: After this film, a certain decline in the Thalaivar's choice of films was observed. Between 1992 to 1999, Rajinkanth released 13 films in different languages, sticking to mostly two-three releases on an average.

 Paddayappa (1999)

The iconic swing still from the film.

Director: KS Ravikumar
Producers: K. Sathya Narayana, M. V. Krishna Rao, H. Vittal Prasad, P. L. Thenappan
Co-stars: Sivaji Ganesan,Ramya Krishnan, Soundarya

Rajinikanth played the titular character in the film. The film is a heavy duty family drama with correct proportions of love, revenge and action. It shows Paddiyappa working his way up to get back the ancestral wealth and respect in the society. The actor's character was quite stylish and dramatic in the film, making fans go ga ga over him once again. The film is said to be the first Tamil film to have been released worldwide with over 200 prints and 700,000 audio cassettes. The film won five Tamil Nadu State Film Awards with Ramya winning Filmfare Award for Best Actress. Interestingly, the film was supposed to be made in two parts, since the first part was too lengthy in one go. However, the second part never made it to the floors.


Thalapathi  (1991)

Actors Rajinikanth and Mammootty in a still from the film,

Director: Mani Ratnam
Producer: G Venkateswaran
Co-stars: Mammootty, Arvind Swamy

The film brings legendary actors Rajinikanth, Mammootty and Arvind Swamy in the same frame. The film was an overnight commercial success. The film stars Rajinikanth as Surya, a man who fights for the justice of the poor. Devaraj, played by Mammootty, a good-willed gangster, eventually takes Surya under his wings. Swamy plays the role of Arjun, Surya's half-brother and a district. Both the brothers are unaware of their connection but as fate would have it, eventually meet each other. The film won multiple awards including Filmfare South and Cinema Express Awards.

Sivaji: The Boss (2007)

A still from the film.

Director: S Shankar
Producer: MS Guhan, M Saravanan
Co-star: Shriya Saran, Vivek, Suman amongst others

Stylish, action-packed and entertaining performances are perhaps the best way to introduce this blockbuster. The National award winning film told the story of Sivaji, who returns to India and wants to contribute to the society. However, he faces problems from the political goons but ends up victorious eventually. The film was also later released again in 2012 with the Dolby Atmos technology. It was renamed as 'Sivaji 3D' and was the first Indian film to be launched in this format. Not only the film won several Vijay Awards, but the mass popularity eventually also inspired some spoofs in other films.

Enthiran (2010)

Rajinikanth's robotic avatar Chitthi.

Director: S Shankar
Producer: Kalanithi Maran
Co-star: Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Danny Dengzonpa, Santhanam

Hello Chitti, we were waiting for you! This film brought humongous success along with it. The film introduced Rajinikanth in the character of robot Chitthi as well as the scientist who invented it. The character continues to be popular around the world. Not only was this film known for high vfx but also an interesting storyline. This was the first film in the 'Enthiran' franchise. It is impossible to list the number of accolades and nominations this film won. From the National Film Award for Best Production Design to Tamil Nadu State Film Awards,Vijay Awards and Filmfare South Awards, this film has been etched in the history of cinema in golden letters.

Kabali (2016)

Actor Rajinikanth in 'Kabali'.
Director: Pa Ranjith
Producer: Kalaipuli S Thanu
Co-stars: Radhika Apte, Winston Chao, Kishore

'Kabali' was yet another blockbuster, reminding the world what Thalaivar Rajinikanth was all about. The actor played the titular role in the film, a senior but seasoned gangster who goes on a path of revenge against those who killed his wife and daughter. Besides the strong dialogues and stylish screen presence of Rajinikanth, this film also raised the bar of promotional activities for every film made in India in coming times. Posters of the film were seen on buses and airplanes, something which wasn't a common scene anywhere in India. The film was also dubbed in Hindi. A week later, it was also released in Malay language. The discussions around the film's sequel have been making rounds for some time, with the producer showing interest in a 2.0 version of the film. However, no development has happened on that front. This film too, has received multiple accolades from Indian and International platforms.