The way he walks, the manner in which he delivers his dialogues or flips his hand to salute, wear his glasses or jacket, and adjust the stole on his shoulder; everything that he does becomes a style statement. Rajinikanth, the king reining the Tamil filmdom for more than four decades now, is admired, loved, worshipped by his fans, and the endless jokes on his mannerism bring a smile on the faces of millions of his followers.
Rajinikanth was born in a Maharashtrian family in Bangalore and was named Shivaji Rao Gaekwad after Maratha ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji Bhonsle. His father was a police constable and his mother a homemaker who died when Rajinikanth was very young. The youngest among four siblings, Rajinikanth had to do odd jobs for a living before he entered the world of Tamil cinema. After his schooling he worked as a carpenter, a coolie and finally as a bus conductor with the Karnataka Transport Department. However, acting had always attracted him. His first acting presentation was in a play on Mahabharata during his early school days at the Ramakrishna Math in Bangalore.
While working as a conductor, he began taking part in Kannada stage plays, when he came across an advertisement issued by the newly formed Madras Film Institute offering acting courses. He joined the institute for a diploma course in acting. In 1975, Rajinikanth got his first offer from K. Balachander and made his debut with Tamil movie Apoorva Raagangal. However, he played the lead role for the first time in Tamil cinema Bairavi, which was directed by M. Bhaskar. Since then there has been no looking back for this cine-star. His first Hindi film was Andhaa Kaanoon which was a great hit and he became popular in the Hindi speaking belt too.
Today, his Tamil movies have a much greater reach as they are dubbed in Hindi and many other regional languages. Rajinikanth received his first Filmfare Award in 1984 for Nallavanuku Nallavan. He has got six Tamil Nadu State Film Awards for his performances in various films. He also has received numerous awards from Cinema Express and Filmfans’ Association. The Government of India honoured him with the Padma Bhushan in 2000 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2016.
Rajinikanth was also named one of the most influential persons in South Asia by Asiaweek and the most influential Indian of the year in 2010 by Forbes India. With his latest hit Kabali, the actor has proven yet again that age is no bar for a successful artist. It is mesmerizing to see the actor in his sixties still making waves among the people. Rajinikanth has weathered many difficulties to become one of the most liked film stars of Indian cinema. His daughters say he hasn’t forgotten where he came from and has taught them too not to forget their roots. People love him for his modesty, simplicity and humanity.
He dresses ordinarily, drives his own car and looks exactly his age when not shooting for a film. But when his film releases, young and old, men and women, throng the theatres to see their favourite film star in action. The madness is such that companies based in Chennai and Bangalore prefer to declare the day on which his film is released a holiday instead of letting their employees go on mass leave. He is among the richest actors of Indian cinema who gives away a considerable amount in charity. But though the actor spends much on philanthropic activities, little is publicized about his charitable works.
Rajinikanth’s biographer Naman Ramachandran in an interview with a news channel had said he spends half his income on charity. But only stories of his admirers spending a large amount on celebrating his birthday or in conducting pujas for the success of his films do get reported.
Of the very little that we know about Rajinikanth’s philanthropy is the donation of `10 crore he made towards the Chief Minister’s Public Relief Fund for the Chennai flood victims in 2015. He cancelled his 65th birthday celebration and requested his fans to divert the funds towards relief work. He also threw open the Raghavendra Kalyana Mandapam, the sprawling marriage hall he owns for the sanitary workers who came from across the state to clean the garbage caused because of the flood.
This action hero, who is also a good comedian and enacts emotional roles with great ease, will continue to be loved by the cine crazy citizens of Tamil Nadu; and the never-ending jokes on his style/ mannerism make life easier for people busy in the race called life. But more than all this, he will be cherished for choosing films with a social message, movies which depict the triumph of good over evil, and for playing inspirational characters in rags to riches stories.