So all the smoke and fumes remained just that. Smoke and fumes. There was no fire. There was not even a spark.
Time was when Rajinikanth could do no wrong. Be it on-screen or off-screen. Worshipped as a demi-god, his movie dialogues became gospel. But as the adage goes, “The old order changeth ……….”
After “Robot” (Enthiran in Tamil) in 2010, Rajinikanth is yet to deliver a “Rajini” movie. The box-office registers may have rung loudly. But fans have for the most part felt let-down.
So what happened to the man people loved to worship? What happened to the man who redefined the meaning of the term “Superstar”? What happened to the man whose fame defied boundaries and languages? Is the phenomenon over?
Of the more than 150 movies to his credit, when he literally opened the gates of Tamil Cinema (The first shot canned of Rajinikanth was of him throwing open the gates in “Apoorva Raagangal”), he had faced fan disappointments for only a number which could be counted in your fingers. But what is notable or probably alarming is that bar “Baba”, all the rest have been made in the last ten years.
Every meteor burns out into obscurity. But the timing could not be more wrong. Rajinikanth needs the masses behind him now more than ever. He is at the cusp of launching his much-awaited political party.
Rajinikanth has been for a while, quite political, be it through the well-placed dialogues in his movies or through his rhetorics at different events. He has also been making statements about and seemingly trying to get into issues faced by people of Tamil Nadu to varying effects.
His much publicized and hugely attended forays into people’s problems all crashed down when he was asked, “who are you?” by Santhosh Raj, one of the injured in the Thoothukudi police firing tragedy. Later Santhosh Raj explained and he asked this question because “We have been protesting in Thoothukudi for 100 days. In all those days, actor Rajinikanth did not come to meet us or express his support for us. Several people died during the shooting that took place at the protest. Several are still in a critical stage. It’s 8 days since this happened. For so many days, Rajinikanth did not open his mouth about the incident. He did not come and meet those who were affected. There’s a big reason behind why he has come. In a few days, Kaala will release. He knows very well that if he still doesn’t go and meet the people, the film will not run in Tamil Nadu. That’s why he has come to meet us in Thoothukudi and say he will donate money. That’s why I got angry and I asked him that question. Just as we knew how to fight and win, we also know how to protect ourselves.”
This sentiment seems to be gathering momentum among the people of Tamil Nadu. Rajinikanth doesn’t seem to have realized that Tamil Nadu no more blindly idol worships anyone. The MGR- Jayalalitha era has died with them.
Rajinikanth has said the party he will be launching will not be born out of Dravidian sentiments but will be from a spiritual state of mind and will also be run with that philosophy dictating. Tamil Nadu has always been represented by Dravida parties. Both on the ruling front and in the opposition. Even the smallest political outfits base themselves on Dravida ideologies. That they do swerve from that path is a totally different matter.
The reason for the success of these parties is that Tamils are proud Dravidians who respect their land and language above all else. Even Rajinikanth has in many of his films ascertained that although not born as one, in every way and more he is a Tamilian and that it is the Tamils that has made Rajinikanth. But when it has finally come the time to choose, Rajinikanth seems to be more bent towards the people who now holds sway in the land of his roots. Central India.
Rajinikanth or Shivaji Rao Gaekwad as he was named at birth is from Maharashtra and was brought up in Karnataka. It was the lure of cinema that brought him to Chennai. And he was wildly successful in his venture. He has also given back the love he received from his adopted people until recently.
But ever since he announced his intention to start a political outfit, Rajinikanth seems to echoing certain rightist party’s official stances. Rajinikanth had not only said he will start a spiritual party ala the BJP but he was also echoing the official words of the BJP after the Thoothukudi police firing. It was most evident when Rajinikanth flared up towards the media when asked how he knew there were anti-social elements behind the Thoothukudi protests which forced the police to take this action.
For anyone who knows Rajinikanth or has at-least watched him fervently, this outburst was most uncharacteristic. Rajinikanth is one of the most diplomatic people one could ever hope to meet. In fact, when he announced his “spiritual” party, many believed him including yours truly, because if such a thing was possible, it could only be made possible by Rajinikanth. But everything he has done after the announcement, has made his holier-than-thou reputation tumble down step by step.
Add to that scenario, Pa Ranjith. Pa Ranjith uses the medium of cinema to address social and political problems suffered by the Dalit community. But the problem with Pa Ranjith’s script is that most of his intentions and innuendos in his dialogues was totally missed by the viewers. They do not understand that when Kabali says that he is not the kind of Kabali they expect, the audience did not understand that the character is talking about him not being subservient to his upper-caste masters, who would do wrong to typecast him. The social messages throughout “Kabali”, the last Rajini-Ranjith outing, went over the head of the audience. But who can blame them? They had come to see a “Rajini” movie. They did not get one.
And then comes the biggest shocker of all. Rajinikanth again signs for a Pa Ranjith movie. As though the torture wasn’t enough. Or was it Rajinikanth trying to latch on to the Dalit Express which is shaking political foundations throughout the nation in time for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections? Is he trying to place himself as the spokesman for the Dalits? If it was so, he has failed grievously.
This movie would have been a perfect vehicle for the Rajinikanth of the 80s. The 80s Rajinikanth was a totally different Rajinikanth than the people of today knows him. He was human and yet phenomenally charismatic and endearing. It was a treat to watch him steal the entire movie screen even with the presence of stars who were larger than him at the time. His screen presence was so enormous that even the great Amitabh Bachchan seemed to fade a bit in their scenes together. But those were the 80s. Now both the viewers as well as the stars playing out to them have changed drastically. But Pa Ranjith seems to be stuck in an 80s time-loop, where Rajinikanth is concerned.
Pa Ranjith had the superstar of superstars in the palm of his hands. Not once, but twice. And what does he do? He makes a great teaser-trailer. And thinks the trailer along with the presence of Rajinikanth will make the movie run to packed houses. He was right the first time. But you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. Throughout Tamil Nadu, tickets were available over the counter, on the very first day of the release of the Rajinikanth-Pa Ranjith film “Kaala”. And that is the record this movie of Rajinikanth’s achieved as this was deemed impossible until now. And Rajinikanth can either thank Pa Ranjith or thank himself for giving Pa Ranjith the opportunity for making this happen.