Why Rajinikanth hasn’t taken the plunge: It is not 1996 anymore

That 1996 poll moment that would have ensured a place for him in Tamil Nadu’s political history is now gone.

Written by Kavitha Muralidharan | Updated: May 16, 2017 11:25 pm
Rajinikanth, Superstar Rajini, Mullum Malarum, Rajinikanth politics, Rajinikanth villain role, Rajini political affiliation, Tamil cinema, Express blogs, Indian Express Rajini in Mullum Malarum (1978).

There was once a Tamil cinema where Rajinikanth was not the macho hero going about bashing hundred-odd villains. There was once a Tamil cinema where he was both vulnerable and raw – a combination that perhaps made Rajinikanth the most loved actor in the state. He was less intimidating those days. He could make you smile and cry. He could make you laugh and wonder. He was the kind of satisfaction a film-goer in Tamil Nadu would expect to have in a theatre after three long hours.

In J Mahendran’s legendary Mullum Malarum (1978), both his vulnerability and rawness found its fullest expression – vulnerable at the possibility of losing his sister to a love affair and rawness when he braves a handicap caused by a professional hazard. When Rajinikanth breaks into the song Raman aandaalum raavanan aandaalum enakkoru kavalai illa (I care a hoot, whoever rules – whether it’s Rama or Ravana), you cannot help but be awed by his very infectious raw energy.

Somewhere in 1980s Rajinikanth ceased to be that actor. It is as much the loss of Tamil cinema as it is for a once-upon-a-time fan like me. Somewhere in 1980s he began to act in movies like Thanga Magan that gave him an opportunity to express his masculinity and associated ‘power’, than vulnerability and rawness. For those who closely follow Rajinikanth, it is evident that he had then stealthily begun to follow the footsteps of actor turned former Chief Minister M G Ramachandran in his films. Like MGR, he would put down his heroines and ‘tame’ them, while deifying his mother. He would single-handedly bash up the wrong-doers and go on to evolve an inimitable style for himself. Perhaps even then, he had secretly nurtured his still uncertain political ambitions. Only the uncertainty lingers on.

On May 15, when Rajinikanth met his fans and announced that God willing he would enter politics, he was only extending this uncertainty. The game began in 1996 – close on the heels of his very successful movie Baasha – when he strongly voiced his opinion against the then Jayalalithaa government. Rajinikanth perhaps tried to do a real life Baasha – the iconic movie that solidified his position as superstar – in doing so. But the buck stopped there.

Somehow when it actually came to crossing the bridge, Rajinikanth always took a step back. After Baasha, many of his films had either direct or indirect references, he touched upon it directly or indirectly in several of the functions that he took part in. But somehow Rajinikanth could never bring himself to take the actual plunge. The game has now become tiringly monotonous. So when Rajinikanth dropped like what seemed a hint at entering politics on May 15, there was understandably no excitement – except in the camps of BJP which expects him to give the party a lease of life in the state and perhaps among a section of his ardent fans. On the contrary, social media was flooded with memes that took a not-so-kind look at this prolonged drama.

But Rajinikanth perhaps has little choice. He had to keep his fans pleased. They were when he gave his voice in 1996 elections. It is also why he couldn’t bring himself to take the big step now. Rajinikanth knew that he has lost the momentum of 1996 elections when the public sentiment was so overwhelmingly in his favour. He might end up doing another Vijayakanth – and not MGR – if he took the plunge now. That 1996 poll moment that would have ensured a place for him in Tamil Nadu’s political history is now gone. Even if he eventually joins the BJP, Rajinikanth knows the response would be lukewarm, not earth-shaking as it would have possibly been in 1996.

Caught in this uneasy dilemma of keeping his fans pleased and to not rock the boat for himself, Rajinikanth will keep dropping hints while staying away from the political waters. It is in Rajinikanth’s interest that the drama doesn’t end soon. But for others, it is time to end this. Most of us in the state are aware that heroes atop horses on a rescue mission are only fairy tale types. We are no longer waiting for them.

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  1. S
    some guy
    May 17, 2017 at 6:47 pm
    Its a fashion to start off by saying "i was a fan of him" in 70s/early80s. Its more of a subtle way to bash him. And, its actually the safest way for a never-been-fan to voice against him or his politics based speech. You guys will always talk about 6-to-60, mullum malarum, engeyo ketta kural, etc. just to show that you are balanced in judging him. Well we don't care what you think is 'good acting'. Oh yes, you have to support your argument by saying that 1 of elite population (read 'rajni bashers') that you belong to will "support gender equality" whereas according to you the rest of us are "gender-biased"! Rajni bashes 100 males, and might voice against one female in a movie, and you only notice the female part. Ohh yes, you have an eye for reading between-the-lines! Now please follow the rest of the days rajni is meeting his fans, and please find faults. Waiting for the next story that would be "Yes, one guy slipped while climbing the stage and rajni is to blame", correct!?
    1. S
      May 17, 2017 at 6:10 pm
      Rajinikanth should become a prime minister, many actors have ruled state as chief minister. It is a monotonous job as chief minister. He should contest election as Prime Minister. Something new and something higher he should aspire. I would not vote him as chief minister, i want to see as prime minister
      1. K
        May 19, 2017 at 2:17 am
        Rajini kanth is a beautiful women
      2. R
        May 17, 2017 at 5:43 pm
        im glad he did not enter politics in 1996, if he did we may not have gotten my favorite rajini 'style' movie till date: Padayappa, although my other favourite rajini movies is 6 to 60 due to sheer emotion and great lessons it portrays
        1. V
          May 17, 2017 at 8:11 am
          Rajinikanth has passed his expiry date for politics. He had multiple opportunities and had flaundered it. He should avoid this God Wi any more and not fool his fans.
          1. K
            May 17, 2017 at 3:18 am
            Why would he join BJP...an hindi imposition party? Beginning to dislike BJP now. Modi is acting like a dictator.
            1. A
              May 17, 2017 at 2:46 am
              Being old he might think the cinema career is almost coming to an end and yet he need to find another commercial income for that he might be planning to enter into politics where he can make more money..
              1. S
                Sudhakar Gnanasabai
                May 17, 2017 at 12:11 am
                Never underestimate the power of m stupidity.
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