Shivaji Rao Gaekwad, rechristened as Rajinikanth by legendary director K Balachandran, entered the film industry in a minor role in Apoorva Raagangal that released on August 18, 1975. Rajinikanth kept his career afloat in the industry by playing second fiddle to movie demi god Kamal Haasan in films during early days of his career. After they both mutually agreed to professionally part ways, Rajinikanth played some of the in-depth characters in movies where the content of the film overpowered his star power.
Filmmakers SP Muthuraman’s Bhuvana Oru Kelvikuri, Netri Kann, J Mahendran’s Mullum Malarum to name a few were the films that established Rajinikanth’s acting skills and his ability to deliver an enduring performance. But, his ticket to superstardom was roles that appealed to the masses. He mostly played roles of a rebel from a working-class family who refused to give into the intimidation of the powerful and rich.
He became the Thalaivar of the masses by playing characters like a coolie, farmer, waiter and auto rickshaw driver. From flipping his cigarettes to his brisk walk, he established his own brand of style. Such is the impact of his style that any low-angle shot of a hero showing him walking with a cigarette in his mouth is thought to be a rip-off from a Rajinikanth film.
With a handful of unique mannerisms and speedy dialogue delivery, he scaled such heights in the world of cinema that it is not just a record of his time but a record of all time. 42 years and 164 films (including his upcoming films Kaala and 2.0) later, fans have not had enough of Rajinikanth’s charisma, style and his old tricks.
Rajinikanth has faced some devastating failures on his career front in the last few years. But, that doesn’t stop him from doing what he has been doing for over four decades. He is the only star in Indian cinema at present who can inspire a producer to invest Rs 450 crore in a project. No other big names in the industry can pull off this. That is one example of the popularity the superstar enjoys worldwide.
At 66, Rajinikanth is trying to break away from the regular fare by collaborating with young filmmakers. Director Pa Ranjith was only two-films old when he roped in Rajinikanth for Kabali. This Rajinikanth move came after delivering a series of failures at the box office. That shows Rajinikanth’s willingness to change.