Chennai:As a child, it was difficult for him to pursue his studies, due to impoverished conditions. As he developed an interest for acting, he became a part of a few theatre troupes in his home town, Bengaluru; he even worked as a bus conductor for sometime. When he encountered Tamil cinema, Rajinikanth, realised his destiny, and applied to the newly opened Madras Film Institute for a diploma in acting in 1973. His brother helped him by lending him the money to enroll.
Many producers from the Tamil industry were present during the inauguration of the film institute. They felt that, none of the candidates, including Rajini, looked good enough; and concluded that none of the students would get a chance to act in films. While pursuing his course, Rajini didn’t even have money to buy his own photographs which were clicked at the film school.
One call changed his life altogether. The legendary director K. Balachander, wanted Rajini for a crucial role in Apoorva Ragangal(1975), which had Kamal Haasan, in the lead. When he came for the audition, as every other aspiring actor, Rajini imitated Shivaji Ganesan to prove his mettle to Balachander. Known for his insight, Balachander wanted Rajini to showcase his inborn ability for the next audition, by being unique, without imitating anyone. Rajini, took his advice seriously, and two days later, he enthralled Balachander. The actor took a cigar in his hand, and threw it into his mouth in style. His mannerisms were impressive and unique, which Balachander hadn’t seen in any other actors. That’s when he was roped in for a villain’s role, and the film was a huge hit.
A successful baddie
After his successful debut, Rajini was on a signing spree. He did almost 15 films in 1977, which no other actor then did. He also got busy with Telugu and Kannada films, and lent his voice in all three languages. He again acted as a villain in Moondru Mudichu, with Kamal Haasan and Sridevi in the lead and garnered rave reviews. Another blockbuster was Bharathiraja’s debut film 16 Vayathinilae. What’s interesting is that Bharathiraja shot the whole film outdoors, which was new, as most directors shot their films inside the studios. Rajini grabbed the best actor award for Aarulirundhu Arubadhu Varai. None of the young actors then would dare to sport an older look. But Rajini did it.
While shooting for Billa in Sri Lanka, there was a shot where he was to jump through a mirror and break it into pieces. The makers of the film wanted a duplicate for it, but then Rajini insisted on doing it himself. Despite many telling him it was a risky stunt, he jumped through the glass, seriously hurt himself and was hospitalised for three months. The shoot was held up.
I was the one who pitched an idea to Rajinikanth to approach Balachander for his 100th film. I had maintained the statistics of all 99 films, and reminded Rajinikanth that his next film was his 100th one. Somehow, Balachander and Rajini met each other to discuss the 100th film. Rajini wanted to play the role of Sri Ragavendra, a Hindu Saint, in his 100th film; Balachander said that it was tough for him to direct a period film or a biopic, but that he would produce the film, which was then directed by SP Muthuran. Though it failed at the box office, its making and music were widely appreciated. But from then all his films are a blockbuster hit.
Rajini, met Latha, while he was passing by her college, Stella Maris. Impressed at first sight, he then began to speak to her, and they became good friends then. After a few years, they were married, and are one of the strongest couples in the Tamil film industry. Rajini gave Latha, a chance to sing playback in films. In 1999, when Padaiyappa was released, it was Latha Rajinikanth who organized a big event for film fraternity to celebrate Rajini’s silver Jubilee in Tamil cinema.