Entertainment Kollywood 25 Jul 2016 Decoding Rajinikanth ...

Decoding Rajinikanth as Kabali

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | M R VENKATESH
Published Jul 25, 2016, 5:59 am IST
Updated Jul 25, 2016, 6:03 am IST
There are yet bytes when Rajinikanth keeps hinting that his entry into TN politics - if at all - will depend on the ‘beckoning of a divine voice’.
Fans of superstar Rajinikanth offer prayers in front of his poster outside a cinema hall on Friday. (Photo: AFP)
 Fans of superstar Rajinikanth offer prayers in front of his poster outside a cinema hall on Friday. (Photo: AFP)

Chennai: Rajinikanth is one of those southern superstars whose mediation between the realms of entertainment, politics and society, continues to draw attention, perhaps a little more now with his latest blockbuster Kabali.

Notwithstanding the actor’s passion for cinema, his cultivated screen persona as a ‘rakshan’, battling the ‘evil forces’ of society – with his attendant uniquely self-evolved mannerisms, gait, the play of his speech and the speed with which Rajini synchronises them with the acts of a ‘destiny doer’ that hints at the linkage between ‘reel life’ and ‘real life’ - may all now be one of a grand celluloid piece.
But clearly 2016 - as the centenary year of the founding of the Justice Party that propelled the ‘Non-Brahmin Movement’, which substantially shaped the politics of the Madras Presidency in the last century, and those of its leading lights like the Raja of Panagal being celebrated now - is a far cry from the decades when politics and cinema were intertwined with the rise of the DMK in the 1950s’.

 

There are yet bytes when Rajinikanth keeps hinting that his entry into Tamil Nadu politics - if at all - will depend on the ‘beckoning of a divine voice’. But the era of what the social scientist M S S Pandian quintessentially pictured in his work, ‘The Image Trap’, wherein the late JNU professor analysed the phenomenon of M.G. Ramachandran, the legendary film star turned political leader, who founded the AIADMK in 1972, has been surpassed, thanks to the post-mid-1980s’ economic reforms ushered in by Rajiv Gandhi, P V Narasimha Rao and Dr Manmohan Singh.

 

In the current larger socio-political context when regional parties like the DMK and AIADMK have to contend with the gains and contradictions of the reform process, even while keeping budgetary outlays for social welfare schemes intact, the clamour for more autonomy by regional parties is in tune with that logic.

This political aside may be useful in any sociological decoding of Rajinikanth; for the grand hype witnessed ahead of the release of his ‘Kabali’ in 2016 is similar to the spectacle and publicity blitz that was seen before Rajinikanth’s Endhiran (The Robot) was released in 2010 in three languages including Tamil, Telugu and Hindi.   The fact that Kabali has now been released in approximately 8,000 to 10,000 screens all over the world including 480 screens in the U.S., as it was when Endhiran was released in 3,000 theatres worldwide (the number of screens must have been more), testifies to what Prof Harish Narayandas in the Department of Sociology, JNU, New Delhi, once told this correspondent of how Indian cinema has “truly come of age globally”. It is part of the global marketing of cinema.

 

Personally, for Rajinikanth the transition over the past 41 years, since late veteran Tamil film director K Balachander gave him a role in Apoorva Raagangal (1975), has been incredibly huge. In a rags-to-riches story with over 160 films to his credit and commanding perhaps the largest network of film fans associations in the post-90s who made a nascent Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC), the breakaway Congress led by G K Moopanar, come within striking distance of power in the state in 1996, Rajinikanth’s evolution, social analysts point out, has in a sense continued that tradition of a ‘popular hero’ bridging ‘reel life’ and ‘real life’.  

 

“If one analyses his career graph closely, one can understand that the arrow always pointed upwards. There were no major jumps, no deep plummeting,” says Dr Gayathri Sreekanth in her, ‘The Name is Rajinikanth’, a well-researched biography of the actor. The huge budgets and scale of his once-in-a-year-now big films symbolises Rajinikanth’s entry into the big league of ‘globalisation of Indian cinema’. Significantly, he once said that Amitabh Bachchan has been his role model, but the push for an ‘MGR-II’ scenario in transiting to politics has clearly eluded him.

 

Rightly or wrongly, the adulation for celluloid ‘heroes’ like Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan, among Indian middle class is not new. World over, middle class and upper middle class households are basically conservative even while being tech-savvy and ‘reasonably permissive’. It was the great literary critic George Steiner who pointed out that many of the best writers across languages have come from the middle class. What cannot be lived in their lives is transmuted into hopefully good literature as psychological compensation. Similar is the case with other great works of art including music. Cinema is a technological leap of that cultural trend and Rajinikanth, among the other stars, has earned a place in that glitzy gallery.

 

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