Being Thalaivar – A Gift That Keeps Giving

Rajnikanth – most certainly one of the biggest stars of Indian cinema, whose fan following is really more like a religion, and whose on-screen mannerisms have been enchanting and mesmerising viewers for decades. An actor who directors avoid portraying as having died, because they fear that estranged fans may resort to vandalism and riot in response. An actor who is revered by his followers, I say followers because their faith in him is unwavering. In their eyes even an entirely routine activity, and I mean even a stride, is abundant with charisma.

Despite his limitless glory and success in the film industry, I and many like me fail to see how he has managed to engage such an expansive fan following with what can at best be called mediocre performance propped up by exceptional sound and camera technicians. What does it take, for one to get away with less than average skills and reign on the largest fan base in the world? How can one person continuously churn out uninsightful storylines, essay larger than life characters, hide behind some gimmicks, exaggerated emotions and yet be revered as an incarnation of God? What does it take?

I am not being dramatic about the God bit. In most parts of South India, huge posters of the actor are doused in milk before the release of a movie, a ritual usually performed towards deities in Hindu temples as a  symbol of prosperity and purity. That, is the level of hyperbolic reverence that the public bestows upon the actor. When he had an injury during a shoot, thousands of people put themselves through chastity, they cried and they prayed and they fasted for his speedy recovery.

The whole phenomenon begs the question – why is it that a set of people that fervently debate everything from politics to economic policies to LGBT rights to feminism, completely and willingly let the rational dimensions of their brain go into a cave when it comes to this one man? What must it feel like to be this Force that makes people forget every standard they hold so dear? What must it feel like to be loved so unconditionally that it is no longer necessary to fight for success? What must it feel like, to be able to stride confidently in the legacy of your own past,  while your peers deliver significantly better quality films for only a fraction of the fame? What must it feel like to not have a fear of failure?

The legend that is Rajnikanth, one of the many mysteries of our time. 

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Minion Mondays 4 : Ode to the annoying neighbour 

Every Indian I know has that one neighbour or distant aunt or uncle, who springs to mind on reading this:

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The reason I stress on my Indian upbringing here is because I have observed that a vast majority of middle aged Indian ladies and gentlemen are well, a little too curious about what’s happening around them. Their ears perk up at the slightest chance of ‘gossip’, they want to be in the know of your every move and they want to make sure you know that they are judging you. 

Example 1: “X’s daughter always comes home late at night, I’m sure she has a boyfriend her parents don’t know about. Maybe we should tell them. You know, boys can’t be trusted these days.”

Example 2: “Didn’t he just write his Engineering exams? Wonder which college he’ll get into, his mother is always bragging about how bright he is.”

Example 3: “Ever since that girl got a job, she has been spending money like nobody’s business. Just the other day they got a big screen TV and today she told me she is going on a holiday with her friends. She must be making a lot of money.” To which the usual response would be along the lines of: “Even if she does, they should really be saving up for her wedding, her parents are letting her splurge unnecessarily, they’ll regret it later.”

It’s not like they really are concerned, it’s just the compulsive need to feel sorry for others,what my friends and I summarise as the “Kids these days..” syndromeI once knew a lady who was obnoxious and loud and boisterous, and doled out her opinions and judgements on people as if she were serving dutifully in a charity soup kitchen. Rapid, purposeful, and in her mind a meaningful service to society. She had the other annoying habit of just landing up at my place unannounced and uninvited, only to pass more judgements about how I’m not really in control of my life and how I need to become her protégé to absolve myself. My usual strategy was to look very uninterested in anything she had to say (came naturally to me) and politely drive her out of my home. I have this compulsive urge to not be rude, even if I dislike the very aura of a person! Which puts me in a tough spot handling such people, but hopefully I have gotten better over time 🙂 

All of these encounters teach us so much and I only hope I remember this when I get to her age. Part of the reason why I write is to read this stuff for myself later in life.

Note to future self: 

If nosy and judgemental: back off, live your own life!

If tolerant and inclusive: good job, I’m proud of what you have turned into 🙂