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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