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Rajinikanth is an Indian phenomenon

June 14, 2007

Movie buff that I am, I was intrigued to hear that there was a frenzied rush to buy tickets for Rajinikanth’s Sivaji in Chennai. The rush has been unprecedented. Fans have been standing in line from 3 a.m. to buy tickets. Others are buying tickets are a premium, and rates are soaring through the roof. One TV channel reported that tickets are being sold at Rs 1000/- ($25) each. Even in multiplexes the prices of tickets do not go above Rs 200/- Rs 250/- and in single screen cinemas they are below Rs 100/-

The movie Sivaji is to release on the 15th in India, thats tomorrow, but already the theatre owners are raking in the moolah! All the cinema halls in Chennai have been booked for a month in advance! Some news reports say two weeks. Whatever the actual number of days, the tickets are all sold out and the cinema owners are actually breathing a sigh of relief to see the hordes recede!

Here is the trailer of Sivaji:

Sivaji trailer (Full & original)

Like Bollywood, Tamil movies deliver to the ordinary Indian exactly what he wants: pure fantasy. They take him into a different world, the world of a superhero in human form. Everyone (whether young or old) can identify with this guy who wants to go out there and save the world.

Now I would love to see Sivaji, even though I am not a fan of Rajinikanth. I am simply curious as to why this guy is so famous. But unfortunately, I can understand neither Tamil nor Telugu. It doesn’t seem fair that the movie has not been dubbed in Hindi or English even though as many as 600 hundred prints (400 Tamil and 300 Telugu prints) of the film have been made for distribution in India and abroad, and the film is to be shown in 2500 theatres across the world. The film will release in Canada, Europe, Australia, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Malaysia as well as India.

The film Sivaji has cost a bomb to make – Rs.500 million (12.3 million USD). Its directed by Shankar and the music is by A.R. Rahman.

I have seen Rajini in only one movie – Chaalbaaz. He was good, great comic timing and certainly loads better than the other hero of the movie – Sunny Deol.

Rajini by the way is the highest paid actor in India. Yep, he gets paid more than the likes of Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan and has more fan clubs as well, but the world (and national) media seems to only write about these two. Well, until now. Rajini being the highest paid actor has made national headlines.

Whats even more amazing is that Rajini gets paid almost double of what these guys get paid (Rs 16 crore for Sivaji – 3.9 million USD) and his films are not even released nationally. People tell me that he is revered in south India, thought of as a demi-god. He towers over all the actors in the southern film industry.

Bollywood underwent a similar phenomena when Amitabh Bachchan ruled the Hindi film industry more than a decade ago and for years before that. He too appealed to the common man and reached out to a mass audience with his masala movies. He was a superhero who lifted the ordinary Indian out of his humdrum (at times hopeless) existence by weaving together pure fantasy complete with palaces and princesses and finally…good triumphing over evil. Today Bollywood does produce these kind of masala movies but it is not just one actor who dominates. There are the three Khans as well as other ‘heroes’ like Hrithik Roshan who share almost equal space with each other. I feel that after Rajinikanth this is what will happen to Southern cinema too.

Interestingly, Rajini is popular in Japan, amongst the Japanese! Here he is known as the Dancing Maharaja, after the release of his film Muthu in Japan.

Rajini happens to be a Maharashtrian, his mother tongue being Marathi. Ofcourse he was born in Karnakata, and has never acted in any Marathi film. He rose from a poor bus-conductor in Karnataka to become the most famous actor in South India and the highest paid actor in India. He has done a Bollywood film called Andhaa Kanoon (which was a hit) but he didn’t stick to Bollywood…he was too big a name in the South…so he continued to make Tamil films.

He doesn’t give interviews…the guy is a recluse and family man. And ofcourse, an Indian movie phenomenon.

(The first photo is from IBN and the second from surfindia)

29 Comments leave one →
  1. June 14, 2007 10:44 am

    Generally Rajni’s movies are all housefull…But this time’s unprecedented rush may be due to the fact that this is going to be Rajni’s last movie (at least that’s what I’ve heard)…He’s retiring after this…So it seems that every Rajni-lover wants to see him on-screen for the last time on the first day-first show…

    I’m not a fan of Rajnikant either…But I gotta admit that the dude’s got a style…

  2. June 14, 2007 12:54 pm

    Rajnikanth isn’t an actor. He is a God-like illusion that Tamil producers sell to the masses. He isn’t versatile – every character he plays is a caricature of the last one he did and his claim to fame is playing a blue-collar worker who can perform 101 tricks with a pack of cigarettes and a matchbox.
    I personally congratulate any human being who has found his/her niche. If he is making millions of dollars and has the adulation of millions of fanatic fans, clearly he must be doing something right even if it is something I will never understand or appreciate. I am the type of person who worships rock stars – Southern India worships movie gods. To each their own.
    I just think it was mighty retarded of his fans to throw rocks at that actress’s home who had a scene where she slapped him in a movie. The poor woman had to make a public apology and I think the director had to cut the scene out from the movie? I am not sure, it was a long time ago. That is something I will never understand – nor do I want to.

  3. Seran permalink
    June 14, 2007 2:00 pm

    Nowadays Rajini is acting in masala stuff movies and it is working for him due to his unique style and charisma. The price we gave is we lost the actor in Rajini. Most pople say that he can’t act, but he is one hell of an actor who has stolen shows even from Kamal Hassan, the best actor in India, as a villain in movies like 16 vayathinile.
    And Rajini has done some unforgettable roles too. He has raised to this level with his hard work and dedication. And he is a the only star who does not promote his films and yet you can see people waiting for hours to get a ticket for his film.
    I’m a big fan of his and it is sad that i’m not able to watch his film on first day itself.
    PS: He is Rajini and not Rajni (He has removed kanth from his name).

  4. June 14, 2007 2:29 pm

    Thanks Seran, I have corrected the spelling.

  5. June 14, 2007 7:39 pm

    I saw Rajini’s interview on NDTV. He was very modest. His popularity is not only because of his films but the way he conducts himself in public life also adds to his charm.

  6. June 15, 2007 5:45 pm

    I saw this interview too. One thing I noticed. Rajini had not worn a wig, and was his natural self. I really liked that. Amitabh Bachchan on the other hand is never seen without his wig. I believe he is quite bald.

  7. June 18, 2007 10:39 pm

    Hmm..Fans standing in Q’s from 3 AM isn’t anything new in south India. I’ve seen people sleeping in front of the theaters, hoping to join the Q at the earliest and get the tickets.
    Tickets for 1000 bucks isn’t new either. Every movie of Rajini,Chiranjeevi sees the same kind of response.
    But I still cant understand why the whole country has woken up to these facts suddenly???
    *scratches his head*

  8. June 18, 2007 10:53 pm

    I’ll tell you why – because no one really knew!! The national media started to report these things only after Rajini broke a record by becoming the highest paid actor. And then suddenly everyone was interested in him. Including me. I almost walked into a theatre showing Sivaji…but then changed my mind. After all, I can’t understand a word of either Tamil or Telugu.

  9. Seran permalink
    June 19, 2007 6:03 pm

    Sivaji is one of the technically brilliant films i’ve seen in Indian cinema. Be it the camera by the noted cameraman K.V. Anand, editing by Antony, the art direction by Thotta dharani or the computer graphics done, which I feel no other indian film has done that. The Song Style where Rajini appearing as a fair skinned person was done so brilliantly, you wont feel that is done using graphics.They have spent nearly one year on CG for that song alone. You must understand Rajini is the superstar, before entering the theatre. Else you may not like it. For a person who doesn’t know Tamil or Telugu, it will be difficult to understand the movie, especially the first half, which has some hilarious moments with Vivek. Suman as the ultra cool villain is top class.The cast has been very apt, and the dialogues by noted writer Sujatha are very good. The action sequence are good, but would have made great impact if they were realistic, especially the climax fight done by the Mottai Rajini. The director Shankar must have been a hardcore fan of Rajini. He has used his superstar image and his style to a large extent. The songs have some visual treat for the viewers. Amazing sets and cool photography.
    On the downside, the story is weak and the film succeeds only because of Rajini’s presence. Rajini is not able to cope up with the fast tunes in the opening song Ballelakka. People never expect Rajini to dance, his presence in his songs itself is sufficient for his fans.

  10. June 19, 2007 9:28 pm

    Seran, that was a very useful comment. It was a review of the film SIvaji. Thanks a lot.

  11. Seran permalink
    June 22, 2007 12:25 pm

    Hi Nita,
    His name is Rajini, as spelled in English and used by media also. But i’m very much confused when I saw they spell as RAJNI, while displaying the name in the film Sivaji. Not sure which is the correct one πŸ™‚

  12. Seran permalink
    June 22, 2007 2:08 pm

    Sivaji has entered UK top 10 in the first week itself and has the highest per-screen average

  13. shiv pratap singh permalink
    June 28, 2007 12:28 pm

    He looks to me a nautanki master

  14. manish permalink
    July 14, 2007 2:09 pm

    Rajni is a crowd puller, he is God in South India, he gives hits films,more fan clubs, highest paid actor..all the goodies BUT still can’t say he is good Actor acting wise.. does the same kind of roles also does not try new roles due to the public likings.. Northies say him as nautanki.. because of his computer aided styles.. one thing which i notice in Rajni films is u have to consider him as Superstar before u start viewing any of his movie otherwise u loose the charm of movie..this is bad.. start a movie with no distinction and at the end give the judgement who is best.. i take Old Rajni movies as the best actor but new movies including Sivagi is time wastage and full computer animations

  15. July 15, 2007 6:58 pm

    One thing I wil tell you – i saw sivaji without regarding rajni as a star. And I enjoyed the movie and I enjoyed his performance. He’s got charisma alright

  16. Beula permalink
    August 11, 2007 3:56 pm

    The Song Style where Rajini appearing as a fair skinned person was done so brilliantly, you wont feel that is done using graphics.They have spent nearly one year on CG for that song alone. You must understand Rajini is the superstar, before entering the theatre. Else you may not like it.

  17. Beula permalink
    August 11, 2007 4:04 pm

    Many people comment on rajini that he is dark so we won’t like him, but what is there to do with his color when is a superstar. Let anybody say anything he is the one and only superstar for ever. Waiting for the next movie of Rajini.

  18. SAM permalink
    August 11, 2007 4:12 pm

    Who is this rajni?? firstly tell me whether he is an actor or a caricature artist. What he knows of acting.. only he knows how to flip his cigerattes and specs. Those any damn circus artist can do. Acting means to be naturally absrobed with the character. Why he needs all these CG to prove his acting. I am yet to see rajni in a serious character role. Enuf of jumping around and showing tricks. At least at this age, we want serious acting from him.

  19. h nagesh permalink
    February 20, 2008 8:18 pm

    In TN, whether it is a movie or TV serial or even news, slum people are given prominence. Every thing is based on their lives and so called culture. These peope beg, borrow or steal to spend lavishly on worthless things viz movies, drinks and concubines. But still, they behave as if they are the most important people in the world and others are burden. They do most foolish things also with a serious expression as if they are all immortals. In the name of preserving their so called culture, they
    interfere with others’ freedom. They have a very disgusting attitude. Instead of admitting their ignorance, they call other wise people fools . This peculiar nature of tamilians is being exploited by the film people who act diplimatically and cunningly to make money and hence the mad fan clubs in the state.

  20. k. geetha permalink
    February 20, 2008 8:39 pm

    rajini is superstar in tamil films. but in hindi, he can be an also ran only. reason is tamilians accept outsiders who please them by touching their weak point ie. tamil, tamil tamil raththam etc.. a tamilian politician or an actor, where ever he goes-be it uk or usa or even delhi, he tells his people “do not forget your language and culture whereever you are, tamilian culture is the best in the world” ie they want tamilians to follow their culture and give importance to their language whereever they are. but they do not realise that other region people too have same sentiments. they expect other region people living in tamilnadu to study their language and follow the local culture as if all other people are worthless. This kind selfishness is what others make use for their survival or livelihood when they settle down in tamilnadu. MGR who though is a srilankan was most prosperous and so also rajini and others. You just pretend to like their culture and language and you can
    pull on in tamilnadu. but you have to sacrifice your individuality and originality to please these dominating
    people who unnecessarily interfere and advise others even when their adivce is not sought.

  21. Ravi permalink
    February 21, 2008 1:19 am

    I have seen that movie. I like rajni. Shivaji is technically sound and better to indian standards of film making probably due to shankar’s touch and renowned cameraman K.V.Anand. Music wasn’t that good but couple of tunes are catchy. SHivaji is neither matches the standards of rajni nor that of shankar. Rehman seems to have lost touch in producing something that sounds really cool! But its worth to watch rajni in action at least once even though the movie wasn’t impressive.

  22. Ravi permalink
    February 21, 2008 1:23 am


    Skin color doesn’t matter when it comes to performance. People like will smith, danzel washington, morgan freeman, halle berry and more to list here have already received accolades for their brilliant performances and rajni is no different from them.

  23. April 28, 2008 11:15 pm

    Sivaji going to release in chinese and japanese, the dubbing process have been finished.

  24. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    April 29, 2008 7:37 am


    I stumbled upon this post because of Arr’s contribution. And although the subject of popular culture interests me only in an academic sort of way, I made it a point to go through all the comments, which are decidedly non-academic.

    I would, though, like to ask Shiv Pratap Singh, SAM etc. Why this running down of a person who, if most of the comments in this post are to be believed, is at the top in his profession? Is it just because he is a “Madrasi”? Would you dare to similarly belittle the “stars” of the shit Hindi films?

  25. ajoy permalink
    October 3, 2009 10:03 pm

    He is called the mental kanth of south cinema. They laugh and make fun of this comedian actor especially in movies like quick gun murugan


  26. November 13, 2009 7:45 pm

    Hai 2 all …. !
    Superstar Rajinikanth – India’s No . 1 Biggest Superstar ; Highest Paid
    Indian Actor ( First place in India ; Second place in Asia ) He has 2
    get , lot of fans circle , all over the world . He attracts the people
    , at both National & International levels , for his Excellant style
    performance & also for his Cute Lovable Acting …. Really ,
    Superstar rocks Worldwide …… !

  27. G.Krishnakumar permalink
    February 22, 2010 6:03 pm

    Superstar Rajinikanth – India’s No . 1 Biggest Superstar ; Highest Paid Indian Actor ( First place in India ; Second place in Asia ) He has 2 get , lot of fans circle , all over the world . He attracts the people , at both National & International levels , for his Excellant style performance & also for his Cute Lovable Acting …. Really , Superstar rocks Worldwide …… !

  28. rathina kumar permalink
    February 23, 2010 9:51 am

    Rajni is no one mental in India. He does not know what to talk and where to talk. These are fates of tamil cinema industry. God has to save us.

  29. radhey shyam permalink
    September 25, 2011 12:00 am

    only one phenomenon indian film industry and that is Rajesh khanna.

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