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From ticket to super stardom to Dadasaheb Phalke Award

TE Raja Simhan Chennai | Updated on April 02, 2021

Rajinikanth dedicates prestigious honour to all those who have been part of his journey

From a bus conductor in Karnataka to a Dadasaheb Phalke Awardee — that’s been the journey of Shivaji Rao Gaekwad aka ‘Thalaiva’ Rajinikanth over the last five decades. Interestingly, Rajinikanth shares his original name with the screen name of legendary actor Sivaji (Ganesan) who was the first from Kollywood to be given the prestigious award in 1996.

Interestingly, Rajinkanth’s guru and renowned director K Balachandar was the second person from Kollywood to win the award in 2010. The 70-year-old Superstar Rajinikanth was honoured with Padma Bhushan in 2000 and Padma Vibhushan in 2016.

Rajinikanth and the political quagmire

The award for Rajinikanth was announced with just five days to go for the Tamil Nadu Assembly polls.

"My heartfelt thanks to the Government of India, respected & dearest @narendramodi ji, @PrakashJavdekar ji and the jury for conferring upon me the prestigious #DadasahebPhalkeAward. I sincerely dedicate it to all those who have been a part of my journey. Thanks to the almighty," said Rajinikanth in a tweet.

Will there be substance in Rajini-style politics?

First break and after

A friend saw Rajinikanth, the youngest of four siblings, perform in a stage play and encouraged him to get into acting. The first break came in a negative role in the film Apoorva Raagangal (1975) directed by K Balachandar. There was no turning back as Rajinikanth went on to become one of the most prolific actors in Indian cinema, often compared in Kollywood to the charismatic MG Ramachandran in stardom.

The actor’s blockbuster movies include Bairavi; Mullum Malarum; Billa; Murattu Kaalai; Thillu Mullu; Padikkathavan; Velaikaran; Raghavendra; Thalapathi, Annamalai, Baasha, Muthu, Arunachalam, Padayappa, Chandramukhi and Endhiran.

Unique style, mannerisms

The actor, with over 200 films, is renowned for his signature walk; powerful dialogues (some linked with politics); mannerisms and styles, such as flicking a cigarette in the air and catching it between the lips and putting on coolers with a flourish. These won the hearts of millions in India and in countries like Japan where he has a huge fan following.

Rajinikanth was one of the first actors to be paid over ₹100 crore for a movie. Last seen in action thriller Darbar, released in January 2020, the Superstar is currently filming for his next movie Annaatthe. He is also a producer and a screenwriter.

Politics, a non-starter

Off the field, the Superstar, a philanthropist, has been planning his political plunge for over two decades, but it still remains a dream. Many dialogues in his films indicated his intention to join politics but it has not happened so far.

“If Jayalalithaa is voted back to power, even God cannot save Tamil Nadu,” Rajinikanth had famously said just before the Tamil Nadu Assembly poll in 1996. It was his first direct tryst with politics and contributed to the crushing defeat of Jayalalithaa and her AIADMK.

From then on it has been a 25-year wait for his fans before the ‘Superstar’ actually took the plunge into active politics. Given the multiple false starts, many had actually given up hopes of his entering politics. His health issues added to the uncertainty.

Ending years of suspense, Rajinikanth, in December, decided to float a party in a month. But, citing health conditions, the actor made a dramatic U-turn to stay away from politics, stating it was a warning from God.

Deserved, says Kamal

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a tweet said, “Popular across generations, a body of work few can boast of, diverse roles and an endearing personality… that’s Shri @rajinikanth Ji for you. It is a matter of immense joy that Thalaiva has been conferred with the Dadasaheb Phalke Award. Congratulations to him.”

Actor Kamal Haasan, who was the hero in Rajinikanth’s first movie Apoorva Raagangal, said that “superstar and my friend Rajinikanth, who proved that fans can be won by screen appearances, deserves it 100 per cent.” Both have worked together in 16 films, the last being Hindi film Geraftaar, also starring Amitabh Bachchan, in which Rajinikanth appeared in a cameo.

Predictably, Rajinikanth jokes started soon after the announcement. “The #DadasahebPhalke just got blessed with #Rajnikanth,” a fan tweeted.

Published on April 01, 2021

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