Imagine someone punching you right on the nose. There is a painfully nauseating feeling that you get when your nose getting jammed into your face. This is immediately followed by an un-namable rage. You don’t reason. You don't think. You react. It’s instinctive. Reflex action. An un-identifiable primitive instinct to hit back, lash out. Veri. Rage. A pure unbridled passion. Rajinikanth. The Rajini fan - an aching heart beating hard to see Rajini arrive on screen. A longing for that one un-subtle dialog he speaks for his fans. A thousand electric pulses emanating from neurons all over the body to be consumed by the sound of whistles that scream like a dragon unleashed during the introduction song. That is the essence of the Rajinikanth fan. The shout 'thalaivaa' is not a 'hello'. It is a war cry. It is reflex. An overwhelming emotion, affection, passion, and veri - that funnels itself through the larynx of the Rajini fan and manifests itself as this word. Rajini - It is not a mere name. It is a feeling. It is sensation. It is the sound that is heard when every house in Madras bursts a 1,000,000 wala on the morning of Deepavali. It’s the mother of all show biz. With due respect and no insult to Chiranjeevi, Mohanlal, Mamooty and Kamalhassan fans - there is no phenomena like the Rajini fan
A Bihari doctor, living in the U.S, once narrated a story where he was on a rowing boat that had originated from fisherman's cove near Madras, and was headed for a 2-3 km point into the sea, where rich people snorkeled. The doctor mentioned to the boat rower (for lack of a better term) "may be rajinikanth is fluff. Kamal hasan is better". The intense look on the boat rower's face, the mumbled curses emanating from his mouth as he rowed hard in fury convinced the doctor that there would be no boat waiting for him after he emerged from the snorkel dip. He quickly said "thalaivaa" and peace was restored. The same boat rower would bitch about his wife, mother, and probably even god. But never Rajini. Even if Rajini was in the Himalayas and couldn’t hear him.
Wherever I went Thirunelveli, Madurai, Vellore, Thanjavur - I was viewed with suspicion. Maybe it’s written on my face that I am truly a Kamal fan inside. People would check instantly. 'Rajini'a Kamal'a?' they'd ask. Most Kamal fans are Rajini fans in the same way that all squares are rectangles. We may fit the definition. But we retain our true perfect shape of the square and negate the corolary. Everywhere in Madras, Rajini is the talk of the city. Yesterday, I went to MGM, Mayajaal, beasant nagar beach, spencers plaza, and Mathura restaurant. Everywhere someone had to say something about Rajini. One person who accompanied me narrated how he cried out of unbelievable pain when Rajini was beaten up in Baasha. He suspiciously enquired as to why I did not like the 'Vaji Vaji Sivaji' song. 'The tune and lyrics are good, why are you saying its not good' - and I had to explain that only the segment, which contains the words 'vaji vaji' is bad the rest of the song is good. He stopped giving me the 'I-am-disgusted-with-you' look. Phew! Close call. You don't cross swords with a Rajini fan. Ask me. I am married to one. The radio shows, TV, tea stalls, and chettinaad vidyashram school all have some advertisement or program on Rajini. There is constantly someone mimicking his voice. All other producers have stopped releasing movies this entire month. No one outside of Sowcarpet will be watching the arbit Hindi movie that will get released (in casino) this Friday. Someone literally asked my sister-in-law's 3 year old baby - "who is superstar" and it said Rajini.
And then the technical arguments. I mentioned 'Annamalai' was the first movie where the James bond like 'Super Star' gig appears before the start of every Rajini movie. The one which has Annamalai's theme music. I gave credit to K.Balachandar's (and Asst Suresh Krishna) team for again cranking up the Rajini phenomenon up a notch. There was someone to disagree and argue with me. It is a well known fact that Kalaipuli.S. Dhanu annointed the title of 'Super star'. But what movie was that? When did Rajini change his hair style from the left-right parted Vakudu style to the free flowing 'disco' hair-cut style? My answer was 'Rajadhi Raja'. Someone argued. I wrote a popular post on Rajini movies and the opening day extravaganza. Many appreciated it. Some did not. A forum was created to disagree with it and discuss how a 'stupid' kamal hasan fan does not even know the release dates of Rajini movies in proper order. They didn't get the point. The post wasn't an archive of his release dates. It was about something else. But who cares? Life is an argument. Everybody and their failing memory (that’s me) is an expert.
Annamalai was the movie that jump-started Rajini to a new dimension. Unleashing a powerful new Rajinikanth for the 90s. The one dialog that he speaks to Vinu Chakravarthi catapulted him to a stratosphere, unimaginable to any artist that I know of. Sachin Tendulkar doesn't even come close. Maybe Beatles or MJ can claim to have commanded such terrific, ferocious and bloody fealty. It’s been close to 15 years since that dialog. He is at the evening of his career. Does one movie every two years. It is obvious that 'Sivaji' will be among his last few movies. It is has been and will be a pleasure to enjoy this phenomenon. The Rajinikanth phenomena will not exist everywhere or even in Thamizh Naadu through eternity. Let’s enjoy it while we can. In 5 years, he will be a sweet memory - where people would say 'why the fuss? Its not like this is a premiere of a Rajinikanth movie', or simply 'Vijay doesn't even compare'. We have one or two moments ahead of us where the audience will roar in anticipation of their hero. Where people will stand overnight for a current-booking ticket. Where 10 seconds before the introduction song, you can't even hear yourself thinking. The thunder and the roar that happens when the name 'Rajinikanth' flashes on the screen, when the hero makes his appearance is an out of body experience. Surreal. See it in Per-Inba-Vilas Theater in Thirunelveli, where there are special lights on the side of the screen that will illuminate and flash when Rajini makes his appearance. See it in Udhayam, Albert (along with Rajini himself), Sathyam, Devi, Abirami, and Kamala (Thanjavur). The Rajini show may be slowly winding up but its coming to a theater near you at this moment. Thalaivaa.