The Rajini (f)actor

the other face of rajini, as an actor

On a dull morning like today, with no evidence of the shining sun and the newspapers underlining the oil price rise, I desperately needed a break. Television. What else.

It was Rajini in Arunachalam dancing and singing Athaandaa Ithaanda Arunachalam Naanthaanda in KTV. While we know that Rajini takes special care for the introduction song, this one is a very special one. Many Rajini fans like the intro numbers from Annamalai and Baasha. This Arunachalam song went a little unnoticied because the movie itself wasn’t a rocking hit. Those tight close-ups of Rajini, I should say made him look younger. Thanks to the nice wig. On watching it, I was prompted to write this note.

Over the years Rajini has evolved, like everyone else. For him the growth has been exponential in terms of films, fame and fans. If only he does a qualitative analysis, he may not be accepting his growth. It was indeed not his fault. Blame it on his producers, the directors and finally his fans who were content with Rajini as a typical kollywood hero. In the process of manufacturing such commercial masalas, the actor inside Rajini has exited. Rajini was much better an actor than one could think of.

The early 1980’s were the golden era of Rajini as an actor. Thanks to Mahendran for the fantastical Mullum Malarum[1978] and Johnny[1980]. If Balachander got out the actor in Rajini with Moondru Mudhichu and Thillu Mullu, Mahendran shaped the diamond. Though, Kaali of Mullum Malarum has been widely accepted as one of Rajini’s best, my favorite has been Johnny throughout. During its release, Johnny was widely advertised as an action movie due to various compulsions. Mahendran known for his visual style of telling a story had two amazing roles for Rajini in Johnny. Both of which, Rajini hadn’t even attempted before. Johnny had the best of everything from music to photography to romance. Even today it is regarded as the best of Illayaraja‘s movies.

Since then, we have had him play a playboy in Netrikan, a classy cop named Alex Pandian in Moondru Mugam, the nicest father in Nallavanukku Nallavan, a sentimental brother in Padikaathavan, an angry young man in Bashaa and so on. The actor in him was slowly getting disappeared.

Those school/college days when I used to be a frantic Rajini fan, I missed out to identify the versatility in him. I’ve grown over the years, understanding the language and the medium of cinema. Today when I applaud at some of the best actors of cinema, I feel the Rajini factor could have been a great force. We all have a collective responsibility in edging out the actor in Rajinikanth. To cry over spilled milk would be a inappropriate. Heck!! Not much can be done now. I hate to finish this on a negative note. But to be true, the films that follow will have the IMAGE of Rajini. The other face of actor, just like the pic above, will go unnoticed. The actor will be spotted no more until someone challenges the so-called-formula. The only solace is that, he still acts.

26 responses to “The Rajini (f)actor”

  1. Hi Lazy,
    First & foremost I like to thank you for the special note on Rajini. Yes, we missed or completely ignored the other side of Rajini. But still I feel one thing is that with nothing no one can climb this heights. Eventhough he has been branded with an Image tag he still takes out & brings out his other forms by acting in a small dual roles. Like in Muthu (His own father), Arunachalam (His own father)…

    In earlies one of the movie which extracted some of his talent is Aarulirunthu arubadhu varai (Some people did not liked it because of its dramatical narration). But still his acting was very soft & gr8.

    In a ending note as Rajini’s punch dialogue, I like to remind you all about the famous dialogue in Mullum malarum where he says

    “Sir, Intha Kali romba kettavan sir, irundu kai irundu kal ponalum poyachupan..”

    Hip Hip Rajini!! Wishing him that his latest film Chandramukhi be a great success.



  2. Guru,

    Add the movie “Engeyo kEtta kural” where he played a husband who accepts back his wife who had eloped. Totally un Rajni like, that movie was and he played it really well. SP. Muthuraman was the director who created the image of Rajni and killed the actor forever.


  3. Thillumullu and Sri Raghavendra were two movies that brought his acting skills in their own different ways. Thillumullu by no means can be brushed off as a masala movie. His Guru KB brought the fun part of Rajinikanth.
    Bhuvana oru kelvikuri – good one there
    Sri Raghvendra – touching upon the spiritual part of Rajinikanth
    Ninaithale inikkum – even though side role – can we forget the dance in “SHamba shivasambo”
    or the Toyota car cigarette flick?
    A deserving blogalogue for that Rajini whom we all liked and grew up to that made him a superstar…that versatility – hats off.


  4. Thillumulu is of course unbeatable. I feel that Rajini has a really good flair for comedy. But I did love the Rajini in Thalapati too, guess thats thanks to Maniratnam.


  5. Even in his so called image films, Rajini’s modesty underplaying was a highlight. For e.g in Annamalai as a son to Manorama, or in Baasha as a brother, even Padaiyappa to an extent, when another character talks about him he underplays the role with superb elan and does not dramaticize the scene. Remember the scene in Padaiyappa where Sivaji says “I have my son to be proud about!”, look at Rajini, man that level of modesty titillates you. If you analyze keenly this gives great strength to the character. If not those scenes we would not have a hint of the depth of the character.
    Well, I have seen a lot of actors play that part but for a superstar he for sure knows and uses his method to excellence.



  6. Guru,
    I have been reading your blog almost regularly. But your writing today was full of grammatical mistakes. I am no stickler for grammar but I was surprised how your insightful writing could be sprinkled with so many of them.
    I only hope you were writing when you were sleepy or tired.


  7. Thalaiva, kalakitta po. But Dalapathi ya mention panna ma vittutiye :(. Subtle-a mother sentiment, a mature lover and friend! Kalakittar thalai andha padathula!
    Mebbe oru signature campaign pannanum, urging Mani to do something with Rajini, cos right now I think only Mani can develop something that will suit thalai’s age now. And I have a feeling that the only thing that prevents the both from working again is Mani’s obsession for a low profile and Rajini’s inability (mostly due to overzealous fans like me) to ensure just that. Maybe Chandramukhi (or the way it is made) might just convince Mani that it can be done.
    If this is an adaptation of Manichitrathazhu as a lot of ppl have said, then hoping that Rajini’s role parallel’s Mohanlal’s, this might be THE MOVIE. But the sight of Prabhu in the movie is not too encouraging, particularly if Simran (who, IMHO, is probably the best person, apart from Shobhana herself) is to play the female protagonist opposite him (Prabhu). Keeping my fingers crossed and hoping this will reinvent Thalai (just like Amitabh Bachchan has done in recent years) and put him back to where he belonged, to an era just before the slew of repetitive movies, led him to where he is. These movies did huge business monetarily, but Thalai probably had no business to be in as many movies of this type as he has been. Hope that this movie makes him see movies like Padayappa and Arunachalam etc. in the same light as a stint in politics – a gross royal mistake for someone as talented and straight forward as him.
    Sorry for such a long comment. Thoongikittu irundha thondan-a thatti ezhupitta 😉


  8. There are so many clones right now in Tamil Industry emulating Rajni. I feel sick to watch all these guys trying what Rajni did. Right from Dhanush, Simbu, Vijay, Ajith. all these guys think too much about themselves.None of these can replace Rajni. Why dont these dumbs understand this!!

    Rajni Rules!!


  9. Rajini Rasigan /Nilu, To be true I wasn’t really fascinated by Aarilirunthu Aruvadhu varai. As you had pointed out it had a stage format. Probably that prevented me from spotting the Rajini (f)actor 😉

    Chenthil, I should have mentioned Engeyo Ketta Kural. You are right. Usually A.A.Varai and E.K.Kural are twined together when they talk about Rajini films.

    Guru Prasad, Yep !! That cigratte scene of Ninaithaaley Inikkum was amazing.


  10. Ravi, Thanks for the mention. Have corrected some of them now. It was probably because i put it up in a hurry. I am not that great with grammar. I manage.

    I do take efforts in writing error-free but at times its just out of control. Blogging is all about spontaneity. Sometimes the same spontaneity translates as grammatically incorrect posts. Not only on me but also blame it on my english mam at school 😉

    Anyway, Thanks again for pointing that out else this post would ever remain with those mistakes, making it as a bad read. I hate bad reads.


  11. Arvind – I’m amazed at your comment. Those were nice mentions of Rajini’s calibre. Great stuff.

    Anti Naina – Thanks ellam vendam. From a Rajini Rasigan to one more.

    As you and sankalp have expressed Rajini underplayed well in Thalapathi. Rajini was great in Mani Ratnam’s hands. I have the same wish as you. To join again with Mani Ratnam would be a dream come true.

    I also think Rajini directed by Kamalhassan can bring out a different dimension of Rajini. But it’s just asking too much from both of them.

    As you had rightly said, he must probably learn it from Amitabh.


  12. Hey,

    Amitabh in his come back is acting for money.All that he is trying to do is repay his debts. Though he is a great actor..I wouldnt wanna remember him for his comeback movies. Most of them suck. He is making the same mistake that Sivaji did in late 1970’s and early 1980’s..saying yes to every offer that comes his way. I cant watch an Amitabh movie expecting that the movie will be good jus coz he is there.

    Rajni was great in Thillu one ele would have done justice to that role. People(From North India) hated me when I said Thillu Mullu rocks when compared to Gol Maal. Gol Maal redefied hindi comedy, coz the language as such doesnt give as much scope for comedy as Tamizh does. And for them to make a movie like that was something great. Though we should thank them for the story..Thillu mullu was miles ahead coz of the KB-Visu-Rajni combo.

    LG, You hit the nail on head. Its our mistake that Rajni the actor is no more. May be he should have stuck to the kamal formula of doing 1 film for himself and 1 for the “mass” regularly.

    Or may be not..Ild still travel 1000 miles to see the Baasha Rajni…(Sounding like Gollum;-) )



  13. Rajini can act?

    Honestly I might be a bit biased cos im only 18 and havent seen those early 80’s/late 70’s rajini movies, but I was forced to watch rajini movies with friends and the only thing that struck me was the lack of reality/lack of a story in his movies.

    I think he got unlucky with Mani Ratnam as well as Thalapathi imo was one of Mani Ratnam’s worst movies. No doubt it wasnt your typical Rajini movie but exactly when did this Rajini movie formula start?

    The stupid stunts and the crappy sound effects and the (un)catchy phrases in his movies all add up. Its just pure masala.

    If there is an actor inside Rajini, I’ve never seen it.


  14. LG,
    Thanks for the note on Rajini. I should say, in spite of all your effort to remain balanced about Rajini I could not help but notice that you have evolved away from what actually makes Rajini-RAJINI his generic nature.

    As a hardcore Rajini fan I must mention a few things you may have missed out. Rajini as a villian has had more impact in his career than his roles as a hero.

    His career bests would include Tappu Thalangal, Aval Appadithan, Buvana Oru Kelvikuri, Thalapathi as well.

    Rajini is one of the most generic actors and people can accept him as young or old without him having to sit in front of the makeup man for hours together. In Rajini’s terms “he plays people roles” not roles he wants.

    Also Rajini has not cast himself into a character actor mold…he has always evolved, from villan, comedy hero to a super hero with the same face. A clear analysis of his movie choices would show he took what was best for him at all times.

    If you are interested you should check out a Master’s thesis titled “Rajinikanth- A Phenomenon” done by a communication student. The thesis is available with the University of Madras library. It makes an interesting read about how generic hero’s such as Rajini have always had wider acceptance (like Amithabh, NTR, MGR)than specific character role players.

    The point I am driving at is movie formula has nothing to with a person caliber as an actor. Everything is acting be it Arunachalam or Padayappa. Of course, poorly made movies like Baba should not be cast upon the actor. The burden of bad acting should not be on the actor alone. It is a collective effort of the movie making team. The actor can only do what is given to him.


  15. Guru,
    It was me who was sleepy when reading the blog. I am very sorry, seriously. I do not find any mistakes when I read again now.
    I am ashamed of myself. 😦


  16. Ah! Am commenting for the sake of commenting, because, my words fail when I try to write about Thalaivar! I can’t write about his films, particular scenes, etc etc… BCoz, I like Rajini…. muzhuka muzhuka… not just in particular scene or particular film… Everywhere, even in the normal shows he appear… His ideas, speeches, style, charming face, that smile, charisma, walk, everything…… Whether he acts or not, as long as he comes on the screen, that is enough for average Rajini fans like me to go bonkers. Waiting for my Diwali / Pongal / New year everything, on that Chandramukhi release day. Thanfully, I will be in Chennai on April 14th. 🙂


  17. Prabhuram, You said id about Amitabh. I have never admired amitabh, be it now or before. thats probably because in my childhood I was told that rajini was copying stuff straight from AB and I hate to accept Rajini was south india’s AB. Some of it is true. Some of that statement was grossly wrong. Rajini has some unique things that can never be equated to AB. And vice versa too.

    Sujay, You must probabaly watch the movies said here in the post and also the list which Ashwini had told.

    I think Aval Appidithaan will be a little heavy at the age of 18 but it will amaze you. thanks to Rudhraiyaa the director who showed that alternate cinema didn’t need method actors.

    Ashwini, Thanks for taking your time in writing that. You are talking from someone who analyses the complete history of rajini as an actor. I am talking the typical Rajini Rasigan’s voice.

    If you have read his interviews from 1995 to now, he has consistently told that he started acting in people roles and he could ACT anymore. He needs to come and go and move as per his image. Thats exactly what I was saying as the image thrust on him. Ask anyone and they might not agree that Rajini acts in Arunachalam and Padayappa. He acts as though he acts, but he is his natural self. Shedding down your normal self and getting into the skin of the character may what be defined as acting.Again don’t flame for that I am not too good at defining things 😉


  18. Ravi, Cool Off. You were actually write at your first comment.

    Venkatachalam, Welcome to chennai and do you want to book your seats for Chandramukhi 😉


  19. LG,

    just makes me wonder- this flurry of responses- if rajini’s attraction will ever fade. never mind baba, never mind what he has become.
    there will be, for posterity, someone in blogosphere who will watch a song by thalaivar and be inspired to put up a longish post on him!

    wah! geek! wah!



  20. I am a true fan of rajnikanth. Lot of people criticize him for not taking meaty roles. Lets face it whether his movie is crap or wacky they turned out to be huge hit. I know one person is happy that is the producers. Everyone says that baba was a failier, but do u guys know it made more money than gille vijay starrer. Movie’s are meant to be entertaining. I am sorry for those who don’t like rajni but his movies are entertaining to watch. If u want to see good direction or good effects u might as well watch hollywood movies. Look at vijay and look at all of his recent movies. They all resemble rajni’s character. The bottom line is making movie is a business and rajini has given the producers one hell of revenue. As far as I am concerned rajni has done a lot for the poors and we should be happy we have him instead of Amitabh who only cares about money. The only thing I don’t like about rajni is his political stand. Other than that all i have to say is rajni rocks!!!!!


  21. rajini – he has always raised from ashes.
    His 100th film ragavendra (which he thought will/should be the last) is a flop and then rest is history. Similarly, BABA ( which he thought will/ should the last) is also a flop. Hence, we can rest assured that the master of raising will be in act. God Bless the RAJINI (the non-tamilian)who has been the mass entertainer for the entire tamil nadu for the past 20-30 years.