It was in the seventies. Frequent strikes in my college gave me ample time and opportunity to pursue my avowed hobbies which ranged from autograph hunting, participating in youth programmes—both in All India Radio and Doordarshan—as a compere, freelance writing to playing cricket.
It was on the terrace of the famous heritage building Agurchand Mansion in close proximity to the Spencers Signal on Chennai’s Mount Road. I had gone to S. Chand Publishing to buy some books when I heard two superstars were slugging it out on the terrace of the building. The sun was out in all its fury. I was sweating. Unable to control my excitement, I aborted my hunt for books and chose to dash to the scene of action.
Rajinikanth pounced on Kamal Hassan from behind with the latter shrugging off the challenge after a mild tussle. The scene changed with Kamal hanging precariously from a huge pipe in midair with of course a handful of tough men firmly holding him at his waist. Moments later Rajini reappeared on the scene and was seen firing gun shots from behind a concrete post. It was time for a break with the director S P Muthuraman calling ‘cut’. The shooting for the film Aadu Puli Aattam was on and the action sequences were being shot. Both the superstars appeared relaxed. This was the right time for me to meet them, shake hands, have a word or two and of course collect their autograph.
Unfortunately, that day I did not carry my autograph book with me, which normally formed part of my travel kit along with my camera, pen and writing pad. Kamal was having a glass of some energy drink. In a flash, I fished out my writing pad and extended it towards him. We exchanged some pleasantries before he penned his autograph with the words, ‘Love to Vaidyanathan from S Kamal Haasan.’ Armed with my prized possession, I swiftly moved towards Rajini who was alone. His unassuming nature floored me. With a smile, he beckoned me to sit. I introduced myself and then extended the writing pad, briefly explaining the stop-gap arrangement of replacing the missing autograph book. He wrote ‘Best wishes Rajinikanth’ before returning the book to me.
The break was over and the unit got ready to shoot some more action sequences. It was time for me to pack up after having spent valuable time with the two superstars of the Tamil film industry destined to play a decisive role in the state’s politics too.