What makes a Superstar? 

A rare photograph of Rajinikanth caught my eye as I was browsing through my social media timeline.

Published: 13th December 2021 09:23 AM  |   Last Updated: 13th December 2021 09:23 AM   |  A+A-

Actor Rajnikanth at the trailer release event of 'Darbar' in Mumbai.

Actor Rajinikanth. (File photo| ANI)

By Express News Service

CHENNAI: A rare photograph of Rajinikanth caught my eye as I was browsing through my social media timeline. A glance, and I guessed perhaps that the photographer was Balu Mahendra? The film, Mullum Malarum, is special for Superstar Rajinikanth whose 72nd birthday on December 12 is a celebration of his longevity, among other things. Many a dining table and coffee table discussion has been had over what truly makes a popular star, a legend. What separates the wheat from the chaff? Longevity and consistency.

Why is SP Balasubramaniam considered a legend in playback singing though there are many others who are as popular? Why is there only one Superstar across the various film industries? A couple of months ago, Amitabh Bachchan shared a photograph of him getting into the airport, wearing an outfit and shades that could put any youngster to shame! He is stepping into his 81st year now, and it’s not like his life has handed him only roses. Ditto for any living legend seeing their twilight years getting extended. As the saying goes, “the night is always young”. 

It would be fantastic to see a heroine’s career live as long as Rajinikanth’s. Meryl Streep has been able to hold onto her stardom and ‘market’, but cinema of the world and cinema of India are different. While it is commendable to see the boys saunter off into the sunset despite their age or appearance, the girls don’t have it as easy. However, the ‘youth’ or ‘hero status’ of Rajinikanth is not a stand-alone story.

His counterparts in the South—Chiranjeevi, Mohanlal, Mammootty and Kamal Haasan—have also kept the audience engaged by playing leads in films that are sold solely on their name. Business for a superstar is always keeping in line with their legacy. While Amitabh Bachchan has moved into becoming an ‘additional name’ that also impacts the market of a film, the South superstars are often the ONLY name that matter to their films. 

As for women and their screen years, it is a wonder when a heroine crosses twenty years and holds her own in terms of popularity and market. In Hindi, this has somewhat been accomplished, and even extended to beyond 25 years (Kajol, for example), while in Tamil this is yet to be seen as a trend. It remains to be seen whether a Trisha, Nayanthara and now Samantha, (who broke stereotypes of what a heroine should or shouldn’t do to keep her place under the movie marquee), can retain that longevity. It would be great to see them do that.

While Kajol is super-selective about her films and doesn’t sign every big film that comes her way, the South heroines who began in the 90s haven’t been able to do so. The economics of the movie business in the South along with the fact that the mentality of our society and film industry which is okay to see older heroes romance younger heroines, also mean that newer women actors bring in increased competition.

The scales are tilted heavily in favour of the hero, in favour of the man (like in life!). The day this changes is when we can expect equal pay; before that, equal roles and important films given to women will make their onscreen presence live longer. Till then, we will have our Superstar play ‘ageless’ characters on screen, and given his joie de vivre in Annaatthe, it is safe to say that he will regale us with his entertaining hero act for many more years. 


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