CHENNAI: This line popped up in a WhatsApp group chat as we were all talking about how we (all self-confessed Rajini fans) didn't rush to the theatre to watch Annaatthe or see the film immediately after it dropped on Netflix either. Instead, we saw it at our convenience only for the love of 'Superstar' and what did we get?
Going against popular opinion, I, for one, wouldn't mind watching Rajinikanth play younger characters. He pulled it off with elan in Karthik Subburaj's Petta. Should he do a timeless romance perhaps? I've always missed the Rajinikanth who walks in the woods of Ooty, with his hands in his pockets in the song, 'Kadhalin Deepam Ondru'.
We did see snatches of romance in Pa Ranjith's Kaala and Kabali. Maybe he should do one full fledged love story instead of force-fit experimental roles, like the eccentric cop in Darbar (the film was a letdown). So, what films must Rajinikanth do now? The simple answer: The good kind. Our Superstar deserves that.
Let's take a moment to recall the journey of Sivaji Rao Gaekwad, a man of meagre means who staked his all to equip himself as an actor before knocking on the doors of producers/directors. He chose to educate and train himself in the vocation of his dreams and enrolled himself in a film institute before seeking opportunities.
This is a man with a goal and the willingness to put himself through whatever it took to achieve his goal. I see the same willingness in him even today! Even in Annaatthe, Rajinikanth sells us the role with great conviction and joyful energy. I don't think it's our place to tell anyone to 'act their age' as long as the act is convincing.
Rajinikanth is a GOOD actor, let us not forget that. His filmography (a few films aside) boasts of collaborations with top filmmakers and writers. Even in Annaatthe, he's an actor who has delivered his best, without interference or interruption to the process of filmmaking. Such a professional actor should then get a film which caters to both types of fans (who, according to me, are no different from a neutral audience anyway, as we all love Rajinikanth equally)?
The mentality that makes us think that a Rajinikanth film is meant for the B and C centres, and only then to the A-centre audience is a myth. A Rajinikanth film is meant for all centres. To say that the trite dialogues and sentiments in Annaatthe are "village things that city girls won't understand", or to say that beyond Chengalpet, the film will be accepted, is all hogwash really. Sentiments are the same across income groups. Emotions are the same across relationships.
I loved Siva's Viswasam and felt that there was an effective use of a mass hero (Ajith) to convey a strong pro-girl child story. I cry even today when thinking of how Thookudurai looks at his daughter, and says, "En jaami". This same appeal was missing for me in Annatthe. The Rajinikanth who was discovered by K Balachander (story goes that it was Kamal Haasan who pointed out Rajinikanth when another actor was hamming his audition) certainly has something special about him even today.
Filmmakers, producers and Rajinikanth himself should work on getting the story right and not going with templates. Rajinikanth's most loved superhero film, Baasha, was not based on a template. It was, in fact, a better script than the original Hindi film, Hum. So, why is it that of late, that every time we end up liking Rajinikanth, the performer, the film seems to fail us? What is the ideal story for our Superstar?
Good stories are aplenty. We just have to dig deep with the awareness that Rajinikanth is not just a ROI-guaranteeing Superstar but also a good actor who deserves a film that is worthy of his talent and relevant to today's audience.