At a staggering 375 crores, 2010 saw one of the biggest blockbusters of Indian cinema – Rajinikanth’s Endhiran. Frenzied followers of the Rajini cult queued up at theatres in Chennai for a 4 am show. In the history of film screening this level of adulation for one star alone has been unheard of. Cutting effortlessly across all kinds of demographics, psychographics and geographies, one wonders what really makes him the rage that he is. Adding further to the enigma, is that he seems to be defying all conventional norms of stardom; almost as if it were with a vengeance! As a columnist who was trying to decipher the Rajinikanth phenomenon remarked, “if you are middle aged, don’t have great looks, or a 6 pack to flaunt, you could aspire to be Rajinikanth!”
My own state of bewilderment shifted to respect and admiration when I heard him speak at a recently concluded award ceremony that bestowed upon him the ‘NDTV Entertainer of the decade’ title. His demeanor spoke volumes of his humility that one has often heard of. The excitement in the voices of Vidya Balan and Katrina Kaif on sharing the stage with him, didn’t affect him the least. When asked by Prannoy Roy on how he feels to be such a mega star, his response floored the crowd, “What can I say. I am just doing my work. It is the act of God being played through me.” A ring of deep conviction in what he’d said was palpable.
What struck one instantly was how rare such a quality is among people, in particular those who have achieved success or for that matter are in positions of authority. What one sees in great measure is the sense of “I” or “me” factor that is so predominant that they have somewhere lost themselves behind this fabricated veneer. The ability to live in this illusory world and yet see oneself as separate from it is to my mind indicative of high strength of character. One sees very few people who portray this sense of attached yet detached state of being. Come to think of it, it is not that difficult to see ourselves as a microcosm of a larger macrocosm; yet the ability to be in constant awareness of it as we carry on with our lives seems to be difficult. The dilution of this belief, is leading us away from the manifestation of humility and other such sterling qualities that the human being is capable of. Fighting to protect a false sense of the “I” there is a greater tendency to resort to tactics that are more fear and greed based rather than those of humility and gratitude. A dearth of such qualities in our leadership, clearly explains the spate of corrupt practices that we see in our institutions and society today. When the mind is obsessed with materialistic benefits then it’s bound to adopt devious measures in amassing more for the self. Strangely enough, capital seems to be directly proportional to success and power. To make matters worse, society adds to a compounding cycle of high respect for people with wealth and power; with absolutely no regard to the substance of their being.
Rajini’s rise to stardom from that of a bus conductor is akin to a rags to riches story. Yet his ability to remain in touch with that reality hasn’t diminished over the years. A conversation with any Rajini fan will get them to recount instances where the star has made an effort to mingle and be just like them. The fact that he brushes off his shoulder; his star status is what further increases his appeal factor. At no point in time is there an effort to minimize Rajini’s talent. His ability to expand the world of possibility in the most comical manner makes him the most sought after entertainer. Any child will tell you that there is nothing in the world that ‘Rajini can’t’ do! It’s very clearly the potent combination of onscreen hungama and off screen persona that has thrust him to the ‘Boss’ status.
We need more Rajinikanths in our society today and in leadership roles, to help people shift the way they think and act. Imagine the world of politics, bureaucracy, social and corporate bodies replete with Rajinikanths. It was easy to make clones of him in the movie Robot; can we do the same in real life too?