Dear Mr. Rajinikanth,
First a confession. I am your fan. Die hard. Unabashed. Proud. I belong to a generation that has grown up on a strong staple of your movies right from the likes of ‘Billa‘ and ‘Johnny‘, much before the advent of TV serials, the internet and T-20 cricket. And I still am in complete awe of your screen presence, aura, style and fan following. A balding grandfather in your mid sixties, with a humble career beginning as a bus conductor, you are not caught in an image trap in real life. You wear no wig, you inject no botox, you flaunt no six pack but yet you command more adulation than any Hollywood star or all the Miss Universe winners put together. I can’t think of a single actor anywhere in the world whose films send fans into a tizzy, whose brandwagon is stratospheric, with an unofficial patent on the ‘First Day First Show’ mania, with companies declaring paid holidays as an incentive to their employees, whose movie openings lend a midas sort of golden touch to the box office, whose very name sends TRPs of TV channels shooting up like Jack’s beanstalk and social media posts go viral. You ration your public appearances. That’s because you don’t need the media for publicity. The media milks your film releases for a slice of the Rajini pie. You only need to say a word. Hashtag Magizhchi. And it shall go viral. And storm into our vocabulary. And become a catchphrase.
Having covered you extensively on the NDTV network for a decade and a half and having accompanied you to New Delhi for the NDTV Indian Of The Year Awards Night a few years ago, I’ve seen first hand, what a down to earth, unassuming and incredibly simple soul you are. With a childish glint in my eye, I sometimes brag about how I was once your ‘co-star’! Never mind that it was just a cameo, as myself – breaking news as a television anchor in your 2010 blockbuster – ‘Enthiran’!
I am aware of your altruistic streak and the charitable ventures you are silently a part of. My wife Vidya, a 24×7 film buff, tells me about how you used to lend your support to a Public Service Announcement on Polio decades ago. I remember the time my good friend and former Health Minister of the country Dr.Anbumani Ramadoss wrote an appeal to you to stop smoking scenes in films. The nation knows how you readily obliged. Because you realised it could influence millions. And save lives. Your army of fans can have a force multiplier effect.
Sir, I too have an appeal. Much as I can fathom the frenzy and the fanfare that are an inevitable part of every movie release of yours, it breaks my heart to see your loyal fans pouring thousands of litres of milk on your larger than life size cut-outs. There are lakhs of starving, malnourished children in our country, in the vicinity of the epicentres of Rajini-mania. In ‘Sivaji’, you reiterated the economic truth that the ‘rich become richer and the poor become poorer’. Those litres of milk could have put an end to the pangs of hunger of poor kids, at least for a day. All it will take is another word from you on this sad spectacle. How about hashtag ‘Adhirchi’?
By the time this column comes out in print, the hype may have died down. And like Election Petitions in our courts, this appeal may be infructuous. Your plunge into politics may never happen. But there are causes galore that your flick of the wrist can do wonders to. You started with a gesture to dissuade fans from lighting up. Another thing I hate to see flowing is alcohol. How about a punchline from you on the havoc caused by the suicidal ‘candy is dandy, liquor is quicker’ Ogden Nash mindset? A Rajinikanth campaign against the evil of booze may have the potential to fast track prohibition in your home State that has the dubious distinction of having liquor as the highest revenue earner. If there’s anyone who can whack this golden goose, its you. Because your ‘Oru Thadava Sonna, Noor Thadava Sonna Madhri.’. Because your ‘Vazhi, thani vazhi’. I look forward to your hero’s role in a ‘First Day, No Show’ in TASMAC shops!
(Sanjay Pinto is a Lawyer, Columnist, Political Commentator, Author, Mentor – Silver Tongue Academy Resource & Former Resident Editor – NDTV 24×7 )