It doesn't really matter which part of the country you come from, when you hear the name Rajinikanth, it rings a sense of grandeur before you can even recollect his filmography.
Being a north Indian, I wasn't really much into Rajinikanth's films but to be really honest, I do remember enjoying his Hindi movies, Chaalbaaz, Hum, Farishtey, as a kid. But even my north Indian upbringing wasn't immune to the God-like status of Rajinikanth.
However, there's some air about Rajini anna that I still accept him as this demi-god my generation has gotten used to. The stories about Rajinikanth's humble beginnings and his struggles have been floating the web space since time immemorial. And honestly, I never really bothered to understand why he's elevated to a God-like status while still being active in his profession.
And yet, I don't see anyone else in the same bracket as him.
And then, I came across the massive hype around his upcoming movie Kabali. Apparently, the trailer of Kabali has broken all records for maximum number of views for a film trailer on YouTube. This factoid got me interested to watch the trailer and as I watched the trailer unfold on screen, I found myself almost context-lessly fanboying for Rajini. I wanted to cheer for him but I could not understand what is it about him that made me do it.
I mean if you think about it, he's clearly not what an Indian superstar is "expected" to be.
He's far from being the gym-puffed actors prevalent today. On top of that, his way of doing things in movies is as unreal as it is irresistible.
Throwing up a cigarette in the air, only to catch it perfectly with his lips became a norm for a regular Rajinikanth movie.
If Salman Khan did that more than once, those hundred crore movies would be losing a lot of zeroes. And clearly, he's no Shah Rukh Khan either, to be idolized for his romantic gestures.
It's kind of difficult to restrict Rajinikanth's cinematic strength in one or two genres.
Us, the consumers of Bollywood pulp, could never digest a superstar who would hit the goons like he's dancing to MJ. Speaking of MJ, dancing hasn't quite been Rajinikanth's stronghold either.
But if anything that I've written above makes an iota of sense, why is he the biggest superstar our country has ever seen?I fail to understand.
I spoke to a few of my Tamilian friends and they all had different reasons as to why they love Rajinikanth so much. Neither could they tell me how Rajini came into being in Tamilian cinema. Turns out, their perplexion about his beginnings wasn't all that surprising.
After all, Rajinikanth isn't a Tamilian to begin with. He was born to a Marathi family in Bangalore. He was as disconnected from the Tamilian cinema as I was. But then how did this "outsider" conquer cinema halls with such might?
Maybe, it's his David Vs Goliath characters.
His characters majorly orbit around the fight of a commoner against the system, a zone the middle class cinema loving audience loves to see. The rational and irrational dreams of an average audience member are realized on the screen by way of Rajini's flamboyant characters.
Maybe it's his distinctive style of moving.
The sunglasses became his trademark, the fast action sequences added glitter to the already popularized persona and the confident dialogue delivery, in a way, gave voice to the voiceless. Not to forget his range that covers humor, drama, protagonist and even the antagonist.
Or maybe, it's because Tamil Nadu is a cinema-crazy region.
It won't be totally unfair to say that the demographic his films cater to has contributed a lot to making Rajinikanth who he is today. The Tamil movie industry is one of the highest movie producing states in the world. You read that right! Films are such an integral part of the lives of people there that most of their political leaders are also ex-actors.
In fact, his consistency for decades could have also contributed to his God-like stature.
While India has had a lot of superstars that got the audience swooning over them, Rajini's case is a little different.
If a superstar can sustain his success even in his twilight years, he's made of special stardust.
Amitabh Bachchan and Rajinikanth are the only two superstars that come to mind who have successfully continued to connect with the audience in all phases of their careers. Rajini, a little more than Mr. Bachchan, some would say.
If you give hits after hits for decades at a stretch, it's obvious for people to look up to you as more than just an actor.
Or it has to be his humility and philanthropy.
If you know who Rajinikanth is, you're not immune to the stories of his humility and philanthropy. Rajinikanth personally chooses to be away from the media and focuses his time and energy on causes that help people. He has adopted villages and people to help provide them a better life. His philanthropy cannot be summarized in figures.
And when someone with as big a heart appears in public in a simple de-glamorized avatar, you can't help but respect the man for being true to his roots. Often seen in plain clothing of Kurta-pyjama or a shirt, Rajini's aversion of the materialism of his profession makes his fans respect him much, much more.
There could be a lot more theories as to why he is worshiped by his fans but one thing is for sure, we've never seen anyone quite like him and we may never see another Rajinikanth.