Superstar's story

Superstar's story

The book includes plenty of conversations and anecdotes involving the star, giving readers a satisfying sense of the life of the superstar, writes Hema Vijay.

From bus conductor to superstar, Shivaji Rao Gaekwad a.k.a. Rajinikanth has seen it all. For the massive superstar and the superlative person that he is, there hasn’t been enough biography on him, nothing comprehensive that traces his life’s intriguing and inspiring journey. Well, there is one now, courtesy Naman Ramachandran’s Rajinikanth: The Definitive Biography. Launched on the superstar’s birthday (12/12/12), the book is a treat for his fans and attempts to trace Rajini’s life from 1950, when he was born, through his struggles, rise, and eventual superstardom.

“Well, I spent a good two years of my life talking to people who know him personally,” says Ramachandran. This includes not just cine-folk like Kamal Haasan, Mani Ratnam, K Balachandar, S P Muthuraman and others, but also people like Rajini’s elder brother Satyanarayana, his classmates at school, the friends he played with as a boy, the movie actors he looked up to, his adventures as an adolescent, the plays he acted in at school, his close knit family, and the tough times they went through, his early spiritual education through the Ramakrishna Mutt, people like Raja Badhar who used to drive the bus that Rajini was conductor for — whom Rajinikanth continues to describe today as his best friend. For instance, you get to know from Badhar that Rajini had painstakingly practiced his trademark cigarette flick and sunglass twirling moves even as a bus conductor. Raja Badhar reminisces in the book, “He would issue tickets with a flourish and hand out the change in style…passengers would look on in amazement.”

Later on, there are inputs on the actor’s personal front, as on his marriage with Latha, and anecdotes from his daughters. Then, there are Rajinikanth’s own statements, though culled from various other interviews he has given. And of course, the book traces the off-screen drama behind many of his landmark films, how the actor evolved from film to film, and the impact these films had.

In fact, Naman Ramachandran dwells quite a bit on the cinematic climate and churnings of that era, both in Chennai and Mumbai film industries. Naman also muses on what makes Rajini click with his fans, the magic he creates as an actor and a star, how his punchlines evolved, his intense and riveting performances on stage and on screen (which the latest generation of Rajini fans would have no inkling of). The book is traced along a timeline.

This book is not an authorised biography, Naman is quick to concede. “Rajini sir did not want to be interviewed for it. But he gave me the go-ahead to speak to people close to him,” Naman adds, “I have interacted with so many superstars in my career; but there is none like him. He is truly spiritual, astoundingly simple despite his superstardom, humble, and carries no baggage at all.”

Ramachandran is a film critic and journalist covering South Asia for Variety, and the UK and Ireland for Cineuropa, and the author of a few film scripts and the book, Lights, Camera, Masala: Making Movies in Mumbai. He happens to be a die-hard fan of Rajini, and the hero worship is reflected in every page of the book. The blurb of the book mentions that Naman was ‘placed on Planet Earth with the express purpose of writing the definitive biography of Superstar Rajinikanth’.

Well, this 271-page book is a good read, being high on background and detail. A big plus for the book is that it has the events in Rajinikanth’s life embedded with the political and cinematic events happening around then, which gives a realistic sense of time and place when it all happened. And since the book also includes plenty of conversations and anecdotes involving the star, it gives readers a satisfying sense of the life and times of the superstar.

Though Naman does include bits of Rajini’s personal life, he doesn’t delve too deeply into Rajinikanth’s personal life, and thankfully so. Instead, you are left with a tale of Rajinikanth’s life as a historical narrative peppered by his intellectual and spiritual outlook, and yes, his passion for acting. It leaves you with the imprint of an ordinary boy who became a star, but never changed at heart, and never let go of his fine spirit.

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