Rajnikanth is India's biggest star. With his latest movie Chandramukhi already grossing $10 million, Rajni is now India's most highly paid actor. Rajni will be charging 50% of Chandramukhi's gross revenue as his fee. With Chandramukhi, Rajni has overtaken the likes of Amitabh Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan and his immediate competitor, Chiranjeevi. Chiranjeevi's Tagore was considered the biggest regional language hit so far.
Incidentally, this year Rajni will be completing 30 years in the industry.
Rajni was first spotted by K Balachander, who is said to have commented to a friend, "Watch out! There is a fire in the young man's eyes. One day he will take Tamil Nadu by storm." He offered Rajni a full length role in Moondru Mudichu .
In the movie Rajni was neither a hero, nor a traditional villain. He kills his friend in a jealous rage when he discovers that the girl he loves, loved his friend. The audience loved this new avatar of the hero who had distinct shades of grey to his personality.
Mannerisms - a trendsetter
Rajni's fans were introduced to his trademark antics in Moondru Mudichu where he lit a cigarette by placing it on his palm and suddenly before you could blink the cigarette was in his mouth!
Later the cigarette would do somersaults in the air and land pat between his lips. His fans also came to expect wicked pelvic thrusts in all his movies.
They loved it when he tossed his thick mane of hair!
Fans fida on Rajni one-liners
Rajni's movies had to have one thunderous one-liners. Here are some of his most memorable ones.
Arunachalam - "God proposes...Arunachalam disposes" Padayappa - "The path I walk will be unique." Muthu - "When I will make an entrance, where and how.. nobody will now. But when I do make one, it will be at the right time." Annamalai - "I'll do what I say, and also what I don't say" Baba - "It's already over... Past is past..."
Once a movie works, umpteen copies follow. Once Moondru Mudichu was a hit, producers wanted Rajni to do similar anti-hero roles in all subsequent movies. Even his mentor K Balachander who was known to revamp the popular image of stars, cast Rajni in negative roles.
The audience loved his swagger and his casual wickedness. He was a sadist husband in Avargal and a vagabond in Thappu Thalangal. In Gayathri he secretly made blue films of his wife.
King of Mush
It was director SP Muthuraman who gave Rajni a fresh lease of life when he decided to cast him in a positive role in Bhuvana Oru Kelvikkuri.
The success of the movie (where he accepts a woman and her child after she is betrayed by her lover) prompted Muthuraman to make a mushy melodrama with Rajni as a hero sacrificing everything for his siblings, a role ideally tailormade for Sivaji Ganesan. Women loved the new sentimental Rajni in Arulirunthu Arupathu Varai.
The second phase of Rajni's life started with K Balaji's Billa. Billa (Rajnikant) is a feared Mafia don in Madras, who is fatally wounded during an encounter with the police. Wanting to uncover Billa's accomplices, the police commissioner trains a look-alike village bumpkin (also Rajnikant) to pose as Billa and infiltrate the gang. Sounds familiar? The movie was a remake of Amitabh's hit movie Don. With this movie, Rajni became the all-rounder hero. He could do villainous roles, he could be romantic, sentimental and he was superb in action sequences.
Billa was followed by a row of hits like Pokkiri Raja, Thanikkattu Raja, Naan Mahaan Alla and the landmark, super-dooper hit Moondru Mugham, in which Rajni essayed a triple role.
Even two decades after its release, the last continues to be a box-office draw and Rajni's fans can never tire of the thalaivar's verbal clash with villain Senthamarai.
Billa wasn't the only Amitabh remake Rajni acted in. Can you guess some of the others?
State symobol - poorna khumbam $$$$
State language - telugu $$$$
State new year - ugadhi $$$$
State song- Maa telugu talliki malle poodanda $$$$
State animal - krishna jinka $$$$
State bird - palla pitta $$$$
State tree - Neem $$$$
State sport - kabbadi $$$$
State Dance - Kuchipudi $$$$
State flower - Water Lily $$$$