Blood donation camps, food packages for the needy, milk abhishekam, dance, music, and celebration— this is how fans of megastar Rajinikanth welcomed the release of his film Jailer on 10 August. The frenzy even reached Times Square in New York City where the trailer of the film was featured.
In Jailer, Rajinikanth plays the role of a retired prison warden. According to The Times of India, the film collected Rs 72 crore on its first day at the box office.
Directed by Nelson Dilipkumar, the film features a star-studded cast, including Mohanlal, Jackie Shroff, Shiva Rajkumar, Sunil, Ramya Krishnan, Yogi Babu, Tamannaah Bhatia, and Vinayakan. Rajinikanth was last seen in the 2021 Telugu film Annaatthe, which grossed close to Rs 240 crore at the box office.
The 72-year-old actor, who has been in the film industry for the last 48 years, has his own USP, says author PC Balasubramanian, who has penned three books on Rajinikanth. The latest is titled Rajini’s Mantras.
“Almost everyone is a fan of Rajinikanth, only the degree varies. The more and more you start watching him, the more and more you fall in love with this amazing actor. The frenzy continues as he is able to still deliver what the audience wants,” Balasubramanian says.
Several business groups paid tribute to the superstar by declaring holidays or half days on the release date so that fans could watch the film. Uno Aqua Care, a water purifier company, announced holidays in their branches in Chennai, Bengaluru, Trichy, Tirunelveli, Chengalpattu, Mattuthavani, Arapalayam, and Alagappan Nagar. “On account of the release of the movie Jailer, we have decided to declare holiday on August 10, 2023, in efforts to avoid piled up leave requests to the HR department,” the company notice read.
Similarly, Girish Mathruboothem, founder and CEO of software company Freshworks, took to X (formerly Twitter) and announced that he had booked 2,200 tickets across seven theatres for his employees.
Mass sensation with unique style
According to screenplay writer Durgesh Haridas, Rajnikanth’s charm and charisma comes from his mannerism and style, which is unique in the Tamil film industry. “No one before him was the nonchalant, angry young man, and he continued to have that style throughout his career. It’s become his trademark. Many things he would do, however illogical, are accepted as ‘Rajini can’, almost like how we accept superheroes like Superman, Thor,” says Durgesh.
Rajinikanth has a massive following across the world, with fans in Japan, Singapore, and Malaysia. A Japanese couple even flew all the way to Chennai on the day of the release just to catch the first show. Yasuda Hidetoshi, who heads the Rajinikanth fan club in Japan, and his wife were first drawn to the superstar in 1995 after watching Muthu and Baashha. “It was an incredible experience for us. The movie was outstanding,” Yasuda told the Chennai media. And this isn’t the first time he has made the trip to India for a ‘Rajni’ movie — he did the same when Kabali (2016) and Kaala (2018) were released.
“Rajinikanth is an emotion to many. Every subsequent actor who aspires to become a star cannot escape Rajinikanth’s influence. He has set his own benchmark, and, time and again, he keeps enhancing it. He is 72, but he still works with the same passion and commitment and looks great on screen,” says Balasubramanian.
Critics call Rajinikanth one of the best proponents of commercial cinema of his era. Between 1950 and 1970, it was MG Ramachandran and Shivaji Ganesan dominated Tamil cinema. In the 1980s Rajini met his match in Kamal Haasan.
“Both differentiated their styles and paths but Rajini chose the crowd-appeaser way, and his films and roles were both relatable and aspirational to the common man. Hence his popularity is almost intact till date,” adds Durgesh.
After the death of actor and politician J Jayalalithaa in 2016, speculation went rife that Rajnikanth was entering into politics. The following year, Rajinikanth announced his decision to bring a “corruption-free” government in Tamil Nadu with a new party.
But three years later, the actor retracted the decision. “Some were disappointed, and some were not, as they always wanted him to keep doing movies. Rajinikanth certainly wanted to get into politics and try his hand in bringing about some changes,” says Balasubramanian.
Window to Rajini’s thoughts
On 28 July, during the audio launch of Jailer in Chennai’s Nehru Indoor Stadium, Rajinikanth opened a window to his thoughts for his fans.
“If there was no alcohol in my life, I would have served the society. Alcoholism is the biggest mistake in life,” he said. “I am not saying you should avoid it totally. Don’t drink regularly. It will spoil your health and happiness.”
The actor also spoke about how veteran director K Balachander once warned Rajinikanth for coming inebriated for a shoot.
This was not the first time when the actor opened up about his alcoholism or smoking issue. In 2016, Rajinikanth wrote a letter to Sivakumar on his birthday and recalled how the latter had once advised him to give up his addiction. “At a time when I was addicted to drinking and smoking, Sivakumar used to advise me saying I would become a great actor, and [asked me] not to spoil my health with these habits,” said Rajinikanth.