"Naan oru thadava sonna, nooru thadava sonna madhiri..!" It's almost two decades since the dialogue was first spoken, but the mass value it carries has not gotten diluted a bit ever since. Thalaivar, Superstar, Rajini - call him as you please, but the craze is just the same. Turning a theist from a staunch atheist, giving a new pride to dark skin colour, being a brand name whose story line and screenplay have been reused and adapted by more than 100 heroes in the recent times alone, and considered the almighty of Tamil cinema, worldover - there is a lot to write home about, when it comes to Superstar. There is practically no one in this world, who does not know who Thalaivar is - as it was rightly sung, "Superstar yaarunu keta china kozhanthaiyum sollum." From taking Tamil to even places like Japan, to being looked up to as the Superstar even in Bollywood, extremism about Thalaivar is a race in itself. On his birthday, here's a brief history of the actor, his arduous journey to the touted position, his personal beliefs and likes, and a lot of tidbits about Thalaivar...
About six decades ago, Mysore state was blessed to honour the baby feet of a legend, Shivaji Rao Gaikwad. Today Superstar fanaticism is more than a religion and Rajinikanth is literally worshipped. From the poverty striken days of hunger, through the chatty days of being a government servant and demanding days of Rajinikanth, to the magnanimous existence as the Superstar, Shivaji Rao has walked a long and arduous path to glory. Shivaji was born the youngest of four siblings, to Jakkubai and police constable Ramoji Rao Gaikwad. Shivaji lost his mother soon afterwards, at the age of 9; since then, he misses his beloved mother, and seeks reprieve in solitude, to date. Struggling to cope with life, Shivaji did odd coolie jobs to satiate his hunger, in his very early days. All along, two of his strongest pillars of support are his elder brother and close buddy Raj Bahadur.
In school, Shivaji was a notorious kid, quick to pick up ill habits and turn bully, aided by his short temper. Many years before it happened on screen, the cigarette-flipping style statement happened at his school's bushes, as an outcome of practice that Shivaji took, to bet his seniors at school. Having mastered the trick at 16, Shivaji was a name analogous to notoriety, and his brother decided to suspend him from school for some time, in order that he learns good habits. It was in these months that Shivaji was enrolled in Babaji's yoga school, which instilled devout faith for the saintly soul, in the actor's heart.
'Kuselan' is an inspiration of sorts, from Shivaji Rao's personal life. After his brother got him a government job as a bus conductor, Shivaji's friend Raj Bahadur took notice of his acting skills, and insisted that he learn acting. The close buddy spent money out of his pocket, to send Shivaji to acting school; but money was still a shortfall - there have been many days when the actor slept hungry. He did not have enough spare clothes, and would even turn up in washed-wet clothes to class on some days, being the object of mockery for many. When he had to attend an interview, he did not have money even to board a bus and Bahadur chipped in by pledging his wife's jewels for the travel. And then came the change that the world is thankful for.
Shivaji Rao had a keen interest for acting in negative roles, and his drama presence as Duryodhana was a show stealer. At 25, Shivaji made his silver screen debut as Rajinikanth, launched in 'Apoorva Ragangal', by his mentor, director K Balachander. From there on, there was no turning back. One villainous role after another and fame mounting on, Rajinikanth had become one of the most sought after actors. Soon afterwards, he turned mainstream hero and rose up to being worshipped as Superstar. The rest is history.