Book Review: Rajinikanth

This description of the woman who gave birth to a baby named Shivaji Rao Gaekwad at Bangalore’s Vanivilas Hospital, 62 years ago, could have come from the script for a Rajinikanth movie.

Rajinikanth: The Definitive Biography, Naman Ramachandran, Penguin Viking, `699.

It makes sense though, when placed alongside the amount of time and energy people devote to keeping the cult of Rajinikanth alive. Even those witty, often nonsensical SMS jokes must come from somewhere, after all.

Naman Ramachandran does his best to connect the dots from the baby born to Maharashtrian parents to the Tamil superstar we know of. For fans, a lot of this may be old hat: Why he changed his name to Rajinikanth (Sivaji Ganesan was already a huge star), what he did before becoming a bus conductor (loaded sacks of rice onto trucks), his Hollywood stint (Bloodstone, 1988, with Bob Christo), where his money goes (almost half goes to charity), or what his stage name means (colour of night).

Ramachandran approaches it like a journalist, speaking to all who know Rajinikanth. It’s a great story, almost as colourful as the script of his blockbuster, Sivaji. To his credit, he tries to introduce readers to the star’s early work, rather than only on his much-hyped later films.

He stumbles when it comes to explaining why the Rajini phenomenon exists in the first place. Yes, there’s the hard work, talent and heavy dose of good luck, but why hasn’t that combination worked for, say, actors like Pankaj Kapoor?

Maybe it’s best not to delve deeply into why things are the way they are. Maybe it’s best to do what fans of the Thalaivar do — sit back and applaud.

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