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February 18, 2002
Rajni is back!
N Sathiya Moorthy in Chennai
From Padayappa to Baba it has been a three-year-break for Tamil superstar Rajnikanth.
Now Rajnikanth has formally announced his new film, Baba. In it, the superstar takes a new avatar --- that of a script-writer.
"Based on a real-life story, it will be directed by Suresh Krssna," said Rajnikanth. As with his recent films, the proceeds of the new project will go to charity.
In the case of Baba, the beneficiary will be the Raghavendra Educational Trust floated by Rajnikanth. The Trust also runs Ashram, a multi-faceted educational institution run by his wife Latha.
The timing of Rajnikanth's announcement has not gone unnoticed. It comes just days before the Andipatti Assembly by-elections, where ruling AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa is main candidate. "He seems to have realised that there is an undercurrent of antipathy towards the ruling class and he would like to both consolidate and capitalise on it," says an industry source.
"There is a possibility he might even consider journalist-friend Cho Ramaswamy's suggestion to enter active politics, based on how the film is received and what the mood of the Tamil Nadu voter is at the time."
Timing has always been crucial to the launch and release of Rajnikanth's films ever since he began addressing social and political causes from the home-grown Vallee. Critics say Rajnikanth, like MGR before him, has exploited the public mood, but unlike MGR, would not enter direct politics or serve the people directly.
His Mannan and Padayappa both had arrogant female characters which were politically identified with Jayalalithaa. "But that was a coincidence; it was needed to carry the storyline," explains a sympathetic filmmaker, who is still on the long list of hopefuls for a film with Rajnikanth.
As he points out, the character, Neelambari, played in Padayappa by Ramya Krishnan, had nothing to do with politics: "She does not utter a single line that could be connected to politics. Yet, people have read too many meanings where none existed."
Rajnikanth's previous great grosser, Badsha, the story of a Mumbai-don turned do-gooder autorickshaw driver in Chennai, did not have any political lines. Still, people continued to read political meanings into the dialogues.
At the height of the run-up to the all-important Assembly polls of 1996, Rajnikanth was actively involved in bringing together the infant Tamil Maanila Congress and DMK against the ruling AIADMK under Jayalalithaa. His public declaration, "Even God can't save Tamil Nadu if the AIADMK was voted to power" is believed to have turned the tables finally against the ruling party of the time.
Meanwhile, the cast for Baba is yet to be finalised. The names of Aishwarya Rai, Simran, Jyothika and a host of others are already being mentioned for the role of the leading lady. Rajnikanth also has the talent of unearthing yesteryear stars, and of moulding them into characters befitting their age and image. The music composer, which has become a prestige with every other Tamil film, Rajnikanth or not, is also yet to be finalised.
Indications are that Baba will be launched on Tamil New Year's Day, April 14, with a release slated for Diwali.
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