Welcoming Rajnikant, the Iconic Hero
Today, superstar Rajnikanth will return to Chennai from Singapore, where he had been battling a serious illness for several months. To celebrate his homecoming, we present a slide show of the larger-than-life hero roles he played in Tamil films, destroying evil and restoring good.
Enter Rajni, the iconic hero!
Murattu Kalai (1980)
Anyone who is a fan of the cinema of the 1980s couldn't but fall in love with Kalaiyan, the man who single-handedly grapples with a bull and tames it and earns the gratitude of the entire neighbourhood. The people then carry him on their shoulders singing Ilaiyaraja's iconic Podhuvaaga En Manasu Thangam, which still rings out from tea-shops in rural Tamil Nadu.This AVM Production, directed by S P Muthuraman, carried Rajnikanth to unheard of heights, and firmly showcased him as a star to be reckoned with.
Image: A still from Murattu Kalai
Although by this time Rajnikanth was already a star who had set the box office on fire and had battalions of fans, this movie made a marked change in his status as a movie-star.
In this story of two close friends who eventually end up on opposite sides, Rajni played an ordinary milk-man who works for the betterment of society and who suddenly finds himself in a position to beat his exceedingly wealthy friend at his own game.It was with this movie that naming Rajni's films after the character he played became a firm trend.
Image: A still from Annamalai
This K S Ravikumar film, although an inspired version of the Malayalam hit Thenmaavin Kombathu, had all the ingredients necessary to make a spicy masala hit.
Rajni is a servant in a palatial household who will do anything for his boss. He falls in love with an attractive street-theatre artiste, and unwittingly ends up being the long-lost heir of the very mansion he serves.
Along the way, he's funny, dances to A R Rahman's chartbusters and fights villains very satisfactorily.So popular was this movie that it was even dubbed in Japanese as The Dancing Maharaja, and earned Rajni a legion of Japanese fans.
Image: A still from Muthu
It is Baasha that transformed Rajnikanth from the superstar of Tamil cinema to a legend.
Suresh Krishna's innovative screenplay that had him playing an auto-rickshaw driver who needs to work every day for his living, but who turns out to have a mysterious past, struck a chord with audiences everywhere and got them singing, Naan Autokaaran, Deva's signature tune.
Image: A still from Baasha
Rajnikanth is back with hit-maker K S Ravikumar and the two come up with a story set in rural Tamil Nadu, with Rajni playing the scion of a wealthy family that works for the uplift of the locals. Circumstances force him into enmity with the proud and arrogant Nilambari and it's up to Rajni to foil her plots and save his family.With A R Rahman's hit songs, this movie established him firmly as lord of the marquee.
Image: A still from Padayappa
One of the few Rajni films that didn't make a spectacular impact at the box office, Baba nevertheless had a novel theme. Rajni plays a no-gooder who on the strength of his horoscope finds that he is a highly evolved spiritual being, slated for better things.
Suresh Krishna was at the helm of affairs and A R Rahman composed the music. Baba was certainly something out of the ordinary with its spiritual theme.
Image: A still from Baba
This was the Shankar film that finally veered away from what was now becoming a set formula and established Rajni as a super-hero who could think, plan, and act on his knowledge.
Rajni plays a software systems architect freshly returned from the USA, keen on giving back something to his own country. He begins an elaborate, ambitious plan to build colleges and hospitals, but is foiled by a corrupt bureaucracy at every turn.
With writer Sujatha and Shankar pitching in with the screenplay, A R Rahman with the music, and Rajni's turn as an educated man changing his country, Sivaji naturally became a blockbuster.
Image: A still from Sivaji