August 16, 2002 
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To Rajni with love
Kannada superstar Rajakumar bestows lavish praise on the Baba star.

M D Riti in Bangalore

"I am a great fan of Rajnikanth!" declares Kannada superstar Dr Rajakumar and a close friend of Rajnikanth. "I am just waiting to see his new film Baba. I hope Rajnikanth contnues to act for a long time. Unfortunately, I have had to stop because of a bad knee problem."

Dr Rajakumar has seen quite a few of Rajnikanth's films, and particularly remembers Netrikann, in which Rajnikanth plays the dual roles of father and son. "That film displayed his tremendous acting potential," continues Dr Rajakumar. "I am sure Baba will give us yet another welcome glimpse of his talent."

Rajnikanth was, of course, born Shivaji Rao Gaikwad in Bangalore, in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, and worked for some years as a bus conductor before his friends pooled in money to send him to the film institute at Chennai, in the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu, to become an actor. The superstar continues to sustain a close relationship with Bangalore. In fact a part of Baba has been shot in Mysore.

Rajnikanth and Dr Rajakumar have been good friends for over two decades now, ever since Rajnikanth became a superstar in his own right. Rajnikanth admits he is a great fan of Rajakumar since he was a boy. "I used to keep going to see Rajakumar's films in the old theatres of Shivaji and Kempegowda, even though I would get beaten at home for bunking classes. I once had to stay out on the streets from 3 am to 8 am, because I came back home late after seeing a Rajakumar film. My shirt tore in the melee of a first day rush, but that never deterred me," he muses.
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Hence the fact that Rajnikanth delayed shooting Baba when Dr Rajakumar was kidnapped does not come as a surprise.

Baba "My fans from all over Tamil Nadu asked me most sincerely to help and get Dr Rajakumar released. Veerappan is a demon and should be shot dead for what he did then," says Rajnikanth.

Dr Rajakumar's youngest son Puneet, whose debut film as an adult hero Appu has just completed 100 days, has the last word on the subject: "These two Rs (Rajakumar and Rajnikanth) are my favourites," he says. "They are as wonderful as a Rolls Royce car."

Puneet says he and his elder brothers, Kannada superstar Shivaraj and Raghavendra, are dying to watch Baba.


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