'People will vote for Rajinikanth without expecting any money.'
Rajinikanth started his movie career as a villain and went on to become a hero.
And then, a Superstar.
As he turns 70 on December 12, Rajinikanth embarks on a new journey -- he is entering electoral politics in Tamil Nadu, promising voters a spiritual and honest government.
Will his millions of fans vote for him?
What do they think of his foray into politics?
And what are their plans for his 70th birthday?
A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com speaks to some of his fans across Tamil Nadu to find out.
'I have seen Mannan 100 times'
R Lakshmana Raja, 44, owns a photocopy shop in Tuticorin.
He has been a Rajni fan for 25 years, and is the joint-secretary of the Rajni Makkal Manram (a fan club) in Tuticorin.
"I have seen Mannan 100 times," he declares. He has also seen every other Rajni movie at least 50 times.
He celebrates Rajinikanth's birthday with the fan club members every year.
They choose 1,500 deserving people and gift them clothes, vessels and other provisions.
They also give a handicapped person a three-wheeler scooter.
"We spend money that is collected from our fan club members. We do not take money from the public," he asserts.
This year they will distribute the gifts at a marriage hall.
Guests have been restricted to half the hall's capacity and the COVID-19 protocol will be followed.
'My friends wish me on his birthday because they know I am a big fan'
S Aditya, 23, is an architect in Chennai. He has been a fan of Rajinikanth since he saw Padiyappa.
He has seen Kabali seven times.
He has watched all of Rajinikanth's films multiple times.
About his foray into politics, Aditya feels, "He will be different from other politicians. He will not bad mouth others."
But Aditya wants to know the movie superstar's vision for the state.
On Rajinikanth's 70th birthday, Aditya will wear his favourite Rajini T-shirt.
"My friends wish me on his birthday because they know I am a big fan," he says.
'When I was in college, we used to stand outside his house on his birthday'
A Anuradha, 45, is an educationist in Chennai. She has been a Rajini fan ever since she started watching movies.
She sees his movies when they release in theatres as well as on television.
How would she like him as a political figure?
"He has been dragging it for a long time," she says. "There are great expectations that he might turn out to be a good, non-corrupt, politician. It may not be possible, but he will be definitely better than the others."
She plans to catch up on his birthday celebrations on Facebook.
"When I was in college, we used to stand outside his house on his birthdays. I never got to see him, but there are always a lot of people standing there," she recalls.
'People will vote for him without expecting any money'
Van Pugal Kumaran, 43, is a Rajinikanth fan from Madurai.
He watches a Rajinikanth movie once a week with his family and almost every day, by himself!
He has seen Baba 26 times.
"It ran for 100 days, but people said it wasn't a good movie because Rajini has set such a high benchmark," he says.
Talking about Rajinikanth's political debut, he feels the superstar is his only hope and the best guide for the state.
Kumaran says, "Now everything works on cash. But people will vote for him without expecting any money. He will establish a benchmark in politics. He will be like Kamaraj (the late Tamil Nadu chief minister), who was known for his simplicity."
On Rajinikanth's birthdays, Kumaran says the Rajinikanth Makkal Manram, of which he is a member, conducts a blood donation camps at government hospital in Madurai. They also give gifts to poor people and tricycles to the handicapped.
This year, they are planning an Annadanam -- feeding poor people. They also plan to honour social workers and local celebrities.
'We will do the same things this year, but on a larger scale'
Royal Raju, 51, is a screen printer in Tiruchi. He is the district joint-secretary of the Rajinikanth Makkal Manram.
He has been a fan since 1983 and says he had never counted the number of times he has watched Thalaivaa on screen.
Last year, the Manram served food at 14 selected schools and orphanages. They also distributed sewing machines and walking sticks to the needy.
"We will do the same things this year, but on a larger scale. Every year we increase the celebrations," he says proudly.
After all, he is doing what he feels Rajinikanth will do once he becomes a politician: Serve the people.