He worked as a bus conductor, he is now the highest paid actor in India receiving upto 16 crores for his latest movie; he is a popular action hero, melodrama king, a comedian, a villain, a scriptwriter, and even a producer, he is worshipped like god by his audience; and to top it all he is 56 years of age! Who other than the superstar of south Indian film industry, Rajnikanth, can pull all this off! If it’s the Big B in Bollywood, then it’s the Big R down south.
Rajnikanth, originally christened Sivaji Rao Gaewad, was born to Marathi couple Ramoji Rao and Jijabai on the 12th of December, 1950 in Bangalore. Rajnikanth studied at the Acharya Pathshala and Vivekananda Balak Sangh. However, apparently he had to leave school in between because his family was not very well off. He started doing petty jobs, such as that of a bus conductor, to earn a living. But Rajnikanth loved acting so he also did stage plays with his jobs. It was at this time when a friend helped Rajnikanth to join the Chennai Film Institute to polish his inherent talent and learn the nuances of acting.
Rajnikanth’s three decade long innings as an actor started with a Kannada movie Katha Sangama in 1975. He was soon noticed by director K. Balchander who gave Sivaji Rao his first role in the Tamil movie Apoorva Raagangal in 1975 and also christened him Rajnikanth. The role must have been small but it was the initiation point of a miracle in Tamil movies. For around 4 years Rajnikanth worked as a successful villain in Tamil movies, such as Moondru Mudichu and Avargal. He also worked in some Telugu and Kannad movies during this period. However, his potential in essaying emotional roles was not yet identified by the Tamil film industry.
Rajnikanth got his first major role as an emotional hero in Aarilirunthu Arubathu Varai in 1979, which was a box office hit. Thereafter, from 1980 to early 1990s he showed commendable performances in numerous Tamil movies, particularly remakes of Hindi movies starring Amitabh Bachchan. He not only became the melodrama king but also excelled as an action hero. His popularity was recently proved when his latest movie Sivaji: The Boss opened to full theaters this summer in Tamil and Telegu. Despite, being one of the most expensive movies ever made in India, Rajnikanth’s 100th Tamil movie is a hit at the box office!
While his career front was climbing the ladder of success, there were developments on the personal front too. He got married to a very educated lady, Latha, from a respectable family in 1981. Rajni and Latha have two daughters Aishwarya and Soundarya who are settled in their lives.
Rajnikanth is not a just versatile actor in Tamil cinema but you can call him a multi-linguist actor. He has more than 160 movies in languages other than Tamil! These include Hindi, Bengali, telugu, Kannada, and Malayalam. In fact one of his Tamil movies Muthu has also been dubbed in Japanese. Surprisingly, he had also bagged a role in a Hollywood movie Bloodstone as early as in 1988. In addition, this multi-faceted personality has also been successful as a script writer and a producer. In the 1990s, Rajnikanth also forayed into politics switching between supporting DMK-TMC alliance and at other times AIADMK-BJP alliance.
As his versatility grew, so did his fan following. After MGR, he was the only one to be loved to the limit of worship by his fans. Apart from great fan following, Rajnikanth’s talent has been rewarded in various forms. The Tamil Nadu Government has bestowed him with the best actor award four times during his career. He has also won the Filmfare award for best actor in regional cinema for the movie Nallavanuku Nallavan in 1984. This epitome of success has also been awarded the very respectable Padmabhusan for his contribution to Indian cinema.
Rajnikanth has not just received goodness from the society but done a lot of good for the society apart from being an entertainer. He donated a large amount to Coimbatore blast relief fund, has planned to construct a school and hospital for the needy, and even paid back distributors for the flop Baba! A gem of an actor and a gem of person – that is Rajnikanth for you.