The United States has Chuck Norris. India has Rajinikanth.
Born Shivaji Rao Gaikwad on December 12, 1950 in Bangalore, Rajinikanth was the youngest of four siblings. His father was a police constable; his mother died when he was five years old. As a young adult, he worked as a bus conductor before deciding to pursue his interest in acting at the Madras Film Institute.
Known as "Thalaiva" ("The Boss" or "Supreme Leader"), he began his career in film with a relatively small part in K. Balachander's 1975 Tamil movie Apoorva Raagangal. According to Rajinikanth.com:
K. Balachander, the director who has an uncanny knack of creating stars, first met Rajnikant at the film institute, where he was a student. Balachander glanced at the dark young man and crisply asked him to meet him in his office the next day. When Rajnikant walked into his office gingerly, Balachander informed him he was going to act in his next film. Overwhelmed by the sudden offer from a big director, Rajnikant just could not believe his ears. It's a feeling Rajni still recounts whenever in the mood of reminiscence. Later, Balachander confided in his close friend and associate Ananthu, "Watch out! There is a fire in the young man's eyes. One day he will take Tamil Nadu by storm."
Rajinikanth has become a well-known Indian film actor, media personality, and cultural icon. Working in over 150 films across various languages, he has become a household name across India with his mannerisms and stylized dialogue delivery. After being paid INR 26 crore for his role in the 2007 Tamil "action adventure drama thriller" film Sivaji, he became the highest paid actor in Asia, second only to Jackie Chan. He has won six Tamil Nadu State Film Awards -- four Best Actor Awards and two Special Awards for Best Actor -- and a Filmfare Best Tamil Actor Award. He was bestowed the Padma Bhushan, India's third highest civilian honor in 2000.
ShemarooTamil put together this great video compilation of "Rajinigiri" classic action scenes:
In the film Om Shanti Om, Shah Rukh Khan (SRK) paid homage to Rajinikanth through the "Mind It" scene where Om Prakash Makhija sets up a fake movie set to try to impress Shanti Priya by pretending to be an big name 70s actor. In the film RA.one, Rajinikanth has a cameo appearance as the android robot Chitti. This year, The Rajini Effect -- a quirky comedy about a Japanese man who wants to become the next big Indian movie superstar à la Rajinikanth -- recently won the audience award for "Best Film" at the Stuttgart Indian Film Festival.
Rajinikanth is one of few actors who came from humble beginnings and has managed to stay on top of the game all through his career, reigning in the hearts of audiences across the globe. On Quora, A. Arun Prasath shares his thoughts on What's so great about Rajinikath?:
Rajinikanth's movies repeatedly had a theme of stressing on messages and values for the society, although often naively, but portrayed powerfully with appeal to the masses. Themes like love and respect for the mother, helping the needy and the poor, hardwork as the most virtuous and powerful tool, the power of self-help, flimsiness of materialism, or the importance of relationships and love and charity over money, repeatedly featured in his songs and movies a lot. Few other actors in Tamil cinema can pull off such virtuous dialogue delivery with style and humility like Rajinikanth could. People did not have to think to believe that, Rajinikanth was as virtuous in his real life as he was in cinema. He was a role model for many. He was also the face of optimism and success. Rajinikanth would never fail.
As big fans of Rajinikanth, Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone released a Tamil-style musical tribute to "Lungi Dance" by Yo Yo Honey Singh (english translation|making of):
A humble man by nature, Rajinikanth's star power is enormous. His onscreen charisma, stylized delivery, and unique action sequences have become stuff of cinema legend. Even now he holds a matinee idol status in the popular culture of India. As a result, an ever-growing series of one-liner jokes about this action hero have emerged over time, including:
- Rajinikanth can drown a fish.
- Rajinikanth can judge a book by its cover.
- Rajinikanth can make onions cry.
- Rajinikanth can strangle you with a cordless phone.
- Rajinikanth gave Mona Lisa that smile.
- Rajinikanth killed the Dead Sea.
- Rajinikanth knows Victoria's secret.
- Rajinikanth once kicked a horse in the chin. Its descendants are today called giraffes.
- Rajnikanth got his driver's license at the age of 16 seconds.
- Rajinikanth can divide by zero.
- Rajinikanth doesn't wear a watch. He decides what time it is.
- Rajinikanth destroyed the periodic table, because he only recognizes the element of surprise.
- Rajinikanth can sneeze with his eyes open.
- Rajinikanth doesn't move at the speed of light. Light moves at the speed of Rajinikanth.
- Rajini puts his pants on two legs at a time.
- Rajini's calendar goes straight from March 31 to April 2. (No one fools Rajinikanth.)
- Rajini can run so fast he can run around the world and punch himself in the back of the head.
- Even Ghajini can't forget Rajini.
- Once Rajinikanth signed a cheque wrong. The bank bounced.
- Rajinikanth added Facebook as his friend.
- Rajini's next film is called Twitter. He plays 140 characters.
- The apple which fell on Newton was actually thrown by Rajinikanth.
- Lifetime Warranties do not exist because of Rajinikanth.
- Rajinikanth can read Lady Gaga's Poker Face.
- The Bermuda Triangle used to be the Bermuda Square, until Rajinikanth kicked one of the corners off.
- There is no such thing as evolution; it's just a list of creatures that Rajinikanth allowed to live.
- When Alexander Graham Bell first used his telephone, he realized he already had two missed calls from Rajinikanth.
- Why did Superman and Batman visit Rajnikanth? Because it was Teacher's Day.
And be careful when you Google Rajinikanth ...
Added 14 August 2013. After a Live Facebook Chat with Shah Rukh Khan and Rohit Shetty, a new full version of the Thalaiva Tribute Video was launched which includes Yo Yo Honey Singh in the performance:
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