Rupees 17 crore – this is what actor Rajnikanth is paid for a movie today, if news reports are to be believed. And this, in a country where crores of people have not seen ten Rs. 10 together at the same time. A fine imbalance.
Actors somehow manage to stay in the news one way or another – either they create the news, or the media creates some hype. The current news is Kamalahaasan’s ‘Dasavatharam’, in which he plays ten different roles (one-upmanship? Sivaji Ganesan donned nine roles for ‘Navarathri’). There are cases filed to stop the release of the film which, the petitioners say, contain scenes that hurt their religious sentiments.
And then there was that audio release some weeks ago of the picture for which Rs. 6 crore (that C word again) was reportedly spent. Jackie Chan participated in the event (he was flown over at heaven knows whose expense), over which the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, M. Karunanidhi presided, sharing the dais with glamorously clad starlets (this created a furor on its own). While the intelligentsia mourned the fact that a busy head of state spent his valuable time at an event like this, the wits wisecracked that it was not really Jackie Chan who came, but Kamalahaasan in yet another disguise.
A recent piece which caught my attention was about the inclusion of Rajnikanth’s life story, a rags to riches story (he was a bus conductor in his earlier avatar, before becoming a film institute student) in the CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) English text book for Std. VI. The lesson, it is said, has been included to highlight the dignity of labour. What is strange is that this decision comes from the Central Government and not the film-crazed local government, where movies and politics have become conjoined, like Siamese twins. Now, I am a film buff and love Rajnikanth movies and his style. But that is as an actor. I do not know in what way he has contributed specially (apart from making his fortune and more) to the country, or its people. Maybe he is one of those who does it all in private, without letting the public know.
Kalki, a Thamizh weekly took a survey to find out the public’s response to the CBSE decision. Most have condemned the selection, for they say that while they like him as an entertainer and actor, there is little justification for his life story to be included as an example to formative young minds. One of them says that Rajnikanth himself may not like the idea. Columnist Gnani says that if at all the story of an actor/film person has to be included, it must be someone like Sivaji Ganesan or director Sridhar, who have contributed substantially to the progress of Thamizh cinema. Another says it is sheer madness – what has Rajnikanth done apart from following his impulse to become an actor, and succeeding in that? Why not choose the story of Abdul Kalam,(see picture) asked my friend. This man who rose from humble origins to hold the highest office in the country apart from being a respected scientist is an example children would do well to emulate.
There is hope for us if many feel this way.
But it is a sad sign that moviegoers spend fortunes to see these ageing superstars (see picture below) cavorting and carousing with charming teenage starlets young enough to be their granddaughters.
Kamalahaasan and Rajnikanth