Home > Visitor Column
By Behindwoods Visitor Karthik Aarumugam isn't responsible for the views expressed by the visitor in this column.
An open response to the following Behindwoods columns by visitor Joseph David:
Celebrities Should Be Role Models
You Are Not Mr. Rajinikanth's Real Fans
You Are Not Mr. Rajinikanth's Real Fans - Part II
Dear Joseph David,
I’m not here to abuse you in any language like in those emails you may have had to put up with after your three columns on were posted.
Let me introduce myself a little.  I confess that I am a huge fan of Rajinikanth – I have been watching his films since I was young and I somehow adore his onscreen charisma and style.  But overall, I am a profound critic of Rajinikanth and, ultimately, Tamil cinema as well, and I’m here to speak to you in the point of view of a critic.
After reading the article Sweets for Rajini’s Return When Mumbai is Burning?, I was a bit moved, because it opened my eyes to see the conflicting ideas of fans grandly celebrating Rajinikanth’s return while a deadly bombing had occurred in Mumbai.  Let me say that Celebrities Should Be Role Models is a down-to-earth article.  The ultimate point you were trying to make cannot be refuted.
Being a role model is a responsibility that every human holds, regardless of their profession.  Celebrities certainly aren’t an exception.  I am positive that everyone can see the irony that lies in celebrating a celebrity’s wellbeing in the middle of a deadly home-grown catastrophe that claimed the lives of numerous fellow citizens like you and me.  On the other hand, there will be a few other individuals whose affinity towards their favorite star makes them unable to accept anything that challenges their beliefs.  I’m not here to talk about them, though.
But allow me to ask you this: do you think it’s fair to question Rajinikanth’s leadership after he underwent a two-month hospital treatment?
Let’s start from the beginning of Rajinikanth’s health scare.  This is a man who just finished working his hardest in his last film, which, among other things, has taken hefty toll on his health, right after the first day he was to begin his next project, said to be his “brainchild”.  Everyone expected Rajinikanth to return working on Rana soon, day after day, but only ended up hearing about his health condition worsen, until it was the time of his sudden short-notice departure to Singapore.  For another couple of weeks, there was no major news about the superstar until his discharge was confirmed.  The two months were like a living hell for fans and well-wishers of Rajinikanth.
Rajinikanth does not rule anyone and he is not ruled by anyone.  In that sense, it should be clear that fans celebrating Rajinikanth’s return is a choice that is completely independent of Rajinikanth.  Yes, Rajinikanth could have told fans specifically not to celebrate his return in order to respect the country’s concurrent tragedy.  But I believe that he had a lot more to worry about during the time than anything else.  He was home after two stressful months, almost half of the time spent in a different country.  If we take into account everything that Rajinikanth had to go through to bring himself back to good health, it should be clear that he simply cannot be criticized for not controlling the actions of his elated fans.
Of course, Rajinikanth is a national figure and such celebrations may go against patriotic interests.  But I don’t believe it’s fair to criticize Rajinikanth.  Had Rajinikanth been in good health and any celebration regarding him gone down during the time of the Mumbai blasts, he would have definitely made a public request to stop.
In Celebrities Should Be Role Models, you requested that “with the kind of money he makes, he should start giving back to society.” I’d like to make it clear that Rajinikanth is a well-known philanthropist, who keeps his philanthropic activities low-key.  Some of his known recent social movements were donating Rs. 10 lakh to the South Indian Film Artistes Association to fundraise for the wellbeing of Tamils in Sri Lanka and using his fan association to send money and goods to Japan where the recent tsunami happened.  Rajinikanth is doing what he can to help society and we must appreciate him for that.  Commenting on the quantity of his social work is quite demanding.
You also claimed to be surprised that Rajinikanth “hasn’t harnessed that mass power” of his fan following. He does not want to.  If he were to do so, I think it’s pretty much set in stone that Rajinikanth would have used it to make himself successful politics long ago. But Rajinikanth is not a user.  He will not use the social power he received under the name of “Rajinikanth”.  During the infamous interview between him and his mentor, director K. Balachandar, at the D-40 event, he humbly said “It’s because I live as Shivaji Rao that I am Rajinikanth today.  The name and fame that Rajinikanth received has not affected Shivaji Rao.” 
You may ask: then what’s the point of having all that fame?  But I ask you: would you spend a million dollars in a day?  The fame is immaterial and Rajinikanth perceives it as a gift—an imponderably valuable gift.  He is in no way obliged to “use” it, nor is any other celebrity.
Also, how could you put the burden on fans for everything?  Kuselan’s poor performance in theatres is explained by a general dissatisfaction in many creative and technical aspects of the film (i.e. direction, screenplay, etc.).  It received poor critical reviews.  Of course, it had one of Rajinikanth’s best performances, but the film’s failure cannot be attributed to his fans alone.  I quote one of Rajinikanth’s dialogues in the very same film: “if the film isn’t good, then even if (I) acted in it no one would watch it.”  So ironically, this dialogue just had to be put in this film.
On a side note, I think fans’ reaction towards the presence of actors is powered by the film industry in general.  Had there been no conventional, formulaic “masala” genre in Indian cinema, which tend to glorify actors with logic-defying superhuman powers in the most regular settings in films, some fans wouldn’t be so brainwashed to perceive film stars as superhuman.  

Hollywood knows how to draw the line between superhero films and films that portray stars in regular, subtle lifestyles.  Hopefully, Tamil cinema will soon master that art as well.
Then again, your story of Sylvester Stallone ordering food with absolutely no disturbance from anyone sounds believable in Los Angeles, where almost all celebrities experience the same, but I wonder how the situation would have been if he did the same in New York City or somewhere else.  Justin Beiber, a wildly popular Canadian teenage singer, is bombarded with fans in whichever city he visits across the globe.  So is Leonardo DiCaprio, Jackie Chan, Shah Rukh Khan, Vijay, Suriya or any other celebrity that enjoys mass popularity.  Fans go wild when they get their chance to meet their idol up close and it is human to be that way.  We don’t have the right to tell these fans to “keep things in moderation,” sort of like how I cannot tell you to not get too happy that you’ve won a lottery.
Of course, when things get out of hand and when fans become a threat to someone’s safety, then we can intervene.  But to my knowledge, Rajinikanth fans are not like that.
Fans of Tamil cinema are opening their eyes more and more to criticism.  Otherwise, Vijay fans still wouldn’t have hoped for Vijay to do films of different genres, rather than repeating the same ones.  Films like Mynaa and Angaadi Theru would have had no business, considering their limited publicity and low star value alone.  The audience of Tamil cinema is a lot smarter than we think.
The content of masala films are not only the reason why fans react so wildly.  It’s also these expectations that the media and general public hold on big stars like Rajinikanth.  Why don’t we just leave them alone and let them live their lives as they wish?  It’s no big deal that Rajinikanth was silent during the time of the Mumbai blasts.  There is really nothing that he “should have” or “could have” done. Rajinikanth has told his fans to stop celebrating things about him in the past due to other tragic events.  We can’t hold a grudge against him just because he missed doing so this one time, especially when there is an explicable reason to it.
Overall, I just want to let you know that Rajinikanth is one of the greatest, noblest, and humblest human beings of our times.  Just by listening to his speeches at functions, one can find something insightful and thought-provoking in his words.  He is truly a one man army that doesn’t need any kind of power to get things done.  He has always been thankful to his fans for bringing him to the level he is at today.  His main focus is acting in films.  He isn’t the chief minister to control a state, nor is he a religious/cultural leader to dictate anyone.  It is wrong for us to hold so many expectations of him.  Why should we anyway?  “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
I hope I have not offended you, Joseph David, Rajinikanth fans, Tamil cinema lovers, or anyone else.  I strictly condemn the acts of terror in Mumbai and I express my heartfelt condolences to those affected. in no way did I mean to harm, mock or criticize those affected in Mumbai -- this wasn’t about them.  This was simply to clear up a misunderstanding of the superstar of India.  Not because he is the superstar of India, it is because he is super at who he is.
Now, Joseph, do you think I’m a real fan of Rajinikanth?

Karthik Aarumugam

Tags :Rajinikanth,Sivaji Rao,K Balachander,Jackie Chan,Shah Rukh Khan

The visitor claims that this column is his/her own. If the column infringes any copyrights that you hold, please email us.

Everything about Tamil movies, Tamil Actors, Tamil Actresses, Tamil Cinema & Kollywood © 2004-2010 ; Privacy Policy ; Terms of Service