Understanding the Superstar Rajnikanth phenomenon

There are few superstars who have obtained the status of Rajnikanth, the superstar from South India. His movies are mostly block-buster hits and there have been few failures in his career. This article is an attempt to discuss how the Rajnikanth phenomenon, in some detail.


South India is a land of hero worship. There are too many heroes in the five States. Each of them is a superstar in his own right. Thus we have Rana and Junior MTR from Andhra Pradesh, Mohanlal from Kerala, and the late Raajkumar from Karnataka and Kamal Hassan from Tamil Nadu.

Yet, none of the aforesaid actors would match the might of Rajnikanth, the number one Superstar of the entire South India. His movies have already crossed national boundaries and his movies are released all over the world. In the USA, UK, Singapore, Malaysia and in some parts of Europe as well. People talk about per day collections.

Each and every movie has a vast star cast and he is perhaps the only hero who has acted as a hero with the mother and the daughter in some of his movies. Though he is now 72, and cannot run around trees, there are some movies where his love affairs are shown in some way or the other. The action scenes are more powerful and the law has no place in his dictionary, as he would bash up even one hundred people and kill a few.

Be that as it may, the Rajnikanth phenomenon has happened because, a) The void after MGR b) Successful use of the same MGR formula c) The punch dialogues d) His ability to appeal to all ages and e) His transformational image in social life.

The void after MGR

This is the most important reason for the success of Rajnikanth. Tamil Nadu had a big void after the demise of MGR. There was none to replace him. Sivaji Ganesan also passed away, but there had been no comparison between MGR and Sivaji Ganesan, even during their life times.

For, while Sivaji Ganesan was a fabulous character actor, who would excel in every role, MGR had a stereotype and his movies were always somewhat predictable. However, the social messages and his clean image helped MGR to build a stature that none could match. He gave away hundreds of thousands of rupees to the poor at various stages and was considered to be very generous in helping those in the film industry as well.

Quite apart from this reason, the entire film industry looked up to the MGR movie songs, that are fabulous hits to this day. Most of his songs were not only melodious, but had background music of a very high quality. Today, the same music is somewhat westernized and the younger generation want only fusion music, that is music that is a mix of both Western and Indian classical music, customized to add to the image of the hereos. This is princely whey the famous music director A.R. Rahman is so famous today.

The void after MGR was milked by Rajnikanth in every possible manner. For example, he would always wait for the lady to express her love, and there were movies where the competition between ladies to win over Rajnikant was intense. One such movie was the super-duper hit called Padaiappa. His movies are also dubbed in Malayalam and Telugu and released on the same day. Secondly, his movies had the classic MGR formula, where he would bash up even one hundred people. In the MGR days, the gory of violence was not there. Today, the violence is intense and his recent movies are typical examples. His latest craze is a movie called Jailer, where the title song has already become a super hit. This song makes a mockery of his nearest competitor, whose name is Vijay. The latter is much younger in age, and his movies typically copy the Rajnikanth formula.

One does not know when he will retire, but at 72, he is already very old and unfit to run around trees.

Successful use of the same MGR formula

The MGR movies had action all the way. Yet, the mother and the sister sentiments would also be part of the formula. The MGR movies that had these elements, would also have lectures on women's liberation or at least respect for women.

Rajnikanth has repeatedly emphasized the traditional role of women in this movies. Yet, there are some movies where the woman would stand out for their somewhat important roles. The mother and sister sentiment has been so powerful in many Rajnikant movies as well. A few movies that tried different themes -- like the sufferings of the Tamils in Malaysia -- have only met with a mixed response. The somewhat subdued response of the public to the political ambitions of Rajnikant were somewhat seen in his public behavior, when he backed out of a possible political entry.

His social cause commitment is okay, but he does not come anywhere near MGR, who was already into politics for decades, firstly as a member of the DMK party and later as the founder of his own AIADMK. Yet, even today, his views on various aspects of politics is seriously taken. He has maintained a big silence, though.

The punch dialogues

His first punch dialogue was "Idhu eppadi irukku" ( how is this?). It became a super hit. He then went on to mouth very famous dialogues. His emphasis on hard work, had stories of his hard work for his movies. This resonated with his punch dialogues and his "kashpadatha ethum kidaikkathu, kashthapadamal kidaikkum ethuvum nilakkathu" ( there is nothing that will come without hard work, but things that come without hard work, will not last).
Such punch dialogues are played all over the State by his faithful followers, and sometimes as caller tunes. His presence is often felt in various ways and his every move is discussed in so many media platforms, as if there is no tomorrow.

His ability to appeal to all ages

While his most ardent fans are well over forty years of age today, his appeal to the very young is still intact. There are too many people in the age group of 15 to 25 who also praise his movies, mostly for the action scenes and some memorable songs.

Women of all ages also admire him for his honesty of purpose, as his simplicity and ability to reach a very wide audience through his hard work, is discussed on various social media platforms and is a craze at all times. His ability to appeal to all people, irrespective of their age, is one reason for his tremendous success.

His transformational image in social life

There are several advantages associated with his public image. For a particular movie, he had to reportedly put on a tough make up that would make him very uncomfortable, for as many as 28 hours. He bore the pain and went through all the troubles.

This was widely appreciated by the public. Stories of his simplicity and his ability to take care of those who work with him, in the various movies that are produced to boost his image, has gone well with the masses. He is often seen as a transformational hero, and even when he takes to the Himalayas for some sort of meditation for a while, there are thousands who praise his spiritual outlook as well. His spiritual orientation is a big draw, even today.


There are several dimensions of Rajnikanth, the superstar, who has emerged as a phenomenon. A few, but most important of these dimensions have been discussed in some detail in the aforesaid paragraphs.


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