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Friday, December 12, 2014

A lesson in staying grounded and anchored from the Super Star himself

The more successful we become, the more accepting, grounded and anchored we must learn to be. 

Today the much loved Super Star Rajnikanth turns 64. As his new film Lingaa releases, fans are whipping up a new frenzy all over. Honestly, I am not a great fan of Rajnikanth’s acting. But I adore him as a human being. In fact, I have learnt a lot from him – most of all from his legendary humility. The only time I met him was 24 years ago, when he was 40 and I was 23. I was then working with India Today magazine. I was doing a feature story on the spate of religious films that were coming out at that time. Rajni’s Sri Raghvendra (SP. Muthuraman) had released in 1985. It was Rajni’s 100th film. But it tanked at the Box Office. I was asked by his assistant to meet Rajni at Vijaya studios in Chennai where he was shooting. When I reach the shooting floor, Rajni pulled a chair for me to sit, lit himself a cigarette and in the most child-like, curious, manner asked me to what the meeting was all about. I gave him the background to my story and asked him two questions at the same time. “Why did he do a religious film like Sri Raghavendra when he has an image of an action hero?” and “What was his reaction to the film flopping at the Box Office?” His response was spontaneous. He did not even think. He simply said, “Sri Raghavendra is not a religious film. It is about a man and his ‘awakening’. You are too young to understand the meaning of the word ‘awakening’. As for the film’s run at the Box Office, perhaps the audience too does not understand what ‘awakening’ means.” He then laughed heartily at his own answer for a couple of minutes, stubbed his cigarette out in the ashtray next to him, got up, shook hands with me and walked on to the floor for his next shot. His assistant told me that the meeting was “over” and that while I could stay on and watch the shooting if I wanted, I wasn’t going to be allowed to meet Rajni again on this subject. I remember coming back with mixed emotions. On one side I liked the man and his down-to-earthiness. On the other hand, I simply could not comprehend his answer. I concluded then that he was eccentric. Years later when I reflected on that meeting, I understood, thanks to my evolution, that he was laughing at my inability, as well as his audience’s, to comprehend what an ‘awakening’ really is!

Cover Picture Courtesy: Internet
In her book on Rajnikanth, ‘The Name Is Rajnikanth’, (Om Books International, 2008), Gayathri Sreekanth, talks of the one time in 1995 when then Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao calls up Rajnikanth over phone. Rao invites him to contest the upcoming elections, allying with the Congress, and offers him the Chief Ministership of Tamil Nadu. At that time, media reports and pre-election polls had predicted that any party that aligned with Rajnikanth would win a handsome majority in the State. Sreekanth talks of Rajni meditating in his prayer room at home in Poes Garden, in front of a picture of his favorite Saint Raghavendra, on the Prime Minister’s offer and on his then-almost-certain entry into politics. His prayer, says Sreekanth, leads him to realize that he should not succumb to temptation. She writes of how Rajni reflects on the following questions: “Who am I? Who am I talking to? What the hell is my background and what have I become?...Maybe He (Raghavendra) is the supreme director, the whole event (of the political offer) unfurls in front of Him. I am sure it is He who is directing the whole episode, and I am a mere puppet. I am asked to act in the drama of Life and I will do it….There must be something in me that people like me so much. Why else will they shower so much of love on me? … I must do something for these people. They trust me with their lives. I must never let them down.” As I write this Blog, speculation is rife that this time the Bharatiya Janata Party is making overtures to Rajni, in the aftermath of the Bangalore Special Court’s verdict against Jayalalithaa in the Disproportionate Assets Case, inviting him to support them in the upcoming 2016 Assembly elections. I am not sure what Rajni will do. While I believe he will still stay away from politics, I also know that his decision will be based on his thinking that he’s a ‘nobody’ that people have made a ‘somebody’ and that he should never ‘let down those people’.

This is one lesson from the Super Star that I will always hold close to my heart: Which is to stay humble, stay grounded and stay anchored. And to know that I am a mere puppet in the beautiful, inscrutable Cosmic Design. That I have to act in the drama of Life and I must do it – peacefully and happily!

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