“POL­I­TICS IS A DAN­GER­OUS GAME”

India Today - - EXCLUSIVE - IN­TER­VIEW BY RAJ CHEN­GAPPA & AMAR­NATH K. MENON PHO­TO­GRAPHS BY BANDEEP SINGH

Will he, won’t he? South­ern su­per­star Ra­jinikanth has ex­hib­ited Ham­le­tian in­de­ci­sion about pur­su­ing a po­lit­i­cal ca­reer ever since he an­nounced he was join­ing the fray in De­cem­ber 2017. So far, he has not even an­nounced the name of his po­lit­i­cal party, choos­ing in­stead to de­ploy his mas­sive fan fol­low­ing un­der the um­brella of his Ra­jini Makkal Man­drams and us­ing them to build a cadre of party work­ers across Tamil Nadu. Mean­while, the age­ing star (he is 67) con­tin­ues to do what he knows best—make iconic films. His lat­est—2.0, re­leas­ing Novem­ber 29—has a mon­ster Rs 540 crore bud­get, pos­si­bly the costli­est In­dian film ever made. A sci-fi thriller, it is a se­quel to the block­buster En­thi­ran (Ro­bot), where Ra­jini played a dou­ble role, one as a ro­bot replica of him­self. His po­lit­i­cal for­tunes now ride on the suc­cess of 2.0. If it proves to be an­other superhit, it will put his en­try into Tamil Nadu’s po­lit­i­cal arena on the fast track. The star has al­ways been cagey about his po­lit­i­cal plans. But in an in-depth in­ter­view at his home in Poes Gar­den (close to for­mer chief min­is­ter J. Jay­alalithaa’s), Ra­jinikanth spoke can­didly to in­dia to­day not only about his life and films but also his po­lit­i­cal vi­sion for Tamil Nadu, and a range of burn­ing pub­lic is­sues. Ex­cerpts:

Q.De­spite your age, you con­tinue to ex­ude tremen­dous en­ergy and pas­sion in your films. Where does it come from?

A. In the be­gin­ning, I took to act­ing for a liveli­hood. There­after, I met the needs of my life. Now, I am en­joy­ing it. It is en­ter­tain­ing to me. It is not like a pro­fes­sion. If I treat it like a pro­fes­sion, then work be­comes a bur­den. Now it is like a game, it is re­lax­ing. That’s prob­a­bly where I get my en­ergy from, from that thought.

Q. What kind of movies do you en­joy do­ing the most th­ese days?

A. Com­edy. I am very com­fort­able do­ing com­edy scenes. When I go to the set and they say they are do­ing com­edy scenes to­day, I jump. It is very dif­fi­cult to make some­one laugh, it is a big­ger task. Not the di­a­logue type of com­edy. Sit­u­a­tion com­edy is more chal­leng­ing.

Q. Your early life was a strug­gle, you even worked as a bus con­duc­tor. How did that mould your out­look on life?

A. I am grate­ful to god that I went through all that suf­fer­ing, those dif­fi­cul­ties, which is why I am en­joy­ing this life. [Point­ing to the sur­round­ings of his house]

“IN CIN­EMA, THERE IS THE PRO­DUCER, THE DI­REC­TOR, THE WRITER... IN POL­I­TICS, I AM THE DI­REC­TOR, THE WRITER, EV­ERY­THING... IT IS VERY CHAL­LENG­ING”

Oth­er­wise, I wouldn’t have tasted this. I have known suf­fer­ing, so I am en­joy­ing this so-called suc­cess.

Q. Tell us why and how you took to act­ing?

A. It is a long story but I will tell you in short—it be­gan with a play I did in Ban­ga­lore. Ev­ery year, for its an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion, each de­pot of the Kar­nataka trans­port depart­ment [where he worked as a bus con­duc­tor] had to stage a play. I chose to play Dury­o­d­hana be­cause I was an NTR fan. I was a good im­i­ta­tor and I im­i­tated him on stage. Raj Ba­hadur [a fel­low driver] told me you are fan­tas­tic, you are not fit to be here, go to the film in­sti­tute in Chennai, one day you will be­come a big ac­tor. He en­cour­aged me, and my brother [Satya­narayana Rao] also sup­ported me fi­nan­cially. I joined the film in­sti­tute where I met [di­rec­tor] K. Balachan­der who chose me for a film of his. The rest, as they say, is his­tory.

Q. Who was your role model in act­ing, es­pe­cially the style you de­vel­oped?

A. From the be­gin­ning, Si­vaji Gane­san. I used to im­i­tate Si­vaji. Even in di­a­logue de­liv­er­ies. But when I was work­ing with Balachan­der, it changed. He told me why do you want to im­i­tate Si­vaji Gane­san when Si­vaji Gane­san is al­ready there? That com­pletely changed me. He iden­ti­fied in me the speed, the fast way I did things or what­ever it is I did while act­ing. He told me: Re­tain it, that is your orig­i­nal­ity, your style, this is your hall­mark, your sig­na­ture. And that is how my style came about.

Q. That fa­mous cig­a­rette flip, how did you pick that up?

A. Sha­trughan Sinha first did it in a Hindi film. I took it from there and im­pro­vised on it. I had to prac­tise it for over a thou­sand times to per­fect it. It is a skill but, more than that, the tim­ing is im­por­tant. Just not throw­ing it up, but to de­liver the di­a­logue, the kind of sit­u­a­tion and then you flip it.

Q. Your swag­ger, did you pick that up too?

A. It is not style, it comes to me nat­u­rally. Peo­ple say I am stylish, okay, right.

Q. What is the big­gest les­son you have learnt af­ter all th­ese years in your long ca­reer?

A. Ev­ery­thing is drama (laughs out loud ). Q. How chal­leng­ing was act­ing in 2.0 com­pared to your other films?

A. 2.0 is a tech­ni­cian’s movie. It is Shankar’s cre­ation, it is com­pletely his pic­ture, he is all in one. Which means we don’t have to do any think­ing, we just do what he says, that’s it. He takes full re­spon­si­bil­ity. In other films, I give my in­puts, my thoughts, my imag­i­na­tion, I im­pro­vise. I also dis­cuss things with Shankar. But it is 90 per cent his job and he does it well.

Q. 2.0 has climate change as its theme. Are you try­ing to con­vey a larger mes­sage?

A. It is sci­ence fic­tion. It is a thriller. It is a mat­ter of pride for In­dian cin­ema. It can eas­ily be com­pared to any Hol­ly­wood movie, in its mak­ing, in its con­tent and in ev­ery­thing else. It is re­ally an ex­cel­lent pic­ture.

Q. How is it dif­fer­ent from En­thi­ran?

A. 2.0 is an ad­vanced En­thi­ran. It is on an­other level. Now we are deal­ing with universal is­sues, it has a larger mes­sage.

Q. Do you like to con­vey mes­sages through your films? A. Ba­si­cally, I am an en­ter­tainer. A Ra­jinikanth film means that chil­dren, par­ents, the fam­ily come ex­pect­ing some en­ter­tain­ment. So I have to cater to them. In that, if I get any space to con­vey a good mes­sage, I try to do it.

Q. The late MGR and Karunanidhi used their films to con­vey po­lit­i­cal mes­sages. Have you tried to do that?

A. From the be­gin­ning, I de­cided not to mix the two. En­ter­tain­ment is dif­fer­ent and pol­i­tics en­tirely dif­fer­ent. We should not make use of the en­ter­tain­ment me­dia for that. Of course, some di­a­logue here and there will hap­pen. How peo­ple in­ter­pret it and how they take it, we can­not stop. But I won’t do that de­lib­er­ately.

Q. If you were to as­sess MGR’s con­tri­bu­tion in cin­ema as well as pol­i­tics, what would it be?

A. One thing is enough. As a cin­ema hero—for the first time in the world—he proved that he was a good politi­cian and ruled the state. He proved that an artist can rule a state. That in it­self is a very big thing.

Q. Is he in some way a role model for you?

A. For any­one in cin­ema who wants to en­ter pol­i­tics, he is a role model.

Q. What lessons did you learn from MGR?

A. Mainly, his giv­ing, help­ing na­ture. He had em­pa­thy for the poor and weak...not only af­ter be­com­ing a politi­cian, but

FROM THE START, I DID NOT WANT TO MIX EN­TER­TAIN­MENT AND POL­I­TICS. THEY ARE DIF­FER­ENT”

even be­fore when he was in the cin­ema in­dus­try. He was known for his hu­man­ity and that is what I liked the most about him.

Q. What are your views on Jay­alalithaa; she too was in films and came into pol­i­tics?

A. What­ever else you may say, she was a great lady. Her courage, her de­ter­mi­na­tion, I ap­pre­ci­ated that.

Q. What about her gov­er­nance?

A. Gov­er­nance, I don’t want to talk about now. But her qual­ity of how she ruled and lived, a sin­gle woman in a man’s world... that is his­toric.

Q. You had dif­fer­ences with her. In 1996, you made a state­ment against her that ad­versely af­fected her elec­toral for­tunes. Did you make up with her af­ter that? A. Ya, ya. She at­tended my daugh­ter’s mar­riage. We used to re­spect her a lot.

Q. Do you con­sider Ka­mal Haasan a ri­val now that both of you have de­cided to en­ter pol­i­tics?

A. Ri­vals? Not at all. Says who? I won’t even say com­peti­tor. My god, he is such a good friend. He is a co–star, in fact, in a se­rial he would help me even with the di­a­logue de­liv­ery, ad­just dates for my sake. He is still a close friend of mine.

Q. What is your im­pres­sion of Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi?

A. He se­ri­ously wants to do good for the na­tion, he is try­ing hard and he is try­ing his best. That’s all I want to say for now.

Q. MGR was a hero in most of his films and was care­ful about his screen image. But you have acted as a vil­lain, even drink­ing and smok­ing in many of your movies. Will that have an im­pact on your image as a pub­lic per­sona now that you have an­nounced join­ing pol­i­tics?

A. My films are dif­fer­ent and my life en­tirely dif­fer­ent. Why should you merge the two? I am paid as an ac­tor for films, whether I like the role or not. If I en­ter pol­i­tics, I will be my­self. I want to make a dif­fer­ence in pol­i­tics. Oth­er­wise, why should Ra­jinikanth join pol­i­tics? I want to in­tro­duce a new and dif­fer­ent type of pol­i­tics. Oth­er­wise, I am 67, my health too is in a check-up stage (chuck­les). It is not easy to en­ter pol­i­tics at this age, it is not a path of flow­ers. But still you have to change things, change that will make a dif­fer­ence in pol­i­tics.

Q. Go­ing by your ex­pe­ri­ence, how is pol­i­tics dif­fer­ent from films?

A. I have not be­come a full politi­cian as yet. With my lit­tle ex­pe­ri­ence of it, I can say, my god, it is tough, re­ally tough. I told you ev­ery­thing is a game, drama. In cin­ema, every­body is there, the pro­ducer, the di­rec­tor, the writer...some­one else does the script. Whereas in pol­i­tics, as a leader, I am the di­rec­tor, the writer, ev­ery­thing... It is very chal­leng­ing.

Q. In films, your act­ing is all about be­ing su­per­fast. Yet in pol­i­tics you are cau­tious and are not rush­ing things or speak­ing about your plans.

A. Pol­i­tics is a very big game and very dan­ger­ous too. So I

HOW JAYALAITHAA LIVED AND RULED, A SIN­GLE WOMAN IN A MAN’S WORLD, IT WAS HIS­TORIC”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.