Sivaji- over the top?

It seems everywhere you turn, you see something to do with ‘Sivaji’. Billboards on the roads, ads in the papers, reviews online, posts online, conversations in shops, at the airport- its everywhere. Makes you relate to Nandhu and his anguished ‘It’s only a movie!’ But it set me thinking, “What is it about us Tamilians that we can have such a reaction to a movie?” Why would people pay Rs 1500 to see a film? Or stand in queues at 1.30 AM to be the first few in line at the booking counter when it opens the next morning as GV Balasubramanian was witness to? Or go for a show at 3.30 AM at a cinema nearby that has a show at that ungodly hour because they want to milk the film while the frenzy lasts? No, it goes beyond Nandhu’s comparison with the queues for ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Jaws’, for those movies were a phenomenon in themselves. This is all about a star who refuses to fade away. Or is it about the fans who won’t let him do that? Read on…

Remember, we are the people who idolized ‘stars’ who were, and are, not even Tamilians. MGR was a Malayalee who made it big in Tamil films with his fair complexion (which we are mad about) and expressive face. Jayalalitha is a Kannadiga Brahmin girl who grew up in Madras and has made good with her looks, fair complexion and association with MGR. Both of these stars, neither Tamilian, went on to become Chief Ministers by riding on their star crazed fans adulation-especially MGR. According to some observers, Jayalalitha still rides on MGR’s popularity in the outlying districts. Rajnikanth, of course, is also a Kannadiga from Bangalore. This is more as an observation, and not from a parochial point of view.

We are also the ethnic group that had some immolate themselves, while a large number went on a rampage that caused extensive damage and crippled the state for days, resulting in considerable loss of property and turnover when MGR died. We are also, quite likely, the only people who have built a temple to a living actress as we did for Kushboo. I’m sure there are many other examples, but this is what comes to mind. As well as Jayalalitha being called ‘Thamizh thai’ (Mother of all Tamils), which, given her ethnic origin, is laughable. And now we have ‘Sivaji’ in which we have a sixty year old actor, heavily made up to look like he did years ago, romancing a heroine one third his age.

Even the Big B, Amitabh Bacchan has graciously conceded the passing of the years, and takes on roles that reflect his seniority rather than pretend otherwise. So have many other stars in India and over seas, and done well for it. So what is it with Rajnikanth? First and foremost of course, it’s all about leveraging his stardom for money. Second, going by the content of the film, it appears that it is a clear step towards an entry into politics. It appears to be a testing of the waters to see what the public reaction would be. Going by the frenzy around the film, it almost seems a foregone conclusion that we will soon see another actor’s entry into the political arena with, possibly a new party. Leveraging on our insatiable thirst for stars or politicians on whom we can heap adulation and hero worship.

The movie, going by what I hear from various quarters, fans and others, is nothing to write home about. The script is banal, and the acting what you’d expect of a film like this. The role was clearly written to serve up the Rajni of yesteryears to adoring fans, while testing the waters for an entry into politics. It’s not going to win any awards, nor is it going to be screened overseas at film festivals or at the Oscars. Yet it is showing on more screens in India and overseas than most films in recent times, perhaps ever. Why? Blame it on the fans desire for things Rajni. The film is all about nostalgia, with fans getting a double dose of what they saw many years ago and wallowing in it. They don’t care that this is a balding, sixty year old with a wooden expression due heavy make up, delivering lines forced on the script because they’d like to hear them. For they just want to relive the Rajni of their growing years.

That the response is over the top is a matter of opinion. An enormous amount of money is being made, in a very calculated manner, by exploiting the fans thirst for their star- by the producers, the distributors, the theatres and, of course, the star himself. Part of the calculation is the possible entry into politics. The fans don’t seem to even think about what’s going on, because they are completely beyond all this. I just heard of a fan who saw the film twelve times in the first week! Can you imagine the king’s ransom he must have paid for that privilege? Films are made on the premise of ‘The willing suspension of disbelief’-ie. The audience goes into the theatre to be entertained, and will watch the film as something that is real, without the rationalization that would expose the make-believe nature of the film. Rajni’s fans seem to go way beyond this! Little wonder Tamil Nadu’s politics, politicians and governance are the way it is.

29 Comments so far

  1. saravanan (unregistered) on June 24th, 2007 @ 4:34 pm

    you are insulting the tamilians with your post

    you shouldnt be allowed to write here

  2. Navneeth (unregistered) on June 24th, 2007 @ 4:59 pm

    I think we have had enough publicity for this money-machine on Chennai Metblogs. Anything else interesting happening in the city?

  3. anantha (unregistered) on June 24th, 2007 @ 7:22 pm

    I could point out a number of factual errors here, but none of your claims (btw, Rajini is Marathi) are more erroneous than this one.

    Second, going by the content of the film, it appears that it is a clear step towards an entry into politics. The role was clearly written to serve up the Rajni of yesteryears to adoring fans, while testing the waters for an entry into politics.

    Aren’t you trying to pass off an unsubstantiated anachronistic statement as fact, here? If you tell me that it is another opinion that you have, I have to add that you are way off the radar with your deduction.

    I don’t know if you have seen Shankar’s previous work, but the Robin-hood theme has been beaten to death by him. In fact, your line would have fit Mudhalvan, because it was a role written for Rajini and had him take on a Chief Minister and so was a political manifesto in the waiting. But Rajini had the good sense to refuse it.

    It is perhaps true that it he once thought he could influence the Tamil political scene, but no one can claim that he harbors the same view anymore.

    As I mentioned elsewhere, it has become pretty common place for people to come out of the woodwork and criticize Rajini every time a movie of his releases.

    Even the Big B, Amitabh Bacchan has graciously conceded the passing of the years, and takes on roles that reflect his seniority rather than pretend otherwise. So have many other stars in India and over seas, and done well for it. So what is it with Rajnikanth?

    Errr, the change of image was a forced hand. Movies like Shahenshah, Ajooba, Mrityudaata, Bade Miyan Chote Miyan and Lal Baadhsah flopped. Essentially, the viewing public rejected him when he did the same kind of roles that made him so popular earlier in his career. Compare that to Rajini whose only two flops in the “superstar” era have been Pandian and Baba (if Rs. 20 crore business can be termed that). So let’s not do a blind comparison with Amitabh’s career path without knowing where the turning points have been.

    People take “assumption of intellect” to a new level and pass grandiose judgments based on one premise – that people who watch Rajinikant movies are stupid. And if you look closely, none of the criticisms leveled are characteristics (age, makeup, suspension of disbelief) of his movies alone.

    Rajinikant movies are but a genre. If you think that the genre has no place, well, it is your opinion. For most people including me, that genre is fun. And if you think that all those people deserve to be damned for their idea of entertainment, you cannot be more wrong.

  4. Vinod (unregistered) on June 24th, 2007 @ 8:00 pm

    if you are not a rajini fan, why do you even bother to comment about what we rajini fans want and do. go get a life and watch sivaji to see what the excitement is all about.

  5. SK (unregistered) on June 24th, 2007 @ 8:51 pm

    Dear All,
    Lets all welcome the fact that this is one of the few movies which has been screen’d blockbuster on the same day worldwide.
    Please raise up and give it a big cheer, erstwhile the same what most of them do and talk when a block buster from Hollywood gets released.
    Cheer the fans and see the movie as a movie. May be the guy is frustrated cos he could not get the tickets….on it goes on…


  6. vatsan (unregistered) on June 24th, 2007 @ 10:40 pm


    here is the problem, while watching a TR movie, which is just as bad as Shivaji (veeraswamy wud be a perfect example), one laughs at TR making a fool of himself.

    If one has to watch rajini make a fool of himself, and laugh at it, its a sorry state of affairs for rajini.

    ‘eppidi irundha rajini, ippidi aaitara’ is the feeling one is left with.

  7. Thalaiva (unregistered) on June 25th, 2007 @ 3:10 am

    @ Vatsan

    nee padam pathiya ?

    in the first half , we all laugh at rajni make a fool of himself.

    nee kamal fan dhana ? un postliye theriyuthu baadu

  8. emkey (unregistered) on June 25th, 2007 @ 6:45 am

    David Appasamy, u r right.This is just a movie, I dont know why the people are going like this.Anyway one important thing, Somebody earning some money(Dont think other way)like doing Ads, Billboards, Media, News paper etc,. Thanks ‘SIVAJI’.

  9. beachsundal (unregistered) on June 25th, 2007 @ 12:08 pm

    David, I’ve been an ardent reader of your posts and this one has slightly (though not as bad as other’s have been) offended.

    I should admit that this movie had caused a lot of hype and to a lot of extent, lived up to it though there have been criticism from various quarters about the screenplay, logic, etc. Albeit, the movie has resulted in a lot of revenue generation and business. If Rajini could make so much money and fame at this age (56 I guess), so be it. He’s doing what he is capable of.

    Big B, I just cannot accept is a bigger star than Rajini though Rajini admitted that Big B is the emperor. Like Anantha said, he was shoo’ed away. While his rise, fall and bigger rise is applaudable, he is very unlike Rajini and does not deserve to be compared.

    I doubt Rajini will enter politics even after this show as one has been noticing for years before. As a human being, he might be afraid to lose the stardom and popularity by getting into politics. Not everyone who tasted success in cinema have succeeded in politis. Sivaji ganesan and Amitabh are classical example.

    Agreed that Rajini’s movies, are not that logical or seem real, but are sheer entertainer and worth the watch. Rajini’s movies are a class apart in the sense it has his own style, puch dialogues, heroism, etc which you may not want to see others doing it.

  10. ozzy_rules (unregistered) on June 25th, 2007 @ 12:15 pm

    To all the maniacs, the author is the only one of few that is wearing clothes and points out that you are all running naked.

    It is a natural reaction that all naked fellows get mad at this and throw out the guy with clothes on.

    The whole of Tamilnadu will be better off if you all focus your energy on something good. Remember this fellas, while you are loosing your mind on Sivaji, TN is being squeezed out of its liveline water by all three bordering States. Wake up and grow a spine else the entire clan in TN will be wiped out. Sivaji will then pack his bags and move the show to some other state where he can make profits.

    Now bring your filthy brickbats spineless morons.

  11. tamilhuman (unregistered) on June 25th, 2007 @ 1:30 pm


    First of all i like rajni and his acting.

    What david was saying is to make good for us.
    What you are getting by supporting rajni like this?

    All the money he has earned
    (mostly from tamilnadu, eventhough he had done other language films), the most investments are in HYD & Blore and Mysore in the means of colleges and land.

    If he has invested in chennai or TN i would have supported him with you guys. I think he is scared of the political leaders who may create problems with this property in future. Thats where our hero stands when he it comes to real life heroism.

    If he is contributing to water problem,
    (Not like he promised he will give 1 crore for Joining Rivers. He promised because he know it will not happen.)

    Education should be perfect give-back to the people who have made him a superstar.
    He havent done for TN, instead he has done in Andhra and Karnataka. I am not opposing andhra or karnataka. I juz want my tamilnadu to get back, what it gave to him.

    Wake up guys, rajni is human and he is normal.
    I don’t mind if you are going to reply hard for this.

    Lets see how i get reply for this.

  12. Naveen (unregistered) on June 25th, 2007 @ 2:02 pm

    balding 60 yr old???!!! watch ur language dumbass!!

  13. Somu (unregistered) on June 25th, 2007 @ 7:52 pm

    WOW…An amazing take on movie and the superstar… WITHOUT EVEN SEEING THE MOVIE. Kudos to u !!! Don’t go by hearsays… Watch the movie before u can comment !

  14. ag (unregistered) on June 25th, 2007 @ 7:54 pm

    Why can’t Rajini lovers,Rajini bashers and those who pretend to be indifferent just treat ‘Sivaji’ as a time pass movie, enjoy it and forget it?Even the makers wouldn’t have debated on this film so much!

  15. anantha (unregistered) on June 25th, 2007 @ 11:03 pm

    If one has to watch rajini make a fool of himself, and laugh at it, its a sorry state of affairs for rajini.

    And we laughed while watching Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin, Jr. KBE make a fool of himself as well. Do you think Sir Charles did not know what he was doing? Going along the same lines, do you think that Rajini did not know what he was doing? Are you that dumb that you did not realize what the point of those sequences were?

    (Personal rhetorical question time!) Vatsan, time and again, you “assume intellect” over other people. Why?

    (P.S: For those you who who would take exception to my bringing up Charlie Chaplin in this dicussion, feel free to object. My point was to highlight the moronic comparison that Vatsan has obviously indulged here (and in his “review” of Sivaji) while comparing Rajini with T.Rajendar. To borrow a classic line from Nayagan, “avana nirutha sollu, naan nirutharen”. The negatives of a particular movie can be brought out very nicely and comparisons to other movies with an unrelated cast and crew are not exactly the best way to do so. To put it in plain English, one should not compare apples with oranges and that is what exactly has happened here.)

  16. anantha (unregistered) on June 25th, 2007 @ 11:08 pm

    ozzy_rules: A quick question. Who says that “running naked” is wrong? It’s a personal preference. To say that it is wrong and laugh at it, is like telling them that you are cleverer. In spite of IQ scores, there is no quantitative way to measure cleverness (or stupidness for that matter). So shoo now and let David respond to the criticisms (if he wants to).

  17. david (unregistered) on June 26th, 2007 @ 7:33 am

    Thank you for all the comments. I stand corrected: Rajini is from Maharashtra- his given name was Shivaji Rao Gaekwad. One thing is clear, the appeal of a star like Rajini goes beyond the rational and is strongly emotional. And that’s fine. I must add that the post was an examination of the film, Rajini, his appeal and the proclivity of us Tamils to have one super hero or other whom we can idolize. At no point was any value judgement being made as to whether his fans are ‘stupid’ or of lower intellect. Instead, there are very strong emotional overtones to Rajini’s appeal which is what makes him a super star with such a loyal fan following. So to his fans Rajini will always be ‘The Boss’! To others, he is a phenomenon worth studying. So be it.

  18. neoflys (unregistered) on June 26th, 2007 @ 3:01 pm

    too much of rajni bashing in these blogs. Reminds me of what PMK leader trying to get popular by hitting hard at him

  19. Rastafari (unregistered) on June 26th, 2007 @ 4:15 pm

    Comparing what Charles Chaplin does with what Rajini does is something which only a MORON like you would do.
    Charles Chaplin’s intention is to make us laugh (or sometimes cry etc).
    What Vatsan meant (which your pea-sized brain couldn’t fathom) is that Rajini makes us laugh even if that wasn’t the original intention.
    No wonder you are a Rajini fan.

    Rajini panradhu fun nu solra naainga TR-a pathi eppadi thaan comment adikkaraangalo, manasaatchiye illama

  20. Rastafari (unregistered) on June 26th, 2007 @ 4:19 pm

    “Who says that “running naked” is wrong? It’s a personal preference”
    Anantha aka genius, this is fine as long as you don’t make fun of Ramarajan, TR, Malayalam soft porn, and all the shit going by the abused name of “entertainment”. I’m not saying you make fun of all these or not. I don’t know. As long as you remain consistent in your shit-eating/tolerating capacity, its fine

  21. tsk tsk (unregistered) on June 26th, 2007 @ 4:33 pm


    Rajni plays his strengths, he is a superstar and the movie Sivaji clearly reflected that. Sivaji wouldnt sell if it werent for Rajni. Rajni wouldnt sell if he didnt make a film like Sivaji(which is totally centred around him)

    If Kaun Banega Crorepati was to be made in Tamil, Only Rajni as a host could bring in viewership. Kamal would probably do half as well.

    Traditional critiscims about Rajni are undeniably true. He clearly isnt a versatile actor and could never do roles like Kamal. He could never carry off multiplex films like a ‘Cheeni Kum’ the way Big B did. Also, The General feeling among many is that he could never do a Bollywood movie sucessfully at all.

    The era of superstars is nearly over – Amitabh, Rajni and Chiranjeevi are the last few. Mass Adulation will die along with these guys. Let them be and let us enjoy whats left of em..

  22. Balaji (unregistered) on June 26th, 2007 @ 6:13 pm

    I think people are jealous of Rajni’s achievements. He his the most sought after star in Asia , maybe the world. I think he can become one of the best chief ministers of TN if he chooses to be but its highly unlikely that he will enter politics.

    The hype around Sivaji is making every Tamilian proud. Please dont call yourself tamilian if you dont like the hype.

  23. Basu (unregistered) on June 26th, 2007 @ 10:38 pm

    Hi David, why is a special mention of ‘Brahmin’ for jayalalitha? why not mention nair MGR or kshtriya rajni?

  24. sj (unregistered) on June 28th, 2007 @ 7:58 am

    I agree with David here Rajni has done nothing for TN yet he still seems to extract from it what he can by pulling stunts like this. His actions have not changed and he should retire I have seen the movie not much to write about. He definetly should not be given any room to come into politics as he is a non Tamilian firsly and he has too much interests in other states. The concept of the movie is about the black economy, however I wonder did the producer of the movie use black money to produce such a movie? I am sure Rajni himself has stack of this type of money in his home which he can use to help the people of TN instead of sending in to other states.

  25. david (unregistered) on June 28th, 2007 @ 12:45 pm

    Hi Basu. Thanks for pointing that out. It wasn’t a special mention, but simply that I knew that piece of information. I didn’t know about the others, and it would have been better for me to exclude that if I didn’t have the same information for the others. Especially as I don’t believe in the caste system. Thanks again.

  26. Vijay (unregistered) on June 30th, 2007 @ 12:14 pm

    After all the expectation and hype created in media, i think the movie is much below expectation. For all non-rajini fans its a one time watchable one. And for rajini fans it is a dream come true to see his star dazzling. But i dont see shankar in any department of the movie except in one song where he shows up himself to establish that it is a shankar movie too.

    -KV Anand camera all throughout the movie, especially in making rajini dazzling and the songs & fight sequence were well picturized.
    -Music & picturization for 3 songs were really awesome.
    -One more credit to Rajini for his bald look.

    -Screenplay is below standard. To be specific, the screenplay for the first half of the movie was totally a crap mixing serious subject, love & comedy unproportionately. Im quite surprised shankar has done this.
    -It doesnt look like a shankar movie except the richness in almost all songs. So average credit to direction part.
    -Name any Vivek movie, i will assure u that it has far better jokes than this. Vivek has performed much as a second fiddle to Rajini than a comedian in this movie.
    -Background score other than the music for song & fight sequence were well below standard. I think Deva will suit Rajini far better than ARR in providing background score to his movie (Courtesy: Baasha & Anna malai).

    Am I exaggerating… but this is what i serious feel abt this movie.

    Overall : Below expectation that the media created, but a decent movie to time pass: watchable once, movie for die hard rajini fan. I see a lot of blogs comparing it with Baasha & Anna malai. Please dont do that.

  27. Arjun (unregistered) on July 3rd, 2007 @ 1:25 pm

    I read this in IBNLive ยป Blogs
    Review of a Tamil movie by a bangali. Weirdest part is without even knowing a single Tamil word she watched the movie Sivaji and she is trying writing a review for it. I posted a comment on the blog but they didn’t publish it.


  28. Arjun (unregistered) on July 3rd, 2007 @ 1:28 pm

    I think URL was removed in my previous post.
    The blog is by Anuradha SenGupta. Damn…

  29. Basu (unregistered) on July 6th, 2007 @ 5:27 pm

    Hi David,

    I didnot meant to point out any error. Was just curious about it. I am an avid reader of your posts about chennai and really appreciate your knowledge about the city and experiences you narrate.


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