எந்திரனுக்குப் பிறகு என்ன… இந்திப் படங்களில் நடிக்காதது ஏன்? – ரஜினியின் மனம் திறந்த பேட்டி!!
ஒரே இரவில் பிரபலமாவது எப்படி… ‘ரஜினியைப் பேட்டி எடுங்க… இல்லன்னா கூட நின்னு போஸ் கொடுங்க!’- 1996- பிரபலமான வாக்கியம் இது, பத்திரிகையாளர்கள் மத்தியில். காரணம் இரண்டுமே அரிதான விஷயம்தான், இங்குள்ளவர்களுக்கு!
பொதுவாக தமிழகத்தில் உள்ள பத்திரிகைகளுக்கு தனிப்பட்ட பேட்டிகளைக் கொடுப்பதில்லை சூப்பர் ஸ்டார் ரஜினி. காரணம், ஏற்கெனவே அவர் சொன்னதுதான்… ‘ஒருத்தருக்கு கொடுத்தா எல்லாருக்கும் கொடுத்தாகனும்… இல்லன்னா மனசு கஷ்டப்படுவாங்க!’
சேனல்கள், நாளிதழ்கள், பத்திரிகைகள், இணையதளங்கள் என பல வடிவங்களில் உள்ள ஊடகங்கள் அவரை தினமும் பேட்டிகளுக்காக அணுகி வந்தாலும், யாருக்கும் அவர் பேட்டி தருவதில்லை.
இன்னொன்று, தான் சொல்ல நினைப்பதை பொது விழாக்கள், இசை வெளியீட்டு நிகழ்வுகள், பட விழாக்கள் என பல வழிகளில் சொல்லிவிடுகிறார் ரஜினி. எனவே தனியாகப் பேச அவசியம் வைப்பதில்லை அவர். இதனை நாம் ஏற்கெனவே ஒரு கட்டுரையில் குறிப்பிட்டுள்ளோம். அப்படீன்னா, வட நாட்டுப் பத்திரிகைகளுக்கு மட்டும் தருகிறாரே.. என்ற கேள்வி எழலாம். சில நேரங்களில் நன்கு அறிந்த யாராவது ஒருவரிடம் மனம் திறந்து அவர் பேசுவது உண்டு. இந்த முறை அந்த வாய்ப்பு மிட்டே சிறப்புச் செய்தியாளரும் தி பிலிம் ஸ்ட்ரீட் ஜர்னல் வார இதழளின் ஆசிரியருமான பாரதி எஸ் பிரதானுக்குக் கிடைத்தது. ரஜினிக்கு ஏற்கெனவே அறிமுகான பெண் பத்திரிகையாளர் இவர்.
தனது அடுத்த படம், இந்திப் படங்களில் நடிப்பதைக் குறைத்துக் கொண்டது, இந்த வயதிலும் ஆக்ஷன், ரொமான்ஸ் காட்சிகளில் நடிக்கும்போதுள்ள உணர்வு, தயக்கம்… பால் தாக்கரேயை கடவுள் என்று சொன்னதன் பின்னணி… இப்படி பல விஷயங்களில் மனம் திறந்த பதில்களைக் கூறியுள்ளார் ரஜினி, வழக்கம்போல!
ஆங்கிலத்தில் வெளியாகியுள்ள இந்த பேட்டியின் ஆங்கில வடிவம் (தமிழில் தனியாக).
One and only interview in the whole world Rajnikant in conversation with Bharathi S Pradhan
A polite query: Are you from Mumbai?
The gates swing open quickly, the security guards relax and Man Friday in a crisp white dhoti comes forward.
A tray with hot filter coffee and cool moru (buttermilk) is offered. Latha, who is recovering from a lousy bout of flu, keeps you company. Minutes later, you climb up a wooden staircase with Nanda the family Dalmatian trying to follow and you’re in Rajnikant’s comfortable cane-and-white den with a huge Sai Baba on the wall.
The actor is spiritually inclined in sharp contrast to the testosterone star on celluloid. Rajni even has his Guru Raghavendra Swami on the dial of his watch.
It’s been 15 years since Rajni the affable turned his back on Hindi cinema, returned home to Chennai and became Rajnikant the inaccessible.
Over the years, he has also become ‘God’ for many, as was evidenced when Robot/Endhiran was released and fans in Matunga even did a palabhishekam (bathing an idol with milk) for his cutout.
How does that feel?
“Come on,” Rajni doesn’t take it seriously. His reply is short. “It’s their love and affection.”
Why has Rajnikant changed and become Rajni the reluctant interviewee?
“No, it is the same Rajni,” he assures you and explains, “Now since I’m not giving interviews, everybody wants an exclusive. If I give one person, the others feel bad. Better to say ‘no’ to everybody. Otherwise the media is too powerful today.”
Meeting the media is not a problem, says the actor who has taken the budget and the collections of a film to an unknown high this year. He points out, “I went for the audio launch, the trailer launch. But everybody is asking for an exclusive, all the papers, all the TV channels. How can you give preference to one?”
True. So he simply switched off and let his astounding star power take over. But Rajnikant is not an overconfident, cocky, ‘I am God’ star. There is humility in him and like anybody else, the tensions of carrying a film weigh upon him.
With over 130 crore riding on his name, is he relieved that Robot/Endhiran did so well?
“Oh yes, very relieved. It was very tense, naturally, first time so much money being invested in a regional language film. It’s not a joke. Hats off to Kalanithi Maran’s guts, he had complete faith, he believed that yes, these people won’t make a mistake, it’s a responsibility. By God’s grace (it worked).”
It’s said that you didn’t take a rupee during the making of the film?
He is dismissive of it as he explains, “I told them, you give it to me later. Of course, I took it later (laughs). I told them, I don’t need money now. If I need money, I’ll definitely ask for it. Otherwise why unnecessarily when so much money is already being spent? I know Kalanithi Maran well, he’s a good friend of mine.”
It was said that you didn’t take a rupee during the making but took a part of the profit?
Which makes you the highest paid star in India?
Is that correct?
“I don’t know how much the others take.” Laughs again.
But Rajnikant is pleased that his tijori is full. He is clear that commerce matters. And he doesn’t backtrack from statements made before his status went from Human to God.
You once told me that if you hadn’t become an actor you’d have become a smuggler because you wanted to make money.
“Yes, that is correct, an underworld don,” he accepts unabashedly. “That phase is over, I’ve made enough money!”
You also used to say that to relax, you sit in front of the mirror, wear…
“Candle, mirror, music!” He finishes the line. He’d sit before a mirror with a glass of whisky, put off the lights, light a candle and listen to music. That was de-stressing for him.
“That is correct,” he says. “It’s that way even now. After 9 o’clock I don’t meet people.”
You worked very hard on Endhiran for two years.
“2 years, 10 months,” he is precise. “Almost three years. It was very difficult.”
And after it was released, you went to the Himalayas?
“I go to the Himalayas after every film. I go alone without anybody.”
You don’t get mobbed?
“No, I go to the interiors, to the Himalayan villages. Being there itself is like meditation. The Ganges, the divine mountain, the beauty, the innocent people. I’ve been there many times. I’ve been going there for 15 years, I started going to the Himalayas in 1995.”
You used to say that you go to Nepal every year and avoid five star hotels?
“No longer. People come and disturb you. You need security.”
That’s the ground reality and he knows it even if all the invincible Rajnikant jokes on the internet would have you believe otherwise. Incidentally, has Rajni read those jokes?
“Yes, they’re very funny.”
How do you feel?
“They’re only jokes, yaar.” Laughs. “I laugh at their imagination, how can they imagine all this? The youngsters (today who make up these jokes) are brilliant, very sharp.”
Rajnikant has two daughters. Did he ever miss having a son?
“No, no. I’m very happy, by God’s grace. We’re in the 21st century, gender doesn’t make a difference. Look at my two grandsons, Yatra and Linga.”
There’s a photo frame with them and he looks at it proudly.
Are you a good grandfather?
“Ya, very loving.”
You do something other stars wouldn’t. You go out as you are, in a kurta, balding hair as it is without dyeing. And your fans are all right with it?
“No, it is important to them how you look on celluloid, they’re paying for that. There they feel, my hero should look like a hero. Outside it doesn’t matter. People are intelligent, they know everything. Why unnecessarily give yourself discomfort?”
They probably appreciate you for being the way you are?
“Naturally. I told you. On celluloid if you come like that they will hate it. Reality, okay. On celluloid, no, they want the hero.”
And this hero gives the audience what they desire – an action man who romances, fights and looks invincible. Incredibly, he is also very fit.
“I do yoga, I exercise. I have to be fit. That is my investment. An artiste can only invest his body. For the mind, good writers and good directors are there,” he gives credit where it’s due.
Do you feel the pressure as you’re growing older? In Robot you did everything, you romanced a young girl, you did everything.
“Sometimes when I do action scenes I do feel the age or when I dance. Age is age. But technicians, directors, they know and they manage. When doing a romantic scene now, you feel awkward. Even if you say it’s just acting, you do feel a little embarrassed.”
Are you careful that it has to be dignified now?
“You have to be very, very choosy.”
After Robot what?
“An animation film called Hara. Partly live action, partly animation like Avatar. But a straight out-and-out Rajnikant film has not been decided yet.”
There were rumours that Yash Chopra has approached you for Dhoom 3?
“They’re all rumours. No, (I have) not even been approached. Anyway, after Hara I will need a six-month break. If I get a good character, a suitable role, a good producer-director, then only will I do a film. Otherwise, bahut ho gaya. I’m 61 years old yaar.”
Amitabh is still going strong.
“He’s my inspiration,” Rajnikant instantly offers. “Actually Dilipji (Dilip Kumar) is the centre for all of us. Amitji, me, Shah Rukh, Aamir, for all of us Dilipji has been the inspiration.”
Clearly Rajnikant loves the Mumbai air, perhaps even misses it a little. As he wistfully states, “I was lucky to interact so closely with a person like Amitji, how many would get an opportunity like that? We did three films, all super duper hits. Andhaa Kanoon, Giraftaar and Hum, all hits. Sometimes I feel like going to Mumbai and meeting my friends. I had a good circle of friends, Subhashji, Guddu, Rishi, Jeetendra.”
Why did you give up Hindi films?
“I have cut down a lot. In the South itself I do hardly one film in two years. To ride two horses at the same time is difficult. The way of working in Hindi and South is different. I’ve done enough work. I did nearly 25 to 27 films there, I was there for almost 10 years. I enjoyed it.”
You didn’t feel that you are God in Chennai and you’re doing only multi-starcast films in Mumbai?
“Oh, no, no, no. Actually I was so relaxed. Here I had to carry the whole show on my shoulders. There we shared it, did so many multi-starrers. And with what persons! Dharmendra, Vinod Khanna, Amitji, multi-starrers, nice fun, big films, multi-crore projects, going to good locales, good friends. It was good fun and I enjoyed it.”
It’s your Guru on your watch?
“Yes, I am very spiritual.”
It’s a wonder how you are so fit – no paunch, no extra weight.
“Basically I am small made, my body constitution is small,” he analyses. “By God’s grace, the only property my parents gave me was a good body. No BP, no sugar, no hereditary problems. Small built, tight skin. And then the habits count, you have to take care of your body.”
People wonder, what does Rajnikant have for breakfast, what stars were he born under to have made it so big?
“I am very lucky, very blessed, 100 per cent. Otherwise how could one get so much name, so much fame? Everybody works hard. Everybody should get an opportunity. Only God gives an opportunity. I made use of the opportunity He gave me, I worked very hard. I am very grateful and thankful to God.”
The gratitude to a power above is constant even if he himself is called ‘God’ here on earth. When people look at you like God, does it make you nervous that they expect too much out of you?
“Naturally, their expectations are so high. From film to film, you wonder, what next, what to do that’s different? That responsibility really makes me nervous. What to do next, what to do that’s bigger?
“It has to be different, it has to be entertainment, not preachy and classy. Not arty, not award, but good quality entertainment, not cheap. Robot was good entertainment, a different dimension,” he comments with satisfaction over a job well done.
Didn’t it matter that Robot went to Shah Rukh before it came to him?
A misplaced ego is really non-existent in this commercially canny actor’s personality as he sportingly recounts, “It first went to Kamal Hassan, 10 years ago, they even did a pooja with Preity Zinta. Then there was some date problem with Shankar and they dropped it. Then it went to Shah Rukh Khan. There was some problem with the budget. It didn’t work out.”
And then your Shivaji did well?
“Yes, for the first time there was an investment of 75 to 80 crore in a regional film and the film did a business of `110 to 120 crore. That was encouraging and broadened the market.”
You didn’t have an ego problem that Robot first went to Kamal and SRK?
“Daane daane pe likha hota hai khaane wale ka naam!
“I did the film because I know Shankar and know his capabilities. If anybody else had come to me offering a `200 crore film, I wouldn’t have touched it. I knew he would deliver. Even if Hollywood had come to me with the offer, I wouldn’t have accepted it. After working with Shivaji I knew he was fantastic.”
In between wasn’t there Kuselan (Tamil version of Billu Barber) that didn’t do well?
“It was only a four-five day guest appearance.”
Do you feel bad when a film doesn’t do well?
“I feel bad, definitely. So many people’s money, faith, disappointment, that affects me. I naturally feel responsible. That faith they have in Rajni, the audience, everybody, they feel disappointed, it affects you.”
And now how are you celebrating the success of Robot/Endhiran?
“I’ve been very busy. The marriage (second daughter Aishwarya’s) was a very big event, then the thale deepavali (a bride’s first Diwali). Now we can concentrate on the animation film.”
Unbelievably, while films today have a budget of 7-8 crore for promotion and publicity, the 130 crore Robot did it with only 1 crore!
That’s the power of Rajnikant today. His presence in the film was enough, he didn’t have to go all out and woo the audience. They came in to see him.
It is said that Rajni was amused at the frenetic promotions done by other actors and remarked, “Why do they behave like salesmen?”
The actor is taken aback that such a statement could be attributed to him. It is not a Rajnikant line in tone or lingo.
“I didn’t say that. I have never said that. Why should I say that? For everybody it’s an individual thing, they are promoting their film in their interests, there is no need to comment on it. I have 100 per cent never said that. In fact today artistes have to definitely promote their films. I was busy with my daughter’s marriage and all that. But I also went for the audio release, I promoted it in my own way. Promotion has become a must, you have to create awareness, people have to know what’s going on. I have never made such a statement. Who am I to do that?”
It was also said that on Diwali, you gave gifts to the policemen?
“Every year I give only sweets.”
A package with a saree etc?
“No, no. It would be like bribing a public official. I gave only sweets.”
He realizes that such stories and quotes are often created only to stir him into coming out with a counter statement.
“There are always some such stories to provoke me so that I come out and make a statement,” he laughs it off.
A few seconds later he is mentally back in Mumbai.
“Mumbai, mayanagiri,” he comments. “Really cosmopolitan. Balasaheb.”
You met Balasaheb Thackeray this time in Mumbai?
“Yes, I met him.”
You said he’s like God?
“Yes, yes. He loves me like his first son. I have met him before too.”
The tape is switched off. I take a picture of him relaxing in his den – in his favourite colour black contrasted against a large white sofa.
Rajni also signs an autograph on a printout of Rajnikant jokes. He comes down and sees me off. And he says, you didn’t have anything. Coffee or moru or anything?
I got you, Rajni. Dil bhar gaya!
After Robot what?
-Courtesy: Mid Day, Thefilmstreetjournal.com