Superstar Rajinikanth is riding a tidal wave of popularity. The Republic Day announcement that he has been conferred with Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian award in the country cheered not only his fans but the ordinary folk in Tamil Nadu as well.
Rajinikanth, 65, is still the biggest superstar in the southern box-office. The actor is currently busy working on two projects, Pa Ranjith's Kabali and Shankar's Robot 2.0, which is sequel to his blockbuster Robot.
This is not all; he has more reasons to celebrate. Rajinikanth’s summer release Kabali seems to be doing brisk business even before its shoot is over. The film has triggered huge expectations among fans and will feature Radhika Apte, Dhansikaa among others. In the film Rajinikanth plays an ageing gangster.
Meanwhile, fans of Rajinikanth held a grand function called Malarattum Manithaneyam (Let Humanity Bloom) for distributing welfare measures to the needy in Sholingur, Vellore to celebrate his birthday (December 12) and him completing 40 years in the industry. The function made political parties sit up and notice as it drew massive crowds. The Rajinikanth fan club donated sewing machines, iron boxes and tricycles to the poor and needy. It had all the trappings of a party conference.
Rajinikanth has always kept a low profile and has been tight-lipped about his political leanings. The fan club meeting was covered with banners, cut-outs and flex boards highlighting Rajini’s larger than life image. It was organised by Rajinikanth’s long-time friend Raj Bahadur. It's probably important to remember that it is election time in Tamil Nadu and all parties from the DMK to the BJP are wooing Rajinikanth.
At the function, veteran producer Kalaipuli S Dhanu (who gave Rajinikanth the moniker “Superstar” in the 1980s) disclosed that the USA rights for Kabali was sold for a record price.
Dhanu said, "I am producing Kabali and it has been sold in the USA territory for a record Rs 8.5 Cr. It shows the power of Rajinikanth at the overseas box-office and even today the new generation audiences are with him. Rajini sir is still the biggest force in Tamil cinema. Even if there is an Income Tax raid on account of this information being shared, I don't mind. But that is the truth."
Trade sources say that the failures of Rajinikanth’s previous films Kochadaiiyaan and Lingaa had hardly any impact on the superstar’s market. However, the India marketing of the film will start only after the first teaser of Kabali is released on Tamil New Year day (April 14).
Rajinikanth is still one of the biggest political forces in Tamil Nadu, though he has not openly been identified with any political party. But politicians across the spectrum always make it a point to pay obeisance to the superstar, especially in an election year. And as far as the box-office is concerned, he is still the emperor.