As Rajinikanth plays a brother in Annaatthe, a recap of how the 'brotherly image' has boosted his box office standing
Started his career as an antagonist, the sister sentiment gave a positive image to Rajinikanth
The rule of thumb to become a superstar in Tamil cinema is people should start accepting the actor as one among them. Tamil cinema’s most revered superstar MG Ramachandran always portrayed himself as the savior of people from working-class communities, heroically saving his family, especially mother, sister, and of course, his better half in his films.
This evergreen formula has been used by a lot of heroes after MG Ramchandran but it suited well for Rajinikanth who made sure to keep one of the above-said elements in his films, particularly sister and brother sentiment scenes. Following Rajinikanth, his potential successors Ajith and Vijay also follow the same formula now to climb up the success ladder.
Started his career as an antagonist, the sister sentiment gave a positive image to Rajinikanth. Before Mahendran’s Mullum Malarum (1978), Rajinikanth was considered as a notorious villain. But this particular film gave him a new colour. Though the actor played an egoistic youngster, his unconditional love and possessiveness towards his sister in Mullum Malarum became a huge talking point, making it a critical and commercial success. Even now, Rajinikanth rates Mullum Malarum as one of his best works.
Being an upcoming actor in the late 70s, Rajinikanth did a wide range of characters, mostly as a second fiddle in Balachander’s films. But another film which changed his image was Aarilirunthu Arubathu Varai (1979), in which Rajinikanth sacrifices everything for his brothers, but they kick him down after reaching great heights. The film went on to become a Tamil cult-classic.
Though Rajinikanth has done nearly 168 films in his career, both Mullum Malarum and Aarilirunthu Arubathu Varai are considered as his two most memorable performances. While Mullum Malarum and Aarilirunthu Arubathu Varai are in the realistic cinema zone, Rajinikanth used the sibling sentiment flavour in a lot of commercial films in the 80s, and it worked well for him at the box office.
In Paayum Puli (1983), Rajinikanth played an insipid youngster who learns martial arts to take revenge against the murderers of his sister. The film had a dream run at the ticket window.
In the 1985 Tamil film Naan Sigappu Manithan, Rajinikanth played a vigilante who initially starts the movement to punish the predator who raped and killed his sister but later becomes a Robin Hood to clean the society.
In his 1985 blockbuster film Padikkathavan, Rajinikanth played a taxi driver who strives hard to educate his younger brother but the latter develops a friendship with wrongdoers. Sivaji Ganesan played Rajinikanth’s long lost elder brother in the film. Padikkathavan was a massive blockbuster at the box office. The bonding among the three brothers worked like a charm and boosted the star value of Rajinikanth.
Later in Dharmathin Thalaivan, the brotherly bond between Rajinikanth and Prabhu was well-received upon the release. Rajinikanth also made sure to keep the sister sentiment angle though he plays an orphan. For example, in Pannakaran, he doesn’t know his parents, but when his stepbrother (Saran Raj) rapes an innocent girl whom Rajinikanth considers a sister, a conflict arises.
Even in some of his massive blockbusters like Annamalai, Padaiyappa, and Baashha, Rajinikanth played a caring brother, although the sibling angle doesn’t come as the ultimate goal of the film. As Rajinikanth became older, he stopped playing brother and compensated the sentiment angle by playing the doting dad in films like Kabali, Kaala, and the recent Darbar.
Now decades later, he will be seen playing a caring brother again in his upcoming film Annaatthe directed by Siva of Viswasam and Veeram fame. Annaatthe is the colloquial term for brother in Tamil and the head of a group is also often addressed with the same term.
In the film, Rajinikanth plays a devoted brother to his late-born sister, played by Keerthy Suresh. As the title suggests, the film is a family entertainer predominantly based on the relationship between Rajinikanth and Keerthy, who even opted out of Mani Ratnam’s Ponniyin Selvan considering the importance of her character in the film. The late-born sister angle is said to something new in the film and that's why even Rajinikanth was quite kicked after the narration.
The trade is also quite excited for Annaatthe as Rajinikanth gets back into the family entertainer genre, which is doing wonders at the box office in the current phase of Tamil cinema. Last year, both Ajith’s Viswasam and Sivakarthikeyan's Namma Veettu Pillai reaped gold at the box office so trade pundits predict that Annaatthe will be a sure shot winner.
Produced by Sun Pictures, Annaatthe also boasts an ensemble of actors including Nayanthara, Khushbu, Meena, Prakash Raj, Sathish, and Soori. Another hot buzz is that Rajinikanth will be seen playing a dual role in the film both as father and son but the team is tightlipped about the storyline.
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