‘Petta’ Release: How Can One Not Be a Rajinikanth Fan?
Rajinikanth’s ‘Petta’, directed by Karthik Subbaraj released on 10 January 2019. Image used for representational purposes.
Rajinikanth’s ‘Petta’, directed by Karthik Subbaraj released on 10 January 2019. Image used for representational purposes.(Photo Courtesy: YouTube / SunTV))

‘Petta’ Release: How Can One Not Be a Rajinikanth Fan?

There is nothing I can do about it. The excitement is uncontrollable, the goosebumps arrive without warning, and the urge to scream out loud threatens to destroy controls of age, maturity and civil behavior in a theater.

How can anyone not understand this as the most natural feeling? How can anyone not be a Rajinikanth fan? It’s impossible for me to explain why I feel this way and why some others do not. But then what Rajinikanth does on screen and to his fans is impossible to explain. It’s experiential, and like most things experiential, it defies logic.

The thrill is like an addiction. It has only gotten more powerful over the years.

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Of Goosebumps & Adrenaline Rushes

A Rajini film, especially those from the 90s, like Thalapathi, Annamali, Arunachalam, Baasha and Padayappa, sends the adrenaline rushing. The body and mind respond like it does to no other star, not even those who are deemed as being more talented. It’s perhaps conditioning, but then who cares.

The 80s were great, with hits like Guru Sishyan, Mr Bharath or Padikkathavan, but Rajinikanth in the 90s created a bigger buzz. Then the unthinkable happened – a Rajini flop hit us.

When he appeared as ‘Baba’, in 2002, after a gap of four years from his previous release Padayappa (1998), I must confess that I thought the Rajini fan phase of my life was over. Maybe it was time to grow up. Observers wondered if the Rajini phase in Tamil cinema was coming to a close.

Younger stars, like Vijay and Ajith, had emerged on the scene and enjoyed a huge following. There was a sense that the number one star spot in Tamil cinema would change hands. That’s when the superstar came back with ‘Chandramukhi’ in 2005, remake of Malayalam original and Mohanlal starrer Manichithrathazhu (1993).

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Nothing Can Kill Rajini Mania

Rajinikanth as Vettayan, the evil king in Chandramukhi, set the box office ablaze, and continues to keep me riveted with a meaningless “Lakalakalakalakalaka” (If you don’t follow this, ask any Rajini fan to explain). This is when I surrendered to the fact that nothing can make the Rajini phenomenon fade away. And, what he can evoke in a fan will remain like an active volcano, threatening to erupt with another act. It doesn’t erupt with all his acts, but it is quietly waiting for the right act.

The lesson learned was that a flop, or for that matter, even a string of flops, can’t snuff out the Rajinikanth phenomenon. It just keeps it in a recess, and he can bring it out of the abyss of the mind with the right act.

Much like the famous moment when Padayappa says “Koodave Poranthathu, Enraikum pogathu” (It was born with me and will never go away).

But did he not age and did we not age and grow out of such fads? No. He doesn’t on screen and we don’t, when we see him on screen. In me, it remains active despite growing older, the many non-Tamilian friends who mock at it, fatherhood and even a self-image of being too mature for this.

Also Read : Dhanush, Karthik Subbaraj React to Rajini Fans’ ‘Petta’ Repsonse

The Thrill Is (Not) Gone

The thrill came back when he emerged as “Mottai Boss” (Bald boss) in the climax of Sivaji (2007) or when the evil Robo says “meeeehhhh …black sheep” in Enthiran (2010).

We may hate a film, but we’re sure to like the Rajinikanth in it. Kaabali (2016) kept it alive, but Kaala (2018) did not evoke the same thrill, only because it did not have enough Rajini-isms in it. In Enthiran and 2.0 (2018), ‘Kutty’, Chitti and 2.0, were memorable characters, but it was ultimately director Shankar who was the star.

Today, with Petta, the superstar is back on screen just the way his fans wanted it; the way in which only he can trigger that volcano inside us fans. It feels like the Rajini of the 90s has returned to the screen.

There are no political overtones about the film, and it’s just between the superstar and his fan.

The plot and the music are brilliant, but the superstar is better. He’s back, but in the last one year, with three films, it seems like he never left. And, this is perhaps why he should remain a star and not sully the Rajinikanth intensity in the fan with real life politics.

Also Read : Petta Release: ‘Best of Thalaiva Yet’, Fans Tweet First Reactions

(The writer is an independent journalist. He can be reached at @TMVRaghav . This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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