A hit, yes, but why does Rajni have such a hold?

CHETAN KRISHNASWAMY writes: Sets doused in garishness, music that is cacophonous, a meandering script, grating humour…

“Chittor thaandnaa Katpaadi – Sivaji Adchaa deadbaady.”

How’s that?

Or this:

Sixukku apparam sevenda/Sivajikku appuram evenda.

To put it mildly, Sivaji The Boss is an affront to basic human intelligence. Style King Razini’s (pronounced rah–zee-nee by my cousins in Madras) wardrobe, like the multiple wigs that he sports, is in constant disarray. The blonde one, a personal favorite, could give our friendly neighbourhood Caucasian a complex.

While the first half of the movie careens wildly and slips into an abyss of absurdity, Razini heaves it back on track with his trademark histrionics and screen presence. Unearthing black money, ingeniously routing it back to the country and deploying the money to help the under privilege, Sivaji, the Boss (Bachelor of Social Service), does it all with panache.

As an avid Razini fan one misses his cigarette showmanship. As gauche teenagers, my friends and I—like a million others —would practice these stunts in hideouts across the neighbourhood with varying degrees of success.

In these politically correct times, the cigarette has made way for the chewing gum. With great élan, and to the roar of the multiplex masses, Shivaji unfailingly intercepts his chewing gum’s trajectory, sometimes on the rebound from the villain’s shining pate, sometimes swatted with precision by his left palm.

Despite the overall mediocrity of the film, the media has attracted hysterical and uniformally consistent appreciation. TV channels went bananas, one after the other, relaying excerpts and doling out Razini-minutiae. Newspaper film-critics punched out stars by the dozen rating the film as a “must see”.

Interestingly, the otherwise reclusive superstar proffered some self-effacing sound-bytes to Headlines Today and NDTV, downplaying the national obsession. “It is only media hype,” he pronounced blandly.

A passing pang of envy: Many years ago, I had expended every trick in the reporter’s handbook to get an exclusive interview with the man and here he was merrily speaking into the cameras.

And now the columnists kick in, bringing intellectual vigour and sometimes trite theories:

One columnist, I read, speaks of M.S.S. Pandian, an academic, who:

“has discussed how Dravida Munettra Kazhagam (DMK) appropriated films as a means for political propaganda in Image Trap, a study of MGR’s (cult actor and former chief minister of Tamil Nadu M.G. Ramachandran) political and screen persona. These films, according to Pandian, indulged in direct political propaganda, in a blatant but articulate manner. They promoted the values of the Dravidian movement: atheism, Tamil nationalism that projected a non brahmin Tamil civilisation against an Aryan, read north Indian and Sanskrit, culture.

“The films referred to party symbols and colours in dialogues and songs, and in some cases, even used documentary footage of party functions. They showed the oppression of the poor and how the subaltern hero, played mostly by MGR, fought against it. The myth of MGR was thus created, and the DMK leadership promoted it enthusiastically. It is a different matter that they worked against the DMK when MGR walked away from the party to form his own outfit.

“Rajnikanth has built on this tradition of MGR, of an underclass hero taking on the rich and the powerful. However, to his credit, Rajini departed from the MGR tradition of mixing the personal and screen personas. His interventions in politics have been rare and restricted to announcing support for his preferred political front. The DMK-TMC front was a big beneficiary of his support in the 1996 Assembly elections.

“The Rajini phenomenon is proof that the MGR tradition in Tamil cinema can still work the audiences, particularly the rural and urban underclass. But there is an important difference between their films. MGR’s films, though they revolved around his carefully cultivated image, spoke of a party and an ideology as harbingers of change. He was only the face of a movement.

“On the other hand Rajni is a superman who acts on behalf of the masses. He has no party or ideology. He does not lead, or even represent, a political movement for change. He criticises the system, but does not offer a critique of the institutions that have created and sustained it. He is a reflection of his times.”

Food for thought.

And here is another columnist.

“Both in cruelty and kindness the world is a spoof. Rajnikanth retaliates by spoofing the world. The antics that he perfected over the years, the flipping of the cigarette into the mouth, the complicated reversal of the glares into position over the eyes, the menacing forefinger gesture to the accompaniment of cyclonic music, the Sharon Stone-ing of the legs, the rhyming dialogues ominous as anthems of ultimatum, all fall in place as deliberations in mockery. He knows that you know that he knows. Cinema as an exercise in confidence-sharing. Watching a Rajnikanth movie is an act of empowerment. It’s you and him on one side, and the elusive, ethically complex world on the other.’’

Or, check this one out:

“The racially distinct Tamil audience glimpsed in Rajnikant’s dark, raffish features a liberating defiance. Its qualities of challenge were equal to the opportunities that their grey reality with pockets of brilliant colours furnished.”

I have read and re-read the prose and still don’t understand what this celebrated columnist is trying to say.

Meanwhile, Bangalore Times has boxed the shapely heroine, Shreya Saran, on its front page. I disengage my eye from her shapely waist and take in the headline: “I don’t mind doing a Shivaji 2,”’ she purrs.

This time, it’s a stab of anxiety.

44 Responses to “A hit, yes, but why does Rajni have such a hold?”

  1. 'Dalapati' Satyanarayana Says:

    I’d like to meet your chennai cousins who call him rah-zee-nee in the bylanes of Vadapalani, right opposite AVM Studio after midnight. Or is Chennai in Wisconsin?

  2. Gokulam 3rd Stage Says:

    “Chittor thaandnaa Katpaadi – Sivaji Adchaa deadbaady.”

    “Sixukku apparam sevenda/Sivajikku appuram evenda.“

    If I was supposed to understand that while the author makes a point, it didn’t work. Kinda difficult to say, but a Kannadiga does not automatically know Tamil. Know what I mean?

  3. Dheerendragopal Says:

    Chetan..Anuvaada maadi swamy. Yaake yella kannadigarigu default artha aguthe andhkotheera ???

  4. kapithale Says:

    ‘Chittor thaandnaa Katpaadi – Sivaji Adchaa deadbaady’ ANDARE
    ‘Chittor thaandnaa Katpaadi (idu ondu arthavillada peetike – ondarthadalli chittor (Andhra) dinda katpadi (Taminadu) varege andukollabahudu) – Sivaji HODEDARE deadbaady’

    “Sixukku apparam sevenda/Sivajikku appuram evenda.“ ANDARE

    Idannu naavu ‘Swakutcha mardana’ ennuttheve. Idakke artha kelabedi swamy-:)

  5. kapithale Says:

    ‘The racially distinct Tamil audience’
    It clearly says tamils can not raise their own heroes/Ammas. Thiru Kaligner (Telugu I presume), Amma (Karnataka), Purutchi talaivar (Keralite I presume) and now Razeeni(Maharastrian). Kudos brothers for your love for neighbours!!!

  6. Dheerendragopal Says:

    SpecimengaLu swaamy
    Magarastra..magesh..yamaga etc etc

    in one of the forums someone wrote about
    what would happen during finger printing by immigration officials if one has put ‘MEGANDHI’ on hand .

    None in forum understood what this guy was asking…until someone like me pointed that the guy only meant ‘MEHANDHI’.

  7. Faldo Says:

    Kapithale -nimma anuvaada dialaagiginta chennagide.

    Aadare idaralli barediruva Chittor annodu Rajasthan dallide swamy. Avaru heluthiruvudu Chittur allavalla?

    DG – avaralli swalpave aksharagalu upoyogisuvudarinda kelavu aksharagalu bere bere reethiyalli pronounce maadthare.

  8. Kannadada kudi Says:

    Thanks Chetan for your effort in writing this piece, but honestly I do not care much about the pronunciations or dialogues or hysteria in tamil cinema. It is just not the right forum to be posting this write up – especially when majority of the readers can hardly make sense of the first few lines of your article.
    Chetan says “Despite the overall mediocrity of the film, the media has attracted hysterical and uniformally consistent appreciation.”
    Well, why does a mediocre tamil film deserve a write up on Churmuri? It is not like it is a milestone in cinema making and has hence become worthy of a mention here.
    yaava kannada chalana chitra hora bandaroo, pratiyondu sanna “lopagalannu” yetthi hidiyuva dina patrikegalu ondu kaLape tamil chalana chitra vannu istu hogali merasuttiruvudu hosa denu?

  9. sisya Says:

    if shivaji is an affront to human intelligence why the f%$^ do you have to write about it?! first KP ‘threatens’ people who write in kannada to write in english and then you heap this unintelligible gibberish in an alien language on us and expect us to understand?

    and in any case, stop BSing about some imagined stardom, superstardom etc., of these two bit actors(rajanikantha, m g rama chandra etc). Thriller Manju must be ruing the day he decided to stay back in Sandalwood. Had he tried his hand at ‘kollywood'(sic), there was every chance that his buffoonery might passed unquestioned for ‘style’. And churumuri would have got to write about ‘thriller manju in a blond wig’. huh.

  10. Dheerendragopal Says:

    There is a BLOG in CNN IBN which aptly says ..

    Shivaji….The BOSS of ‘CRAP’.

  11. Doddi Buddi Says:

    …and Tamil is a classical language:)

  12. Abhi 2.0 Says:

    The CNN-IBN blog is here: “Sibaji: The BOSS of Crap!”


  13. dr ramesh Says:

    karnataka audience have shown SIVAJI its rightful place. after just four days there were no housefull shows, tickets were freely available . 60% occupancy. MM,DUNIYA,HUDUGAATA,SANTHA are doing xtremely well.

  14. gaby Says:

    If its true its good news- but is is true that Shivaji has flopped in Bangalore??

  15. Curious Says:

    I’m not a kannadiga nor tamil, but I’m amazed with the frequency and most disturbed with the intensity of the anti TN spleen venting in this site. Can I request the editors of this blog (which I presume has a liberal and cosmopolitan character, given the range of issues it critiques, despite being edited by people who love all things Mysore), to perhaps write a piece for outsiders like me who like to come here often, on why there is so much antipathy towards your neighbours. This comment in particular by Dheerendragopal: “SpecimengaLu swaamy
    Magarastra..magesh..yamaga etc etc
    in one of the forums someone wrote about
    what would happen during finger printing by immigration officials if one has put ‘MEGANDHI’ on hand .
    None in forum understood what this guy was asking…until someone like me pointed that the guy only meant ‘MEHANDHI’ ” is utterly repulsive.

  16. Rajeev Says:

    It is the case of the EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES. For some strange reason, people are hesitating to call trash trash. Given that most media consumption today is build on hype, traditional media (popular news channels, newspapers, portals, etc) cannot provide an unbiased opinion.

    Mr. Chetan and KP – can you write about the wave of good and/or successful Kannada cinemas of the recent past and publish it in the traditional media pls.

    Recently came back watching 73, ShantiNiwasa. An excellent movie. Though a remake (cant remember Bawarchi and howmuch of a frame-to-frame remake it is), it is essentially good cinema – story, screenplay, performance, direction, everything. Kudos to Sudeep and May him soon make an original movie.

  17. koppal haida Says:

    Im actually amazed by the coverage local media gave to his bullcrap movie. I remember vijaya karnataka giving front page news abt rajani for 7 days continuously. Neither did any other newspapres fall behind.
    I bought 2 week old sudha( im abroad, so i get a old one, dont read online:) and Im amazed to find that the flm section of it has 2 pages decicated to the shivaji balderdash and 1 page about a heroine acting with mammotty and 1 page bollwood news. not a mention of kannada cinema.

    Can we find even the mention of a kannada movie in any other language print media? Are our reporters sold out? Disgusting and disgraceful. thoooo

  18. Dheerendragopal Says:

    Curious..dont even come to this out of curiosity if you feel it is repulsive .
    Thanks for coming for last time .

  19. Dheerendragopal Says:

    I dont have anything against Rajani. Infact he is a free flowing actor in some of the kannada movies which he did with dwaarkeesh and vishnu .
    But I am always appalled by the mediocrity of Tamil and Telugu Movies
    all the Jing Jang and hitting the goons black and blue with a Towel..
    Cmon Katpaadis ..gimme a break .
    if there is some bad kannada cinemas coming these days it is because of all those reddy’s started producing movies for masses .

    Otherwise we do have Hudugaata , Chellata and in between Rajni’s Peeklata .

  20. kapithale Says:

    Irabaudu, Irabaudu. Niv helidragu mathi eithe. Idu Chittur alla Chittor anthira? Hangandre Rana Prathapanu irabeku allavra? Thanks for the pointer.

    Our Telegu brothers have a saying “Telugu teni, Kannada kasthuri, Alugu advanam”. have you observed readers here are not commenting rhetorically on telugu or hindi movies?

  21. tarlesubba Says:

    great movie great hava maaDidre en maha?
    ordinary movie. great hava maaDidre that shows levellu, capacity. andre eshT beLedd ninte yoor psyops anta.

    alla MM 200 days oDtu. churumuri li tuTikk piTikk illa ond chuTki uppilla.
    rajini movie release aagi mooru mattond dina agilla paper mele paper sutti sutti baDasthiyaare churumuri.

    adu maaye andre.

  22. gaby Says:

    Jana marulo jaatre marulo antaralla haage- Hitler maathnaullu eno modi ithanthe- ahanne great capacity andhbitre- umm angu antheera neevugulu?

  23. makaranda Says:

    anna unDa manege kanna haakora Hatchet Job noDi :

    ToI pretends to reprint a Blog entry which bad mouths kannada cinema.
    But behold, the blog in question does not even exist.

    Clearly, a hatchet job by a Tamilian !!

  24. Doddi Buddi Says:


    This is an open forum. Don’t try to put your political correctness slant on this. Thanks.

  25. Mysore Huduga Says:


    I 100% agree with you. DB’s comment was in bad taste. We should all be ashamed of this type of cultural arrogance, whether Tamil or Kannada. Bharat Matha ki jai.

  26. dr ramesh Says:

    last 4-5 years has seen resurgence of kannada cinema, kannada movies have shown that it can gross 30 crores or more( aapthamitra, jogi ,aakash, MM).
    in bengaluru ,theatres which were branded as non-kannada are screening kannada movies(nataraj,lavanya,vaibhav etc), there is a new craze for kannada cinema in border districts like bellary,raichur ,kolar .
    scrap tamil movies r no threat to kannada movies. kannada movies are shining—– clear victory for kannada pro activism.

  27. Mysore Huduga Says:

    Dr ramesh

    Is that why Kannada movies need the crutch of subsidy?

    Admit it sir, our movies are simply of poor quality — in cinematography, direction, performances, scripting, etc. No use blaming the Tamilians or others. The problem lies within! In the free marketplace, the better movies — even if simply better hyped — win!

  28. gaby Says:


    Shivaji kettta cinemage udaharane annodaralli samshaya illa. Any plea that it is good cinema makes for very bad debate.But to argue that movies like MM or Akaash or Jogi are qualitatively superior is foolishness of the other extreme.

    While one is very happy for Ganesh that MM is a commercial sucess the very lack of a storyline makes it mediocre cinema. Aptamitra was a lukewarm remake of a Malayalam movie. Lets not even talk of the crass cinema that comes from the stables of Ravichandran and Parvatamma RK.
    Daktaranna the fact is like the rest of everything else in India right now we seem to be moderately high on superficial style but remarkably low on substance- Kannada Cinema is a reflection of that. The sad thing is nobody seems to want Kasaravalli- but then that has been the case in a long time!!

    Kannada cinema needs the ilk of Puttanna Kanagal and GV Iyer at the momnet and not the remake rajas we have.

    BTW it looks like Spiderman 3 will be one of the biggest hits of 2007 in India if not the biggest- any hypotheses why? Bad soryline, silly stunts but still??!!

  29. tarlesubba Says:

    gaby again this has nothing to do with the quality of movies. movies is all about chamak. you mentioned aptamitra, the same movie was remade in tamil by the same director and ran to more hype than the orginal or the intermediate retake.

    but tamil movie world is definetly more evolved than ours in terms of being an industry and there is no denying that.

    an interesting question would be how much of the movie’s success is sheer star power? say if shivaji were originally a kannada movie with rajnikanth in the lead, all things remaining equal would there still be so much hype …

  30. tarlesubba Says:

    sari alla. ellar bhashe lu kelo vyatyasa irutte. nammalli iro danna naav aagle charche maaDkonDidivi.

  31. Manik Basha Says:

    I have not yet watched Sivaji, but can imagine how a Rajani-starrer could be. They will have enough masala and a message. The secret of Rajani’s success is his humility and charity. period. Acting talent-wise, Kamal Hassan is far ahead. His Pushpak, Apporva Sahodarargal and Avvai Shanmugi are just a few examples. Kamal’s movies are watched just for the sake of entertainment. Not looking for any message. They often spur intellectual debate too. And nothing beyond that. That’s because, Kamal is a hero of the classes and Rajani of the masses.

  32. Doddi Buddi Says:

    Ree Mysore Boy!

    That was my opinion. If you are the arbiter of taste, then I shudder to think what might serve as culture. There is open resentment against the tactics of DMK types who are closely identified as the devious Tamil power grabbers everywhere. Some like you go around pretending and preening it is not happening–just like the mercy petitioners in Afzal’s case. I wonder if Curious is really what he professes to be: it is very rare in this world someone who is neither a Kannadiga or a Tamil, can understand the issues at hand. I could second guess Curious’ agenda and suddenly Mysore Boy springs up from no where starts strumming his secular guitar…Nice.

  33. Dheerendragopal Says:

    TS , Sardarji bagge yestondhu Jokes maadtheevi ..Tamil avara bagge yaake Jokes maad baardhu ?? heeli …oops heeLi neevu

  34. Doddi Buddi Says:

    Nice one DG and I agree–Tamils are the Sardars of South India!

  35. tarlesubba Says:

    sardarji mele yaak joke maaDthiri?
    nimma joke nangen tiLililla…

  36. dr ramesh Says:

    any person who can claim that sivaji type nonsense tamil movies are superior to aaptamitra,amrutadhaare,aakash,MM,duniya etc has no idea what quality movie is all about.
    gaby ,mysore huduga may be enjoying rajinikanth,vijaykanth , satyaraj thrtashing 150 persons at a time and their hot looks — all the best.

  37. Doddi Buddi Says:


    Tamils are genuinely unfunny race:) If they had a sense of humour they would not have asked ‘classical’ status for their language:)

  38. Sangeetha Says:

    “…… could give our friendly neighbourhood Caucasian a complex.”
    Funny :) Thats the only thing which is stopping me from watching this film..

  39. Ranga Says:

    Like the ranting of late EVR Naicker ( who it was said that never took a single bath in his life), Rajnikanth is rumoured to be a kannadiga whose ancestors settled in Tamil Nadu. His rant and histrionics were the reasons for the success of his films, which were singularly trashes. His opportunism is well known though not surprising.

  40. Sir Vibhudi Aatmapudi Says:

    Dheerandragopal speaks the truth. If some here cannot digest it, too bad for them. Not only is Mehandi, Megandhi, but Mohan is Mogan. This blatant tamilization of another language, let alone kannada is going sadly unchecked. Pussy whipped folks like Curious and Mysore Boy can wear bangles and sit at home watching Kamban Ramaayana enacted by Rajinikanth wearing white suit and the whitest shoes since Jeetendra’s days!

  41. mayura Says:

    I agree with sir VB. If I do not know how to speak a langauge properly better not speak it. I have even heard, some tamils saying that kannada langauge was a rip off from tamil by replacing pa with ha, ga with ka and so on….it is really funny. As the late Beechi used to write.

    Papy Badminia Partha Natya rezital


  42. Tarlemaga Says:

    “RACIALLY DISTINCT TAMIL” Joke of the Year 2008.

    We did not expect a DNA of the Tamil gene in the article. Slaugtering the Lankans,Malaysians is the least which we can expect out of them.

    In the name of freedom, the Tamils have ransacked and the factions amongst them are numerous.

    PMK,DMK,AIADMK,LTTE,TELO,PLOTE and each one has it’s leader’s agenda which is personality driven. The masses are by an large ignorant about the basics in life.

  43. abinash Says:


  44. twistleton Says:

    @Curious – the lone sane voice in the this entire page.

    @Doddi Buddi – grow up

    But the Kannada-Tamil rivalry is not one of its kind. Language prejudices are common throughout the country. And language is next to religion when it comes to political trump cards. .

    Rajni movies are mass entertainers. They are not meant to be for an intellectually discerning audience. Every film industry has its share of brainless cinema. And Rajni, as one of the articles very rightly pointed out, is the epitome of strenght and a symbol for the Tamil masses. Probably you and I cannot understand the yearning for the grandiose of and sweep-all-in-his-way kind of power, of the working masses, who piece together a decent life by daily struggle. For them Rajni is the ultimate ticket to the big life, even if only to fantasize about. And his rise to superstardom from modest beginnings only re-instills their faith in miracles.

    Rajni movies may be crap, but Rajni himself is a beacon of hope. That is why he is worshipped pretty much like any other southern superstar.

    As for Tamil itself, it is a very rich and old language. The Dravidian Movement was the reaction to the Hindi-belt/upper-caste hegemony. Without the Dravidian Movement, not only Tamil, but none of the South Indian languages would have retained their status.

    But as far as Tamil humour goes, then it is one of the best in terms of quality and punch. Many Tamil movies are often saved by witty and intelligent comedy. Tamil lends itself to puns and double entendre similar to classic English comedy.

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