Rajinikanth (born Shivaji Rao Gaekwad; 12 December 1950) is an Indian actor, producer and screenwriter who works primarily in Tamil cinema. He has won many awards, including four Tamil Nadu State Film Best Actor Awards and a Filmfare Best Tamil Actor Award. The Government of India has honoured him with the Padma Bhushan (2000) and the Padma Vibhushan (2016). He received the Chevalier Sivaji Ganesan Award for Excellence in Indian Cinema at the 4th Vijay Awards. At the 45th International Film Festival of India (2014), he was conferred with the "Centenary Award for Indian Film Personality of the Year". At the 50th edition of the International Film Festival of India (2019), he was honoured with the Icon of Global Jubilee award. He is the second-highest grossing actor in Tamil cinema history, behind M. G. Ramachandran. At the 67th National Film Awards, he was awarded India's highest award in the field of cinema, Dadasaheb Phalke Award.
Following his debut in K. Balachander's 1975 Tamil drama Apoorva Raagangal, Rajinikanth's acting career commenced with a brief phase of portraying antagonistic characters in Tamil films. The Suresh Krissna-directed Baashha (1995) in which Rajinikanth played a crime boss, was a major commercial success in his career and earned him a 'god-like' status in Tamil Nadu. Sivaji (2007) was the third Indian film to enter the 100 Crore Club. He played dual roles, as a scientist and an andro-humanoid robot, in the science fiction film Enthiran (2010) and its sequel 2.0 (2018), both being India's most expensive production at the time of their release, and among the one of highest-grossing Indian films of all time.Rajinikanth is widely regarded as one of the most popular actors in the history of Indian cinema. His popularity has been attributed to his uniquely styled dialogues and idiosyncrasies in films, as well as his political statements and philanthropy. A philanthropist, he undertook a day-long fast in 2002 to protest the Government of Karnataka's decision to not release Kaveri River water into Tamil Nadu, and donated ₹10 million (US$130,000) toward a plan to interlink Indian rivers. Rajinikanth is the only Indian actor to be featured in the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) syllabus, in a lesson titled From Bus Conductor to Superstar. In 2015, a film about his fandom, For the Love of a Man, premiered at the 71st Venice International Film Festival.
Rajinikanth was born as Shivaji Rao Gaekwad on 12 December 1950 in a Marathi family in Bangalore, Mysore State (present day Karnataka). He was named after the Maratha Empire king Shivaji, and was brought up speaking Marathi at home and Kannada outside. His mother was a housewife, and his father Ramoji Rao Gaekwad was a police constable. His ancestors hailed from Mavadi Kadepathar, Pune, Maharashtra. He is the youngest of four siblings in a family consisting of two elder brothers (Satyanarayana Rao and Nageshwara Rao) and a sister (Aswath Balubhai). After his father's retirement from work in 1956, the family moved to the suburb of Hanumantha Nagar in Bangalore and built a house there. He lost his mother at the age of nine.Rajinikanth had his primary education at the Gavipuram Government Kannada Model Primary School in Bangalore. As a child, he was "studious and mischievous" with a great interest in cricket, football and basketball. During this time, his brother enrolled him at the Ramakrishna Math, a Hindu monastery set up by the Ramakrishna Mission. In the math, he was taught Vedas, tradition and history, which eventually instilled a sense of spirituality in him. In addition to spiritual lessons, he also began acting in plays at the math. His aspiration towards theatre grew at the math and was once given an opportunity to enact the role of Ekalavya's friend from the Hindu epic Mahabharata. His performance in the play received praise from the Kannada poet D. R. Bendre. After sixth grade, Rajinikanth was enrolled at the Acharya Pathasala Public School and studied there till completion of his pre-university course. During his schooling at the Acharya Pathasala, he spent a lot of time acting in plays.
Upon completion of his school education, Rajinikanth performed several jobs including that of a coolie, before getting a job in the Bangalore Transport Service (BTS) as a bus conductor. He continued to take part in plays after the Kannada playwright Topi Muniappa offered him a chance to act in one of his mythological plays. He decided to take up an acting course in the newly formed Madras Film Institute after coming across an advertisement. Though his family was not fully supportive of his decision to join the institute, his friend and co-worker Raj Bahadur motivated him to join the institute and financially supported him during this phase. During his stay at the institute, he was noticed by the Tamil film director K. Balachander. The director advised him to learn to speak Tamil, a recommendation that Rajinikanth quickly followed. Though he can read the language, he cannot write in it.
1975–1977: Early career
"Rajinikanth claims that I am his school. But I must admit that this wasn't the Rajinikanth I introduced. He has evolved on his own merits and strengths. I gave him an opportunity and unveiled him to the world. He went and conquered it."
—K. Balachander about Rajinikanth
Rajinikanth began his film career with the Tamil film Apoorva Raagangal (1975), directed by K. Balachander. He was cast in a small role as the ex-husband of the female lead played by Srividya. The film explored relationships between people with wide age differences and was deemed controversial upon release. However, it received critical acclaim and won three National Film Awards including the Award for the Best Tamil Feature at the 23rd National Film Awards in 1976. A review from The Hindu noted that: "Newcomer Rajinikanth is dignified and impressive". His next release was Puttanna Kanagal's Kannada anthology film Katha Sangama (1976). Rajinikanth appeared in the last segment of the film; he played the role as a village ruffian who rapes a blind woman in the absence of her husband. Balachander cast him in a pivotal role in Anthuleni Katha, the Telugu remake of his own Tamil film Aval Oru Thodar Kathai (1974). In Moondru Mudichu—the first Tamil film to feature him in a prominent role—he played a character that "blithely row away" when his friend drowns accidentally in the lake only to fulfill his desire to marry the former's girlfriend. His style of flipping the cigarette in the film made him popular among the audience. In his final release of the year, Baalu Jenu, he was cast as the main antagonist which troubles the female lead. He played similar roles in Balachander's Avargal (1977), and Bharathiraja's 16 Vayadhinile (1977). The same year, he made his first-ever appearance as a lead actor in the Telugu film Chilakamma Cheppindi. S. P. Muthuraman experimented Rajinikanth in a positive role in Bhuvana Oru Kelvi Kuri (1977). The success of the film brought the duo together for 24 more films till the 1990s. Rajinikanth played supporting and "villainous" roles in most of the films released during the year. In Gaayathri he was cast as a pornographer who secretly films his relationship with his wife without her knowledge and in Galate Samsara he played the role of a married man who develops an affair with a cabaret dancer. He had 15 of his films released during the year.
1978–1989: Experimentation and breakthrough
In 1978, Rajinikanth had 20 releases across Tamil, Telugu and Kannada. His first film of the year was P. Madhavan's Shankar Salim Simon, in which he was among the three leads. Following that, he co-starred alongside Vishnuvardhan in the Kannada film Kiladi Kittu. He played the second lead in Annadammula Savaal, which starred Krishna; Rajinikanth reprised his role from the Kannada original. He then played an important role in the supernatural thriller Aayiram Jenmangal. In Maathu Tappada Maga, he was the main antagonist. Bairavi, directed by M.Bhaskar, was the first Tamil film to cast Rajinikanth as a solo hero. It was for this film that he earned the sobriquet "Superstar". S. Thanu, one of the film's distributors, set up a 35 feet (11 m) high cut-out of Rajinikanth. His next appearance Ilamai Oonjal Aadukirathu, a quadrangular love story written and directed by C. V. Sridhar, saw him play the role of a man who sacrifices his love for his friend, played by Kamal Haasan. The film's success prompted Sridhar to remake the film in Telugu, Vayasu Pilichindi, which retained the original cast of the Tamil film.His next film, Vanakkatukuriya Kathaliye, had an introductory song to mark his entry, a trend that would soon catch on in with his later films. Mullum Malarum, released during the same period, received critical acclaim. The film marked the directional debut of Mahendran, with a screenplay adapted from a novel of the same name published in Kalki. It won that year's Filmfare Award for Best Tamil Film and a Special Prize (Best Actor) for Rajinikanth at the Tamil Nadu State Film Awards. Following this, he made a foray into Malayalam cinema with I. V. Sasi's fantasy film Allauddinum Albhutha Vilakkum, which was based on a story from the Arabian Nights. The same year, he acted in Dharma Yuddam, in which he played a mentally ill person avenging the death of his parents. He then co-starred with N. T. Rama Rao in Tiger. Upon completion of Tiger, Rajinikanth had acted in 50 films over a period of four years, and in four languages. Some other popular films released during this period are the youthful entertainer Ninaithale Inikkum, the Tamil–Kannada bilingual Priya, the Telugu film Amma Evarikkaina Amma and the melodrama Aarilirunthu Arubathu Varai. Priya, based on a detective novel by Sujatha, had the distinction of being the first film of Rajinikanth to be shot mostly outside India, mainly in Southeast Asia.Raijinikanth, who credited Hindi film star Amitabh Bachchan as his inspiration, began playing Amitabh Bachchan's roles in Tamil remakes of his films. This began with Shankar Salim Simon (1978), a remake of Amar Akbar Anthony (1977), followed by Naan Vazhavaippen (1979), a remake of Majboor (1974). He was subsequently cast in a series of roles modelled after Amitabh Bachchan in Tamil remakes of his films. Rajinikanth starred in eleven Tamil remakes of Amitabh Bachchan films, as well as a Telugu remake of Amar Akbar Anthony, Ram Robert Rahim (1980), alongside Sridevi. The most successful of these were remakes of Salim–Javed films,
such as Billa (1980), Thee (1981) and Mr. Bharath (1986).During this phase of his career, Rajinikanth abruptly chose to quit acting, but was coaxed to return with the Tamil film Billa (1980), a remake of the Bollywood blockbuster Don (1978), written by Salim-Javed and starring Amitabh Bachchan. Billa had Rajinikanth playing dual roles and eventually became his first ever commercial success. His pairing with Sridevi continued in Johnny, where he was once again cast in a double role. He also starred in Murattu Kaalai which was a commercial success. The success of Billa was a turning point in Rajinikanth's career, disproving detractors that claimed Rajnikanth was "finished" and which saw him accepted as a full-fledged hero. The success of Billa established Rajinikanth as the top star of South Indian cinema, overtaking Kamal Haasan.In 1981, he appeared in Garjanai which was shot simultaneously in Kannada and Malayalam, making it his last film in those two languages to date.[when?] In K. Balachander's first home production, Netrikan, he played dual roles as a womanising father and a responsible son. His first full-length comedy was Thillu Mullu, directed by K. Balachander. He agreed to it solely due to the strong suggestion by his mentor that he should do non-commercial roles, to break the stereotyped action-hero mould by which he was getting famous at the time. 1981 also saw the release of Thee, a remake of the 1975 Bollywood blockbuster Deewaar, also originally written by Salim-Javed and starring Amitabh Bachchan; in Thee, Rajinikanth reprised the role of Bachchan in the original. In 1982, he starred in Pokkiri Raja, Moondru Mugam, Thanikattu Raja, Puthukavithai and Enkeyo Ketta Kural. Moondru Mugam had Rajinikanth playing three roles for the first time.By 1983, he was a popular actor across South Indian cinema, including Telugu and Kannada films. In 1983, he starred in his first Bollywood film, Andha Kanoon, alongside Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini. The film went on to become one of the highest-grossing films of that time. His 1984 film Naan Mahaan Alla, was directed by Muturaman and produced by K. Balachander. He acted in his first cameo role in the film Anbulla Rajinikanth. He played a triple role in John Jani Janardhan. His performance in Nallavanuku Nallavan earned him a Filmfare Best Tamil Actor Award. In his 100th film Sri Raghavendra (1985), he played the Hindu saint Raghavendra Swami. His greatest success in Hindi films was his 101st film Bewafai. Released in 1985 with Rajesh Khanna as the lead hero and Rajinikanth as villain, it became a success and grossed Rs 11.95 crore at the box office that year.In the second half of the 1980s, Rajinikanth acted in commercially successful films such as Naan Sigappu Manithan (1985), Padikkathavan (1985), Mr. Bharath (1986), Velaikaran (1987), Guru Sishyan (1988) and Dharmathin Thalaivan (1988). In 1988, he made his only American film appearance in Bloodstone, directed by Dwight Little, in which he played an English-speaking Indian taxi driver. Rajinikanth finished the decade with films including Rajadhi Raja, Siva, Raja Chinna Roja and Mappillai while also starring in a few Bollywood productions. Raja Chinna Roja was the first Indian film to feature live action and animation.
1990–2001: Commercial stardom
By the 1990s, Rajinikanth established himself as a commercial entertainer. Almost all the films released during this period were highly successful at the box office.
He began the decade with a blockbuster in Panakkaran (1990), which was a remake of Amitabh Bachchan's 1981 film Laawaris. His next two Tamil films, the fantasy comedy Athisaya Piravi, (a remake of Chiranjeevi's 1988 film Yamudiki Mogudu) which also released in 1990 and the family drama Dharmadorai (1991), did above-average business at the box office. His stint with Bollywood continued since the past decade as he went on to star in more Hindi films. Hum released in 1991 saw him doing the second main lead with Amitabh Bachchan became an inspiration for Badsha. In 1991, he worked with Mani Ratnam in Thalapathi, which was heavily inspired by the Mahabharata. in which he co-starred with actor Mammooty; the film dealt with the friendship between two unknown characters based on Karna and Duryodhana, respectively, and was set in a more contemporary milieu and was both critically acclaimed and successful upon release. He went on to appear in remakes of films from other languages, mostly from Hindi and Telugu. Annamalai, which released in 1992, was yet another friendship-centric film and was loosely based on the 1987 Bollywood film Khudgarz. Mannan, directed by P. Vasu, a remake of Kannada actor Rajkumar's 1986 blockbuster Anuraga Aralithu, also was released in 1992 and became a box office success. Rajinikanth wrote his first screenplay for the film Valli (1993), in which he also made a special appearance. He also starred in the film Yejaman, in which he played the role of Vaanavaraayan, a village chieftain. His romantic-comedy Veera (1994) was controversial for its climax but went on to become one of the highest-grossing films in 1994.He joined hands with Suresh Krishna for Baashha (1995), which emerged as an industry record, and is routinely touted by fans and critics alike as a major-hit, as the film elevated him from being just another very popular actor to nearly demigod status among the masses. He made a cameo in Peddarayudu for his friend Mohan Babu and also helped him in obtaining the remake rights. The same year, he acted in yet another gangster film, Aatank Hi Aatank with Aamir Khan which was also his last Hindi film in a major role till date. His film Muthu, a remake of Mohanlal's blockbuster Malayalam movie Thenmavin Kombathu, was another commercial success, directed by K. S. Ravikumar and produced by K. Balachander, and became the first Tamil film to be dubbed into Japanese, as Mutu: Odoru Maharaja. The film grossed a record US$1.6 million in Japan in 1998 and was responsible for creating a large Japanese fan-base for the actor. Muthu's success in Japan led American news magazine Newsweek to comment in a 1999 article that Rajinikanth had "supplanted Leonardo DiCaprio as Japan's trendiest heartthrob". During a visit to Japan in 2006, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh acknowledged the success of Muthu in the country during a speech, justifying the positive relationship between the two nations. He also entered Bengali cinema through Bhagya Debata, which was released at the end of 1995. 1997's Arunachalam was another commercial success. Rajinikanth released his last film of the millennium with Padayappa (1999), which went on to become a blockbuster success. It starred Ramya Krishnan and Soundarya, the former critically acclaimed for her performance. It was also the last prominent role for veteran Tamil actor Sivaji Ganesan.
2002–2010: Struggles, resurgence and acclaim
After a brief pause, Rajinikanth starred in Baba in 2002, for which he had also written the screenplay. Released with much fanfare and hype at the time, the film featured a story revolving around the reforming of a gangster, later revealed to be the reincarnation of the Hindu saint Mahavatar Babaji, and fights against political corruption. It fell short of market expectations and the high bids reportedly translated to heavy losses for the distributors. Rajinikanth himself repaid the losses incurred by the distributors. The film was received with comments such as "the bloom was off the rose" and that "the gold does not glitter any more". Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) leader S. Ramadoss condemned him for smoking and posing with beedis in the film. He was criticised for spoiling the Tamil youth by glorifying smoking and drinking. PMK volunteers attacked the theatres which screened the film and usurped film rolls and burned them.Two years later, Rajinikanth signed up for P. Vasu's Chandramukhi (2005), a remake of the Malayalam film Manichitrathazhu. Upon release the film was highly successful at the box office, and in 2007 it set the record of being the longest running Tamil film. Chandramukhi was also dubbed in Turkish and in German as Der Geisterjäger and released in the respective nations. Following Chandramukhi's release, it was reported that AVM Productions was set to produce a film directed by Shankar starring Rajinikanth – the largest collaboration yet for a Tamil film. The film was titled Sivaji and was released in the summer of 2007, following two years of filming and production. It became the first Tamil film to be charted as one of the "top-ten best films" of the United Kingdom and South Africa box offices upon release. Rajinikanth received a salary of ₹26 crore (equivalent to ₹67 crore or US$8.9 million in 2020), for his role in the film highest in his film career at that time. During the production of Sivaji, Soundarya Rajinikanth announced her intention of producing a computer-generated imagery film starring an animated version of her father titled Sultan: The Warrior. The film was set for release in 2008, however, it entered development hell, and its development status would become unknown over the next few years.
He worked with P. Vasu again for Kuselan, a remake of the Malayalam film Kadha Parayumbol, which was made simultaneously in Telugu as Kathanayakudu, in which Rajinikanth played an extended cameo role as himself, a film star in the Indian cinema, and a
s a best friend to the film's protagonist. According to Rajinikanth, the film somewhat narrated his early life. The film, however, performed poorly at box offices and led to many distributors incurring major losses. Rajinikanth also stated that he would work with Pyramid Saimira again to compensate for Kuselan.
"Is there anything left to be said about a man who, at 61, still manages to star in one of the most successful films of the year, not just in the south, but across India? Superstar Rajni once again proved that he is the actor with the Midas touch with the sci-fi flick Endhiran, where he played an ambitious scientist, a naive robot and an evil android bent on destroying the world [...] He did it with such aplomb that he's been the talk of the town for months. He might do one film in two years, but when he does, he pulls out all the stops."
—Rediff.com on Rajinikanth's performance in Enthiran (2010)
"Is there anything left to be said about a man who, at 61, still manages to star in one of the most successful films of the year, not just in the south, but across India? Superstar Rajni once again proved that he is the actor with the Midas touch with the sci-fi flick Enthiran, where he played an ambitious scientist, a naive robot and an evil android bent on destroying the world [...] He did it with such aplomb that he's been the talk of the town for months. He might do one film in two years, but when he does, he pulls out all the stops."
Rajinikanth worked again with Shankar for the science fiction film Enthiran. The film was released worldwide in 2010 as the most expensive Indian film ever made, ultimately becoming the second highest-grossing film in India of its time. Rajinikanth was paid a remuneration of ₹45 crore (equivalent to ₹86 crore or US$11 million in 2020) for the film. The film's success lead to the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad to use the film as a case study to analyse the business of cinema and its success story in a post-graduate elective management course called Contemporary Film Industry: A Business Perspective. The course would also study Muthu.
2011–present: Hospitalisation and return
In January 2011, Rajinikanth was slated to appear in Rana, a period film to be produced by Soundarya Rajinikanth and directed by K. S. Ravikumar, who would work with the actor for a third time. During the principal photography of the film on 29 April 2011, he suffered a mild foodborne illness on the sets, which led to vomiting, dehydration, and exhaustion. He was treated at St. Isabel's Hospital for a day before being discharged. Five days later, he was rushed to the same hospital again after suffering from breathlessness and fever. He was diagnosed with bronchitis and was kept at the hospital for a week, while also spending a few days in an intensive care unit. Several conflicting reports of discharge dates arose, as well as claims of Rajinikanth's health deteriorating. Two days after his last discharge, Rajinikanth was admitted to the Sri Ramachandra Medical College and Research Institute on 16 May 2011 for recurring respiratory and gastrointestinal problems. The hospital maintained that Rajinikanth was in stable condition and showed positive response to treatment. It was widely reported that he required a kidney transplantation, which was later denied by Dhanush.On 21 May 2011, Aishwarya Rajinikanth released a photo of her and Rajinikanth in his hospital ward, both posing with a thumbs signal, responding to fans' negative reaction to news reports. The hospital restricted unauthorised visitors. Rajinikanth's brother, Sathyanarayana Rao Gaekwad, reported that the cause of the sudden illness was due to stress from rapid weight-loss and changes in diet, as well as withdrawal of alcohol consumption and smoking cessation. After addressing fans in a 4-minute digitally recorded voice message to the media, Rajinikanth, under the advice of Amitabh Bachchan, travelled from Chennai to Singapore with his family on 21 May 2011, where he was to undergo further treatment for nephropathy at Mount Elizabeth Hospital. After spending over two weeks at the hospital, he was finally discharged on 15 June 2011 and continued to recuperate in Singapore, before returning to Chennai on 13 July 2011.Despite several failed attempts to restart Rana upon his return, Rajinikanth reprised his Enthiran character, Chitti, in the Bollywood science-fiction film Ra.One (2011) in a guest appearance alongside Shah Rukh Khan and Kareena Kapoor. In November 2011, it was decided that Rana would be shelved in favour of a new project, titled Kochadaiiyaan. The motion capture film, which is the first of its kind in India, was released in 2014 to positive reviews. Kochadaiiyaan, and the 3D release of Sivaji in 2012, made Rajinikanth the first Indian actor to have appeared in four different forms of world cinema: black-and-white, colour, 3D and motion capture. Following the completion of Kochadaiiyaan, Rajinikanth began work in Ravikumar's next directorial venture, titled Lingaa alongside Anushka Shetty and Sonakshi Sinha. The film was released on 12 December 2014, coinciding with his birthday, and received mixed reviews from critics. Rajinikanth's next film was director Pa. Ranjith's crime drama Kabali, produced by S. Thanu. The film was released in July 2016.In August 2016, it was announced that Rajinikanth and Ranjith would work together again for a film with Dhanush as producer, titled Kaala, in which Rajinikanth plays a Dharavi-dwelling gangster who fights against corporate takeover of the slum. The film was officially released on 7 June 2018. In 2018 he also appeared in S. Shankar's 2.0 reprising the roles of Dr. Vaseegaran and Chitti, alongside Akshay Kumar and Amy Jackson. In 2019, Rajinikanth starred in Karthik Subbaraj's Petta, in which his performance received praise for his return to his vintage stereotypical style of acting. The combined gross earnings of Kaala, 2.0 and Petta by the end of January 2019 was determined to be over ₹ 1000 crore according to trade analysts. Rajinikanth worked with AR Murugadoss in the film Darbar, which released in 2020.
Rajinikanth said: "Even God cannot save Tamil Nadu if AIADMK returns to power." Rajinikanth wholeheartedly supported the DMK and TMC alliance and asked the people of Tamil Nadu and his fans to vote for that alliance. This alliance had a complete victory in 1996. Rajinikanth also supported the DMK-TMC alliance in the parliamentary election, held the same year.Later in 2004, Rajinikanth said he would personally vote for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) but would not extend his support to any front during the upcoming Indian general election. The party, however, failed to win any seats in Tamil Nadu in the Lok Sabha.However several political analysts state Rajnikanth has missed his chance and unlike 1996 when he was at his peak it will be very difficult for him to make a significant impact in 2019.Rajinikanth announced entry into politics on 31 December 2017 and confirmed his intention to contest in the 2021 Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly elections in all 234 constituencies. He stated that his party would resign if it was unable to fulfill its electoral promises within three years of coming into power. Rajinikant dissolved his party Rajini Makkal Mandram (RMM) on 12 July 2021 and also said that he has no plans to enter politics in future.