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The bus conductor on Route 10A that plied between Srinagar and Majestic in Bangalore, during the bell bottom days, is now 63 something. He’s the age-defying God of Gods with over 170 films under his belt. The other day, he announced his umpteenth project Lingaa, looking not a day older than 40, with a macho moustache attesting to his virility. Apparently, a nod to his grandson (Dhanush has two boys: Linga and Yatra). The title got me thinking about the Shaivite streak in Rajinikanth movies.
Kochadaiiyaan, the motion-capture animation flick directed by his daughter Soundarya, is a synonym of the matted God aka Lord Shiva. If one looks back, Annamalai and Arunachalam have a direct Thiruvannamalai connection that is quite obvious. Beyond that, I couldn’t find any evidence to back my hypothesis. Sivaji, the Shankar film, apparently flows from his birth name Shivaji Rao Gaikwad.
But the superstar’s spiritual side shows enough manifestations from the late 80s. In Mappillai, he played the role of a character named Aarumugam (the man with six faces – a reference to Lord Muruga). Then Padayappa (the general of six armies), again an allusion to the son of Shiva. Coincidentally, in Chandramukhi, Rajini went by the moniker Dr Saravanan.
The man made his religious leanings well known by hand picking the tales Sri Raghavendra and Baba. Curiously, the name most often sported by Rajinikanth on silver screen is Kali. First portrayed in Mullum Malarum, Kali reappeared in various forms in Murattu Kaalai, Kai Kodukkum Kai, Kaali and Adhisiya Piravi.
Lest you accuse him of being a militant saffronite, let me clarify that some of the best known Christian character names in Tamil cinema were played by Rajini — from Johnny and Alex Pandian to Michael, a true Christian. Even the best known Muslim character in Kollywood, Baasha, was Thalaivar’s.
After his debut as the rapist Kondaji, and baddies such as Parattai and Abaswaram, Rajinikanth effortlessly slipped into the role of Inspector Arjun Ramojirao Shivajirao Gaikwad Jagdish Mulk Tange in Farishtay. In true Rajini style, he must have quipped, ‘Idhu, eppidi irukku’!