Today he is the second highest paid actor in Asia but his story did not start that way. Rajinikanth’s life is a truly inspiring rags to riches story.
Rajinikanth was born Shivaji Rao Gaikwad on 12 December 1950 in the Indian city of Banglore, Mysore state. Rajinikanth grew up in abject poverty in the city of his birth. He spoke the Marathi and Kannada languages as he grew up. The last of four children, growing up for Rajinikanth was far from memorable as his constable father wasn’t earning enough to give him and his two brothers and a sister the kind of childhood kids love remember when they become adults. When he got to the age of six, he started his educational pursuit at Gavipuram Government Kannada Model Primary School, Banglore. He was quite serious with his studies and at the same thing very mischievous as a child. He had great interests in sports like football, cricket, and basketball.
At this time, his elder brother got him enrolled into the Ramakrishna math, operated by Ramakrishna mission as a Hindu monastery. He learnt Vedas, tradition and history at the math which laid the foundation for his spirituality in his adult years. He took part in plays acted at the math and interpreted his roles so well that all the monks and the great Kannada poet, D.R. Bendre praised him immensely. He lost his mother at the age of eleven. He began his acting career in 1975 in the film Apoorva Raagangal, the film won the National Film Award in the year of its release. Rajinikanth always considered the director of his debut movie, K. Balachander, as his acting career mentor. During his days at the regional film industries of india, he featured in several cinemas of different countries other than his country of birth including the United States of America.
Dream to Act
Rajinikanth did several odd jobs after he completed his schooling. He has worked as a carpenter and a coolie before he joined the transport service as a conductor but the passion to act never died. Kannada playwright, Topi Munnippa offered him roles in his plays and while acting with him he found an advertisement by Madras Film Institute which was new at that time. He was offered an acting course by the institute, though his family members were not in full support of his desire to enroll into the film institute. His co-worker and friend Raj Bahadar supported him both morally and financially to join the institute. It was during his performances at the institute’s organized stage plays that got him noticed by the director of Tamil films who advised him to learn how to speak Tamil, an advice he followed without delays.
Madras Film Institute
Rajinikanth worked for the Banglore Metropolitan Transport Corporation as a conductor to make ends meet as a very impoverished kid. His days under this transport corporation saw him acting in plays. In 1973, he relocated from Banglore to Madras where he got admission into the prestigious Madras Film Institute where he pursued a diploma in acting. He got some roles as a very aggressive character in a number of Tamil films which saw him rising to become a very established actor. He has maintained a matinee idol status in India’s culture. His great fame and massive acceptance can be attributed to his stylish interpretation of roles in movies and his amiable personality. In 2007, he landed a major role in the film, Sivaji which saw him earning $4.2 million to become Asian’s second highest paid actor after the legendary Jackie Chan.
Miracles do happen – Rajinikanth ‘s speech after receiving India’s 25 Greatest Global Living Legends awarded by NDTV
Rajinikanth has several awards to his credit in recognition of his roles in movies over the years. His numerous awards as of 2013 includes six Tamil Nadu State Film Awards, four Best actor Awards, two special awards for best actor, one Filmfare Best Tamil Actor Award, etc. He holds India’s third highest civilian honour, Padma Bhushan. Acting is not the only thing this great actor knows how to do best in the movie world. He has worked as a screenwriter and producer at different times in his career. Apart from his career in the movie industry, he is also known for his passion for philanthropy. He is a dedicated spiritualist and a great authority in the Dravidian politics.
Rajinikanth introduced through Apoorva Raagangal
After his role in his debut Tamil movie, Apoorva Raagangal he landed several other roles in Tamil films where he played minor roles. His first major role was in the remaking of Aval Oru Thorda Kathai after which he played several negative roles as a chronic womanizer and other negative characters. His image was however revamped by S.P. Muthuraman who experimented with him with some positive roles. He continued acting in several movies and by 1980, he was already a very famous actor in the Southern Indian Cinema.
The pressure of rising to top
He suddenly decided to quit his acting career at this stage, but was coaxed back into the profession by his friends. His comeback was with his role in the Tamil film, Billa a remake of Don (1978).Billa turned out to be his first commercial success. His first Bollywood appearance was in Andha Kanoon where he acted alongside Amitabh Bachchan, Hema Malini and others.
Sudden stardom and fame affected Rajinikanth. Alcohol and anger took over. According to his own account there has been times when he had shown up drunk to shooting. He has said as a bus conductor, he used to drink a lot due to peer pressure. When he entered films, the problem got worse, and coupled with long working hours, led him into depression.
Love of Life – Latha
Enter Latha Rangachari, the sister-in-law of veteran playwright Y. Gee. Mahendra, and a student of English literature at Ethiraj College in Chennai. She was given the assignment to interview the latest sensation in Tamil film industry for her college magazine. When the two met sparks flew and by 1981 the two were in love to think of getting married.
In the spirit of machismo he is identified with Rajini, by Latha’s own admission in a TV interview in 2012, gave her no say in the matter but he informed her he was marrying her and left.
After his marriage to Latha, Rajinikanth’s reduced drinking and his career accelerated even higher.
A Star rises to become the Superstar
His commercial stardom came between 1990 and 2001. All the movies he featured in during this period were all commercial successes. His acting career continued rising and by 2010, he featured in Enthiran, a science fiction film said to be the most expensive Indian film ever shot which saw him earning $7.2 million for his role in the film.
Often referred to by the media as the most popular Indian actor of his time, Rajinikanth popularity stems from his role in several movies too numerous to mention. His simplicity and humility has won him fans from all over India and the World. His story is an inspiration and teaches every one that dreaming big and persevering can make a conductor a film Superstar.
Kochadaiyan – Superstar in Animated Avatar