Dec 12, 1950 in Bangalore, Karnataka, India
Dec 12, 1950 in Bangalore, Karnataka, India
Admired universally for his charismatic screen presence, Shivaji Rao Gaekwad, better known by his screen name Rajinikanth, is an iconic actor who primarily works in the Tamil film industry. Endearingly referred to as `Thalaiva` by his fans, Rajinikanth`s larger-than-life aura is without parallels, and has even redefined the limits of superstardom and earned him a demigod status among many of his ardent admirers. He debuted in the K. Balachander film Apoorva Raagangal (1975), and has since graced the screen in over 200 films in the course of a celebrated career spanning over four decades.
For his contributions to Indian cinema, the actor was conferred with the coveted Padma Bhushan in 2000, and Padma Vibhushan in 2016. In 2014, Rajinikanth was conferred with the Centenary Award for `Indian Film Personality of the Year` at the 45th International Film Festival of India.
Rajinikanth was born in a Maharashtrian family. His father Ramoji Rao Gaekwad, worked as a police constable in Bangalore and his mother Ramabai was a housewife. He is the youngest of the four siblings, he has two elder brothers, Satyanarayana Rao and Nageshwara Rao and a sister named Aswath Balubhai.
The actor completed his primary education at the Gavipuram Government Kannada Model Primary School, and eventually enrolled at the Acharya Pathasala Public School for his pre-university course. Following this, he took up many odd jobs before eventually joining as a bus conductor in Bangalore Transport Service (BTS). Later, Rajinikanth enrolled at the Madras Film Institute to pursue a diploma in acting, where he was discovered by renowned director K. Balachander.
Rajinikanth married Latha Rangachari on February 26th, 1981. They have two daughters: Aishwarya Dhanush and Soundarya Rajinikanth. The elder daughter, Aishwarya, is a filmmaker and is married to actor Dhanush; while Soundarya works as a producer, director and graphics designer, and is married to industrialist Ashwin Ramkumar.
Debut & Initial Years
Rajinikanth began his career in the film industry with K. Balachander`s Apoorva Raagangal, where he played a small but significant role. In the following year, he made his Telugu film debut with Anthuleni Katha. Early in his career, the actor appeared mostly in negative roles in movies like Moondru Mudichu (1976) and 16 Vayadhinile (1977), until S.P. Muthuraman decided to change his image and cast him in a positive role in his 1977 movie, Bhuvana Oru Kelvikurri. The film was a big success, and the two eventually went on to work together for 24 more films till the 1990s.
The year 1978 saw the actor appearing in 20 films in four different languages - Tamil, Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam. Of these, the romantic drama Mullum Malarum went on to win the Filmfare Award for Best Tamil Film, and Rajinikanth won a special prize for Best Actor at the Tamil Nadu State Film Awards. Subsequently, the actor made his Mollywood debut with Allauddinum Albhutha Vilakkum.
Breakthrough & Beyond By 1980, Rajinikanth had appeared in more than 50 films across four languages. He underlined his stardom at the beginning of the new decade with the blockbuster Billa (1980), which was a remake of the Amitabh Bachchan starrer Don (1978). K. Balachander, whom Rajinikanth considered as his mentor, suggested that he should break the stereotype of being an action hero and cast him in his full-length comedy movie, Thillu Mullu in 1981. The movie, which was the remake of the Bollywood comedy Golmaal, was a commercial hit and it received critical acclaim.
Two years later, in 1983, the actor made his Bollywood debut in Andha Kanoon alongside Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini, which went to become the highest-grossing movie of that year. In 1985, the actor appeared in his 100th film, Sri Raghavendra where he played the role of a Hindu saint, Raghavendra Swami. In 1988, the actor made his only appearance in an American film, Bloodstone directed by Dwight H. Little. He played the role of an English-speaking Indian taxi driver. The superstar actor finished the decade with hit films like Mappillai (1989), Rajadhi Raja (1989) and Raja Chinna Roja (1989).
By the 1990`s Rajinikanth had established himself as a prolific commercial entertainer and he re-enforced his status with his 1991 movie Panakkaran. The movie was the remake of the Hindi film, Laawaris and it went on to become a huge blockbuster hit. In the same year, the actor worked with Mani Ratnam for the first time in the Mahabharata-inspired Thalapathi. The movie, which also had Mammootty in the lead role showcased the strong bond of friendship between the two actors; it was Mani Ratnam`s interpretation of the friendship between Karna and Duryodhana in a modern context.
Rajnikanth`s stardom skyrocketed in 1995 when he appeared in Suresh Krishna`s Baashha, which emerged as a record breaking hit and gained him a demigod status among the masses. His next major hit was Muthu, a romantic comedy-drama directed by K.S. Ravikumar. It became the first Indian movie that was dubbed in Japanese (as Mutu: Odoru Maharaja) and went on to gross 1.6 million USD in Japan. The actor continued his good run with two more blockbuster hits, Arunachalam (1997) and Padayappa (1999). The latter went to break several industry records and Rajinikanth was lauded for his stellar performance in the movie.
The dawn of the new millennium saw Thalaiva appearing in Baba, for which he had written the screenplay. The film was one of the most anticipated releases of 2002 but upon release, it fell short of the fan`s expectation and it was a commercial and critical flop. Two years later in 2005, he made a great comeback with P. Vasu`s Chandramukhi, which was the remake of the Malayalam movie, Manichitrathazhu. The movie, which also had Jyothika and Prabhu in pivotal roles, was screened for more than 100 days in several theaters across Tamil Nadu and set the record for longest running Tamil movie.
A couple of years later, Rajinikanth appeared in another swashbuckling hit, Sivaji (2007) . Following the failure of his 2008 movie, Kuselan, Rajinikanth more than made up for his failure with one of the biggest commercial hits of his career, Enthiran (2010) alongside Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. Touted at its time as the most expensive Indian film ever made, Enthiran went to become the second-highest grossing film ever in India.
In 2011, the actor was slated to be featured in a period film Rana, produced by his daughter, Soundarya Rajinikanth. However, the projected was eventually shelved as the actor`s health suffered and he had to be hospitalized. After recovering from his illness, the actor made a cameo appearance in the 2011 Shah Rukh Khan starrer, Ra. One. Following a couple of ordinary outings in the computer animated historical action drama Kochadaiiyaan (2014) and the action-drama Lingaa (2014), Rajinikanth reinforced his clout over the Indian box office with the gangster flicks Kabali (2016) and Kaala (2018), both of which opened to positive reviews and turned out to be blockbusters. Critics also noted that both the films went beyond just showcasing and banking on Rajinikanth`s superstardom, and featured tour de force performances from the actor. The sequel to Enthiran, titled 2.0 (2018) and the untitled Karthik Subbaraj directorial are among the celebrated actor`s other projects in recent times. His 2020 release includes Darbar.