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Trying to understand the phenomenon of Rajnikanth

In a very famous IT quiz held for school children one of the questions asked was: “There is a virus that multiplies by a hundred when it infiltrates a computer. What is the name of the virus?” You would have never guessed in a hundred years that this computer virus would be inspired by the punch line of yesteryear Kollywood box office hit “Baasha”. You read it right, the line, “Naan oru thadava sonna, nooru thadava sonna maadri!” translates to ‘If I’ve said it once, it’s as good as me saying it a hundred times!’ This particular form of tribute is something that not even the biggest film stars in the world can lay claim to. The computer virus may not have caught on and but the Rajni virus is definitely afflicting people again.

12th December, the birthday of the ‘Superstar’ is celebrated on the scale of a festival by fans across the world. To add to it, this year 12/12 saw the release of ‘Lingaa’ – the latest offering by Rajnikanth. This mix is as potent as it gets as the frequency of Rajni movies have reduced over the years and what better way to pay tribute to your beloved superstar than watch his movie. In Chennai, the city was plastered with posters and there was no surprise as history repeated itself in the form of house-full shows for the entire week after the movie release; even for shows as late as 03:00 AM in the morning. There were even fans that flew down from Japan to catch the show.

It was as if the city was celebrating another Diwali with crackers, music, colours and the works. The uninitiated would never have guessed that it is just a cinema star’s birthday. The fans typically celebrate this day by bathing huge cut-outs of Rajni in milk, symbolizing an ‘Abhisegam’ – a ritual traditionally reserved for gods on auspicious days. The entrances of cinema theatres resemble an entrance to a local fair. On social networking sites people from all over the nation and the world flood in their wishes to the ‘Thalaivar’. Tweets, statuses, pictures, posters, art, music, videos, mash ups and you name it, it’s all up and running. And no, there is absolutely no age-bar when it comes to adoring this man. Fans, old and new alike celebrate this day with much reverence.

There are some that don’t buy into the concept, some of the older people feel this fan-fair to be pseudo or humbug. There are many who go to the extent of saying that the Superstar funded the entire celebration. ‘Stars and actors better than him haven’t got such acclaim so why should he’, they ask! Despite all this one can’t deny the fact that there is something about ‘Thalaivar’ that draws such devotion. No one was ever able to pinpoint as to how this came to be. Even his fans are bewildered when asked what they like about him. And the fact remains, there are but a few Tamil movie fans who can say they didn’t feel a rush when they saw him onscreen delivering his punch lines, “malai da annamalai” from Annamalai or his highly emotional “Thodra paakalam” from Thalapathy. The aura, charisma and some magic is what makes Rajnikanth the ‘Superstar’ that he is. This fanatical craze and adoration can only be described as the Rajni Effect.

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