Rajinikanth, the 63-year-old Tamil superstar, should rightly be doing a Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood’s eponymous role in Gran Torino), but he is romancing Deepika Padukone in his upcoming magnum opus, Kochadaiiyaan.
Much like his evergreen characters in movies, the Rajinikanth money machine also shows no signs of aging. Kochadaiiyaan has been bankrolled to the tune of Rs 100 crore and when advance bookings opened for the movie recently, over a lakh tickets were pre-booked. The movie was scheduled for a May 9 release, but was postponed due to an ‘increased demand for prints in various languages’. Kochadaiiyaan has Rajinikanth in a triple role and was released in 2D and 3D versions in six languages—Hindi, Telugu, Bhojpuri, English, Marathi and Hindi—on Friday.
The brand Rajinikanth just gets bigger, akin to his larger-than-life image. During the recent election campaign, BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi met Rajinikanth at his residence in Chennai and appeared by his side draped in a veshti and terming the Tamil superstar ‘a good friend’. Earlier this month, when Rajini joined microblogging website Twitter, some two lakh users started following him within 24 hours, making him the biggest Indian celeb and one of the world’s top 10 celebs to ‘attract’ those numbers within that time frame. And in keeping in line with the Chuck Norris kind of ‘facts’, many tweeted: “Twitter has joined Rajinikanth”.
The cultural icon has never won anything like a Mr World crown to merit international press, and the world has long forgotten his appearance in Bloodstone, an Ashok Amritraj film for the western audience. While Amitabh Bachchan endorses jewellery, Tamil actor Suriya a biscuit brand and Kareena Kapoor and Katrina Kaif a range of beauty products and beverages, Rajinikanth has never been bothered about product endorsements, never mind the millions. He doesn’t have to, because he is Rajinikanth. His name is the currency that does business. Or, to quote a punchline from one of his films: ‘Pera kettale adhurudhu illa?’ (Doesn’t the mere name generate tremors?).
It’s all in the name
In the crowded world of popular culture, Rajinikanth has always bucked the trend of marketing himself—a phenomenon so unique that it would be a challenge for any B-school to unravel his selling point. How then does the business of Rajinikanth work? “He is one of the few actors who appeals to everyone, from a two-year-old to an 80-year-old, and he is to films what Tendulkar and