What is the yardstick to measure someone’s superstardom? Can media hype alone create super stars? An ordinary individual’s acceptance of someone as a super star cannot be mundanely achieved through a simple of process of harping the same tune about that someone’s docket to the star summit.
Super stars don’t just get introduced as ones. They achieve the imposing feat through a series of events and acts. And in all fairness, not all will agree with such an accreditation in the end. It is not a formal position that someone holds for neither a period of time nor an elected post where people & fans alike get to go through a formal voting process. It is merely a title, a perception, an act of reverence for what someone is, an intangible status or simply a virtual power given because many people feel strongly positively about that person or about what he does.
Circa 1980s – This was the period in Tamil cinema when there were two rather young, rebellious 20 something guys – with extremely contradicting personalities started their careers. And if Mani Ratnam were to make a sequel to Iruvar, I am sure this would be a great period to base it on. As a normal youngster who enjoyed watching movies, I reveled in watching Tamil movies – but one guy stood apart in terms of physical appearance. Kamal Hassan was the South Indian answer to fair-skinned North Indian actors. He spoke intelligently and came across as a well sophisticated individual – in other words, classier than the rest of his class. Which is why, the other guy in question, Rajni Kanth, who had none of the qualities that Kamal had, never was in my favorite list. In fact, in my formative years, there was always an influencing good and an evil factor in every field for me – MK (good) vs. MGR (bad) in politics, Kapil Dev (good) vs. Gavaskar (bad) in sports, Kamal (good) vs. Rajni (bad) in movies. The coincidence of it all is the “K” factor.
25 years later – Things in life are not so simply black and white anymore, as the graying cells would tell me and as my general perception of life around me evolves. So the good is not necessarily good and the bad is not necessarily bad. And most of the times, I have learnt to see things for what they are. I still am an ardent fan of Kamal Hassan the actor, Kamal Hassan the intellect, and Kamal Hassan the “cinematopedia”. But there is no longer an opposing personality because of the fact I like Kamal Hassan. The myriad transformations of my cinematic buds and the varying quest for all sorts of what is different have helped me appreciate not only cinema that is meaningful (in other words – stories that are realistic, well narrated sprinkled with no dramatization) but also cinema that is meant to be “not so meaningful”. Most of the movies made in India belong to the latter category.
Shankar is a director who has taken the purposefully-not-so-meaningful cinema to the next level. He is the master of providing fantasy cinema in a lavish background with imagination running like a wild turkey with no fences to bar it. Rajni definitely is an icon whether you agree with it or it. So is Kamal. But what Rajni means to Tamil cinema is entirely different from what Kamal means. And hence Rajni qualifies to be the super star as he can snap his finger on the screen for fun and be assured that thousands will take a cue out of it & call it “style”. And every time he does, he can be assured that the box office registers will ring in cash.
Sivaji is a movie that does not break any shackles and fits the above box office equation perfectly well. Everyone who was expected to complain has been complaining – that the movie belied their expectations. But who sets these expectations? Why imagine something on your own when the movie is made by someone else based on his imagination? Why not just check it out with no imagination on your own? Why not just judge a Shankarisque movie for what it is and indulge in the fantasies he set out to create for us, with a heavy tone of strong social message? Why not just sit back and enjoy the fantasy world of Rajni Kanth and his amazing power to sway his fans one way to another? Why not be in awe of the meticulous planning that went behind each and every frame – be it one of Thotta Tharani’s most imaginative & creative works in creating a Babylonian palace for “Vaaji Vaaji” or a highly fragile glass palace that breaks all walls of human imagination for “Sahana” Or be it the way a classic, yet stylish western story being told in a Rodriguez fashion (guitars and guns) in “Athiradee”? Why not admire the uplifting and foot tapping tunes of AR Rahman that pretty much blend well with the massy narrative of the movie…? Why not be in awe of the simple social message being told with grandiosity that only Shankar can do?
A review for a movie like Sivaji is not required. Because it is a purposeful-meaningless cinema….It is like watching Spiderman, Superman, Hulk, Silver Surfer, Terminator, Star Wars, Aliens, etc. and coming home with the satisfaction of having watched a good “Hollywood” fantasy flick. A similar yardstick is required for watching movies like Sivaji as they are the Indian equivalent of the above mentioned Hollywood fantasies.
………Larger than life, Affluent Fantasies in piles and Super Stars who can save the world!