Has a realistic Rajinikanth taken a step back from politics?

In 2008, Rajinikanth acted in a Tamil movie called `Kuselan’. It was the remake of a hugely successful Malayalam film `Kadha Parayumbol’, the story of two childhood friends who go on to become a village barber and a big movie star. But the Tamil version did just average business. The reason was that though the hero of the movie was the hugely talented Pasupathy, the makers of `Kuselan’ marketed it as a Rajini flick, when the Superstar was only playing a guest role. The audience felt cheated. 

On Thursday, while Rajinikanth was articulating about his political innings, I was reminded of `Kuselan’. Because despite the hype and the expectation that Rajini would be both the face and the chief ministerial candidate of his yet-to-be-announced political venture, the Superstar said he would only be kingmaker, not king. That another younger person would be the chief minister should his outfit come to power in Tamil Nadu. 

The fact of the matter is that this political Kuselan won’t work. It won’t for the simple reason that no other person in his party – whenever that is launched and more importantly, if it is launched – can hold a candle to Rajini’s style, charisma and appeal. Even Rajinikanth fans won’t work wholeheartedly for a political Sudama chosen by the actor, they would plump only for Krishna as the leader.  

But that was not the only takeaway from Rajinikanth’s much-awaited presser in Chennai on Thursday. It is very clear that he does not want to enter the political battlefield. Hotel Leela Palace where the presser was held, was the first step he took back from the political plunge he announced on 31 December 2017. To put it bluntly, Rajini seems to want to quit even before slipping into battlegear. Even if he is somehow compelled to launch a party, it is clear his heart won’t be in it. 

Two, he is conscious of the label of `coward’ that will be thrown at him. I beg to disagree. I think Rajini is being realistic. He is acutely aware of his age, his ailments and health status. When he spoke of being 71 in 2021 and not 44 or 50, he was making it clear it was the `Aadhaar’ of his decision. He spoke of having come back from the dead and of the different implants inserted by doctors inside his body. He knows his body cannot take the load of a full-fledged political plunge. 

The withdrawal from the CM race is the first step towards a complete exit. That’s how I read it. 

Another pointer was the manner in which Rajinikanth spoke of the two mighty political parties. Accepting their money power and muscle power was a realistic assessment of the DMK and ADMK strengths. 

On the big screen, Rajini knows VFX and punch dialogues can make him look larger-than-life. When he said in `Sivaji’ “Singam Single aa thaan varrum” (a lion will always come alone), it was engineered to appeal to the audience. In the dustbowl of politics however, Rajinikanth knows a single lion will be hunted down by several political poachers. 

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