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Navarasa of Rajinikanth: The star you know, the actor you don't

A nine-film compilation is a tad too little for Tamil Nadu's regular entertainer for over four decades, but here goes the list of Rajinikanth's memorable nine roles that have evoked the audiences' nine-moods or 'navarasas.'

Navarasa of Rajinikanth: The star you know, the actor you dont
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Chennai

Dismissing 'Superstar' Rajinikanth as a gun-toting, cigarette-puffing and blazer-wafting Friday night hero would be a myopic perspective of a 45-year old illustrious career of his.

He has been making way for the institute-trained actor in him even in the middle of playing to the gallery. Rajinikanth has essayed a variety of roles and films; experimenting even to the point of jeopardizing his well-received 'commercial mass avatar.'

A nine-film compilation is a tad too little for Tamil Nadu's regular entertainer for over four decades, but here goes the list of Rajinikanth's memorable nine roles that have evoked the audiences' nine-moods or 'navarasas.'

Love : Johnny - 1980 (Dir: J Mahendran)

This film can easily be called the prelude to 'Superstar' Rajinikanth's stylish screen presence. Playing a dual role, one with a negative shade, would've been an easy piece of cake for him. But here's the fix, in the other role, a subtle and laid-back character who is only known for his love for a woman (Sridevi), Rajinikanth flexes his acting muscles. A tacit norm in Tamil cinema, heroine identified solely by her love for the hero, gets reversed. And who reverses it? Our one and only Superstar.

Laughter : Thillu Mullu - 1981 (Dir: K Balachander)

Right from late CM and actor MGR, a hero who is celebrated by the mass audience needs to be scruplous in their characterisation, Rajinikanth too had this necessity. But it is one rule too many for the 70-mm world, from which the star dared to depart. Speciously playing a righteous Chandran and a ditsy Indran, Rajinikanth royally mascots a 2-hour laugh riot.

Compassion : Anbulla Rajinikanth - 1984 (Dir: K Natraj)

Hero running behind a girl who hates him is the time-tested formula of Tamil cinema. Anbulla Rajinikanth is no different, except that a physically challenged and moribund little girl does that to Rajinikanth who effusively cares for her. Essaying a justified-unruly girl, Meena (as a child artiste) jerks tears and has a scope equal to Rajinikanth; a rarity in a hero-centric film industry. This is an unusual Rajinikanth film that you will adore sans the must-haves in his films.

Courage : Annamalai - 1991 (Dir: Suresh Krishna)

A proper commercial film with a set-up and pay-off pattern. Why Annamalai and Baasha stands out despite being 'masala' films is because of a convincing portrayal of the lead role's character arc which is finely blended with the Rajinikanth phenomenon. The signature intermission scene of this film would have the audience clench its fists, you will start feeling victim of the injustice meted out to Annamalai and you will seek vengence for him.

Anger : Baasha - 1995 (Dir : Suresh Krishna)

Lyricist Vairamuthu would have concisely captured the film's theme in one line 'Indha yerimaalaiyil eerathuni potathaaru da', which literally means 'who dared to curb volcanic eruption by covering a wet blanket.' Living a forced-peaceful life being cut down to size on various occasions, Manikkam finally loses it and goes berserk. Closely following Annamalai, in Baasha the protagonist's agony and bloodthirst is ably justified with finely crafted inciting incidents. Baasha stands testimony to Rajinikanth's acting prowess, wherein you don't doubt a dreaded underworld don to have changed into a placid autodriver.

Fear : Dharmathin Thalaivan - 1988 (SP Muthuraman)

How often have you seen a hero who chases the baddies getting chased by a dog without even aware of his dhoti getting loosened? Such is the role Rajinikanth portrays in Dharmathin Thalaivan. He is Balasubramanian, a principled yet forgetful, trepid and a clumsy college professor. His unassuming mien makes you feel anxious for him till his fateful death. Ofcourse you have a doppelganger foil of him in the second half, but his performance makes sure you stay invested for the rest of the film.

Surprise : Muthu - 1995 (Dir: KS Ravikumar)

Superstar carries himself gracefully throughout the runtime, giving a feel that he his waltzing --- Japanese dubbed version aptly named Dancing Maharaja --- through the screenplay. He dances, romances, rib-tickles and what not, so many variations with nothing off-key. The conjuring old man portion convinces you it can't get any better.

Disgust : Netrikann - 1981 (Dir: SP Muthuraman)

Son wakes up to the photo of Tirupati Balaji and father to a bikini-clad model, one of the best opening scenes ever. An actor not just needs to heave to earn love but also hate. Playing a 60-plus womanizer, father-Rajinikanth succeeds in coming across as an anathema. Even with the morally-inclined son foil, it is the evil father who steers the plot making this film noted for stellar performances.

Tranquility : Sri Raghavendra - 1985 (Dir: SP Muthuraman)

An established star, style and action are his forte yet chooses a deglamourised spiritual movie as his 100th. Rajinikanth is his name. This film has a lot of personal connection with Superstar, whose real-life iniquities were absolved through his spirituality and particular devotion to Saint Raghavendra. Film on the life of this 17th century saint may not have minted much at the box-office but Rajinikanth will forever be remembered for thinking different.

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