One of the greatest actors Indian cinema has ever produced, Tamil superstar Rajinikanth continues to remain larger than life to his fans as he turns 69. The actor, who was recently seen in Karthik Subbaraj's Petta and before that in 2.0, has requested his fans to call off all plans made to ring in his birthday.
NDTV toasts Rajini sir with a pictorial journey through his life as he turns a year older.
Rajinikanth, born on December 12, 1950 to a Marathi family in Bengaluru, is the fourth child of his parents, Jijabai and police constable Ramojirao Gaekwad. Rajinikanth's real name is Shivaji Rao Gaekwad.
The cash-strapped Gaekwads struggled financially when Rajinikanth was young. He earned an income in several small jobs in Bengaluru and Chennai, including as a coolie, before ending up as a bus conductor with the Bangalore Transport Service. He also appeared in local stage plays, most notably as Duryodhan.
While working as a bus conductor, his charisma and style were noted by passengers who suggested he become an actor. A friend helped him out financially and Rajinikanth joined the Madras Film Institute in 1974. The Kannada-speaking Rajinikanth also learnt to speak Tamil, a move that was to pay rich dividends.
The rich dividends started with Rajinikanth's very first film which was in Tamil. He was cast in a supporting role, debuting as an abusive husband in Apoorva Raagangal in 1975. The film was directed by K Balachander, who Rajinikanth refers to as his 'guru' or 'mentor'.
The following year, Rajinikanth acted in his first Kannada film, Katha Sangama, directed by Puttanna Kanagal. Though Rajinikanth considers director K Balachander his mentor, it was director S P Muthuraman who actually revamped Rajinikanth's image. Muthuraman next cast him in the experimental Bhuvana Oru Kelvikkuri (1977) as a villain in the first half of the film and a protagonist in the second.
These films were the turning points in Rajinikanth's career; he changed from an actor who merely enthralled the audience to one who could also evoke emotions. Between 1975 and 1977, he was also frequently cast as the villain with Kamal Haasan playing the hero in movies like 16 Vayadhinilae, Moondru Mudichu and Avargal.
Then came a phase when Rajinikanth abruptly chose to quit acting, but then was coaxed back by family, friends and fans. He continued acting with the blockbuster Tamil film Billa (1980), which was a remake of Big B's superhit film Don (1978). With its phenomenal success, Rajinikanth was accepted as a full-fledged hero. Billa was followed by a row of hits, namely Murattu Kaalai (1980), Pokkiri Raja (1982), Thanikattu Raja (1982), Naan Mahaan Alla (1984), Pudukavithai (1982) and Moondru Mugam (1983).
He acted in his first cameo role alongside child actor Meena Durairaj in the movie Anbulla Rajinikanth (1984). More box-office hits dominated the 1980s with Padikkathavan, Thee, Velaikaran, Dharmathin Thalaivan, Mr Bharath and Maaveeran.
Rajinikanth made his Bollywood debut with Andha Kanoon (1983) but the film didn't do well at the box office. Despite his Bollywood debacle, he was seen in several Hindi films including Chaalbaaz (1989), Uttar Dakshin (1987), Geraftaar (1985) and the famous Hum (1991), co-starring Amitabh Bachchan.
In his 100th film, Sri Raghavendra (1985), Rajinikanth played the Hindu saint Raghavendra Swami.
He starred in the 1988 American film Bloodstone, which released with much fanfare in India, but went unnoticed in the United States.
Rajinikanth's movies in the '90s included Thalapathy, Mannan, Annamalai, Uzhaippali, Veera, Muthu, Arunachalam and Padayappa. Rajinikanth wrote his first screenplay and made a special appearance in the film Valli (1993). His film Baashha opened in 1995.
Next came the 2010 blockbuster Enthiran opposite Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. The film, made at a whopping cost of Rs 200 crore, collected Rs 117 crore in the first seven days, even surpassing the first-week collection of Bollywood's highest grosser Dabangg (Rs 82 crore) in 2010.
Rajinikanth has received a gamut of awards for many of his films. He bagged the Filmfare Best Actor (Tamil) award for Nallavanuku Nallavan in 1984 and for Muthu in 1994.
He received India's third highest honour, the Padma Bhushan, for his contribution to Indian cinema in 2000.
Rajinikanth also received Tamil Nadu State Film Awards in the Best Actor category for his roles in Muthu (1995), Padayappa (1999), Chandramukhi (2005), and Sivaji (2007).
He also received numerous awards from Cinema Express and Filmfans' Association for his on-screen performances and off-screen contributions.
Rajinikanth was 31 when he married Latha on February 26, 1981, in Tirupati. The couple have two daughters. Elder daughter Aishwaryaa Rajinikanth is married to actor Dhanush and made her debut as a director with 3.
Rajinikanth's younger daughter Soundarya Rajinikanth works in the film industry as a director, producer and graphic designer. She directed Rajinikanth's Kochadaiiyaan and recently Dhanush and Kajol in VIP 2.
Things were not quite so smooth for Rajinikanth in 2011 when he was put out of action by a respiratory illness. He was flown to Singapore for treatment, returning a month later.
After his illness, Rajinikanth made his first public appearance in 2012 to watch actor and dramatist Y G Mahendran's play in Chennai. Since his illness, Rajinikanth has kept a low-profile and, as revealed by elder daughter Aishwaryaa, spent his time with his grandsons Yathra and Lingaa.
While on the sabbatical, Rajinikanth also agreed to do a very special cameo in RA.One (2011), Shah Rukh Khan's ambitious sci-fi flick. He was seen as Chitti, the role made famous by him in his own sci-fi blockbuster Enthiran.
In 2012, Rajinikanth recreated the magic of Sivaji with its 3D version. The movie, which released on his birthday that year, received a positive response from the audience and critics alike.
Rajinikanth was next seen in 2014's Kochadaiiyaan directed by his younger daughter Soundarya. The film, which also featured Deepika Padukone, Jackie Shroff and Sarath Kumar, turned out to be a damp squib leaving distributors in huge losses.
Lingaa, which starred Rajinikanth opposite Sonakshi Sinha and Anushka Shetty, met with a similar fate with distributors demanding crores in compensation from Rajinikanth.
Rajinikanth was next seen as a gangster opposite Radhika Apte in Kabali. In the film he played the role of a benevolent Malaysian don hoping to reunite with his family, once he learns they survived a fatal mishap.
After a gap of one year, Rajinikanth returned to the big screen with a double dhamaka this year. Rajinikanth's first release of 2018 was Kaala, which critics thought was his quasi-introduction to politics while his second film last year was 2.0, the sequel to Enthiran.
Kaala, like some of Rajinikanth's previous films underperformed at the box office, but the success of 2.0 made up for it.
For the first time after 1995, Rajinikanth has two film releases in one year.
2.0, which released 13 days before Rajinikanth's birthday, collected over Rs 500 crore worldwide by the end of the first week. The Hindi version of 2.0 is also 2018's third highest earning film and it is behind only Sanju (Rs 342 crore) and "Padmaavat" (Rs 302 crore).