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 64.
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 64. This year, he has two films out - the animated Kochadaiiyaan and action film Lingaa, which releases today on his birthday.
Here's a pictorial look at his journey on his 64th birthday.
Rajinikanth, born on December 12, 1950 to a Marathi family in Bangalore, 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 Bangalore 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 1980's 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) opposite 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.
The movies released during 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 was released in 1995.
Next came the blockbuster Endhiran (2010) opposite Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, made at a whopping cost of Rs 200 crore. The film collected Rs 117 crore in the first seven days, even surpassing the first-week collection of Bollywood's highest first-week grosser, Dabangg (Rs 82 crore) in 2010.
The superstar 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 in writing and producing.
The superstar was named the Entertainer of the Decade at the NDTV Indian of the Year 2010 Awards.
On the personal front, the superstar was 31 when he married Latha on February 26, 1981, in Tirupati. The couple have two daughters. Elder daughter Aishwarya Rajinikanth is married to actor Dhanush and made her directorial debut with 3.
Younger daughter Soundarya Rajinikanth works in the film industry as a director, producer and graphic designer. She has also directed her father's release Kochadaiiyaan . Soundarya is married to industrialist Ashwin Ramkumar.
While all appears to be going well for the superstar at present, things were not quite so smooth in 2011 when the star 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 Aishwarya, spends his time with his grandsons Yathra and Linga.
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, Endhiran. When he dropped by the sets of RA.One with his daughter Soundarya, SRK had tweeted: "RA.One completed today. Rajini sir blessed it. Have tears in my eyes of gratitude and only prayers and love for his whole family. You complete us sir."
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.
The superstar was next seen in a 3D film titled Kochadaiiyaan directed by his younger daughter Soundarya R Ashwin. The film which also featured Deepika Padukone, Jackie Shroff and Sarath Kumar.
As of today, Rajinikanth is back on screen, raring to go, in the action film Lingaa, which is directed by KS Ravi Kumar. The film also stars actresses Sonakshi Sinha and Anushka Shetty.
Here's wishing Rajinikanth a very happy birthday and a great year ahead.