There are Tamils who wouldn’t be fluent in their mother tongue. But, there are no Tamils who have not heard about Rajinikanth.
A song from the 1992 hit film Annamalai describes Rajini’s superstardom and his reach towards the masses. The song ‘Super star yaarunu ketta chinna kulanthaiyum sollum’ (Even an infant will know who the Superstar is) perfectly suits the actor who continues to enthral the audience with his acting, and most importantly, his style.
Rajinikanth is not just a name. It’s an era that had ruled the Tamil cinema for a staggering 43 years. His success story, from being a humble bus conductor to a silver screen superstar, is an inspiration to many.
Rajinikanth became such a powerful force that it came to a point where political analysts and politicians of the entire Tamil Nadu would eagerly wait to see who he would back at elections, for they knew that the millions of fans would follow their idol.
Visit to SL
Last week, Sri Lankans were in for a pleasant surprise when the news that their idol would be in the country next month, started going viral.
He is not coming here for a film promotion or to attend events. He is coming here to hand over 150 houses to beneficiaries in the North.
Rajinikanth’s visit is not just an ordinary event. It is historic.
SL-TN relationship strain
The visit has to be looked at in the backdrop of the strained relationship between Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu since 2009.
The final stages of the war in Sri Lanka saw many protests in Tamil Nadu urging the Central Government to press Sri Lanka to stop the war. Thousands of people stepped to the streets of Tamil Nadu against the then Sri Lankan government.
From then on, the relationship between the State and Sri Lanka were strained, until the government changed in 2015.
No Tamil Nadu actor, singer, or artiste was allowed to step in to the country due to the high level of animosity. There were several occasions where artistes who had arrived in the country were compelled to return after protests in Tamil Nadu.
Artistes avoid SL
Therefore, Sri Lankans who enjoyed seeing their stars on silverscreen, could not see them perform live.
May be the situation has improved a bit after the Presidential election in 2015. However, Sri Lanka has seen no legends from Tamil Nadu for decades until legendary singer SP Balasubramaniam performed in Colombo last year.
Last year, a similar hype was created when news spread around that Double Oscar winning Indian composer A.R. Rahman would perform in the country for the very first time.
However, the concert was cancelled allegedly due to protests in Tamil Nadu.
Considering this previous experience, it will not be a surprise if Tamil Nadu erupts against Rajinikanth’s visit and that he is compelled to cancel his assignment.
Not the first visit for Rajini
This is not the first time that Rajinikanth would be visiting the country. He was here before. A considerable portion of the 1981 hit film ‘Thee’ (fire), in which Rajinikanth played the lead, was filmed in several parts of Sri Lanka. In fact, the climax of the film was shot at the Independence Square, which was depicted in the movie as a Hindu temple.
Handing over houses
The purpose of his visit is to hand over houses to 150 beneficiaries. These houses are built and handed over by an organization called Gnanam Foundation, whose parent company is the UK based Lyca Productions.
How Rajinikanth fits into the picture is a question. But, his visit, if it happens, has the potential of changing the entire scenario pertaining to the relationship between Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka.
Housing for the war affected persons continues to be a burning issue. Many residents in Keppapilavu have been protesting for weeks demanding that their houses, which have been occupied by security forces be returned.
Meanwhile, Minister of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs, D.M. Swaminathan said that the government had constructed 11, 253 houses for the war affected persons in the Northern and Eastern Provinces last year alone.