The magnetic appeal of Rajnikanth, the Superstar, needs no elaboration. But how many of his admirers know Rajnikanth, the thorough professional, the unassuming actor at the work spot, the committed human being with concern for the filmmakers he works for or the diehard humorist in real life?
As one who has directed three of Rajnikanth’s megahits—Annamalai Veera and Baasha—Suresh Krissna throws light on these and other engaging facets of the 5uperstar, whom he had observed at close quarters. Suresh Krissna’s memoirs, aptly titled My Days with Bassa, takes readers on a journey through the making of these films, right from the conception of the plots to the shooting of those ingenious scenes and dialogue that have become art of cinematic history. The book showcases the personality of Rajnikanth—his demeanour on the sets and off—thus revealing more completely than ever before, the Rajnikanth phenomenon.
Beginning his career as an associate director to legendary filmmakers, K. Balachander, L.V. Prasad and Dasari Narayana Rao, Suresh Krissna has directed 51 films in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada and Hindi, and has won State awards for screenplay and direction. My Days with Baasha is his first book.
Malathi Rangarajan is a Senior Assistant editor with The Hindu. As a journalist, in the past 19 year’s, she has authored several articles on cinema, including interviews and reviews of Tamil films. Her English translation of Tamil actor Sivakumar’s autobiography, Idhu Rajapattai Alla, was published in 2010. My Days with Baasha is her first book as co-author.
Early one morning, I alighted from the train at Coimbatore Junction and walked towards an auto- rickshaw. The driver recognised me at once. ‘Rajnikanth and you make an extraordinary combination Annamalai and Baasha are proofs enough,’ he said. A few years ago, standing behind me in the queue at the check-in counter at the Chennai airport, was a young man who introduced himself as a software engineer.
‘Oh, hello,’ I nodded.
He smiled and said, ‘I must have watched Annamalai and Baasha at least twenty-five rimes’
Wherever I go, reactions are similar. Be it the literate or the lay, old or young, affluent or ordinary, Rajnikanth has touched their lives through his films.
My recent interaction with film buffs for a television channel was yet another reiteration. The audience, almost all of them, voted for Baasha as Rajnikanth’s best film till date. I was overwhelmed. Released fifteen years ago, it ran to packed houses then, but the youngsters who plumped for Baasha that evening must have been just seven or eight years old at the time! Yet it was foremost on their minds when they saw me!
From the auto-rickshaw driver at one end of the spectrum to the soft-spoken computer engineer and the group of enthusiastic students on the other, Rajni has impacted every stratum of viewers.
Over the years, wherever I’ve travelled, within the country and without. Tamil filmgoers have stopped me to find out, first-hand, about the making of Baasha, and the charisma of Rajnikanth.
The incredible reach of Rajnikanth, the Superstar, particularly with reference to the three films out of the four we’ve made together, still bowls me over. His magnetism is on unprecedented lines, and has helped many of his films gain cult status. Baasha, it appears, is still in the top rung in the fans’ list of Rajni favourites. As a director, Baasha was a gratifying experience for me, but together, Rajnikanth and I seem to have woven a magical yarn for the audience that holds them in thrall to this day!
There hasn’t been a single interview after Baasha where I have not fielded posers on the making of the film. ‘Naan oru thadava sonna nooru thadava sonna maadhiri (‘Saying it once is equal to my having said it a hundred times’) is a powerful piece of dialogue in Baasha. ‘How did you come up with that line?’ is an oft-asked question.
Repeated references to the scene on the escalator in Annamalai, and the number, Maadathilae Kanni Maadathilae’ (In the balcony where young women gather’), shot on Meena and Rajnikanth in Veera (our second film together after Annamalai and again a roaring hit), have also part of several of Q & A sessions with Rajnikanth.
‘We heard that you had originally conceived the very differently. Tell us about it,’ they ask.
My memories of those days are still vivid. So is the plethora of positive responses to my films with Rajnikanth. These factors set me thinking. Perhaps I should pen my recollections of the times when I rubbed shoulders with the Superstar, the simple human being whom I have observed from close quarters, his whacky sense of humour, his dedication, his humaneness, and the frenzied behind-the-scene-moments we shared at work. I decided to go ahead and here they are, for you to read, savour and devour!
The insights, I’m sure, will leave fans of the Superstar elated.
Read on and enjoy the repast, as much as I did reliving the times!
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