Rajinikanth is a superstar, and we all know that. From his debut in Aboorva Ragangal, he slowly built his career with various characters and roles, without giving up on his exclusive style and mannerisms. On his 68th birthday, we look back at six instances where the actor in him did better than the star, bringing out terrific performances that will be remembered for the years to come.
Mullum Malarum (1978)
Rajinikanth’s performance in Mullum Malarum is still considered by many as his best till date. Playing an unruly man who blindly loves his sister, the actor set new benchmarks through his monologues and emotional sequences. Kaali is referred to as his most-loved character name, and this film is the reason for that.
Aarilirundhu Arubathu Varai (1979)
This is Rajinikanth’s most melodramatic venture till date, as the actor plays a struggling writer who toils hard to educate his younger siblings, only to be ill-treated once they go up the ladder. The hard-hitting nature of the film even gave the actor second thoughts on whether the audience would accept him in such a role, when he was halfway through the shoot, as he had been an entertainer till then. The film has a plethora of scenes where the actor in him blooms to the brim, sometimes letting only his eyes do the talking.
Directors SP Muthuraman and K Balachander (Rajinikanth’s mentor) were instrumental in shaping up the superstar’s career, giving him shades of quality that were much more than a cakewalk star outing. In Netrikan, which was directed by the former and produced by the latter, Rajinikanth essayed dual roles of a lecherous father and a well-behaved son. The actor ruled the roost, taking the opportunity by the horns and putting up a performance which actually made us forget the fact that a single actor was playing both the roles.
Thillu Mullu (1981)
People had an understanding that solid performances only arise from serious scripts, but Rajinikanth altered that mindset with his extremely enjoyable performance in Thillu Mullu. The film was a no-nonsense comedy with brilliantly staged comic stretches that the actor portrayed to perfection. Even today, his act is referred to as a benchmark when comedies with performance quotients hit the marquee.
Mani Ratnam came forward to mould Rajinikanth into an intense bracket with his Thalapathi. Playing Surya, a bold and straightforward personality, the actor did complete justice to the film’s emotionally strong sequences.
It may be surprising to a few on how this film made it to the list, but Endhiran definitely deserves a mention for the amount of work that the actor put in at that point of his career. Leave out the VFX-heavy action sequences, the film’s major takeaways include that of how Rajinikanth superbly emoted the slow changeover of Chitti from a walking laptop to a real man with a huge palette of emotions. Vasigaran’s character was the icing on the cake!