Thursday, March 6, 2008
Rajinikanth secret love affair
Read all about the two women in Rajini’s early love life: the woman he loved once and the fair complexioned woman who rejected him. Find out about his father’s childhood, and Rajini’s brother who died early. Learn all about the Superstar’s future aspirations outside cinema. All revealed now for the first time in this exclusive Behindwoods interview with Dr. Gayathri Srikanth, author of “The Name is Rajinikanth”, which is being released today by Kamal Hassan in Chennai.
BW: We’ll get straight to the point: what can you tell us that you have not shared with any other media about what is in your book?
Gayathri: Rajini’s early love life. I even met one of the women. She’s married now, and even her husband was present (laughs) when I interviewed her.
BW: Give us a little preview…
Gayathri: There were at least two women. One of them was when he was a bus conductor in Bangalore. He liked this woman very much.-.I have not named her, that was our ladies agreement- and was hopeful of marrying her. But it flitted away with time, the way infatuations do. The second woman was a proposal that was brought to him. Her family lived a little away from Bangalore city –possibly Somanahalli. But once he went there, the woman rejected him, saying, “he is too dark and looks like a thug.” Since then- and this is my feeling- Rajini became determined to pursue someone fair complexioned and marry her. And he did – as we all know.
BW: What did his wife say to this?
Gayathri: Nothing –because Rajinkanth made it clear to me that he and his family did not wish to participate in the interview process.
BW: As his biographer what do you feel Rajinikanth’s next step is going to be? He is 58 but still wanting to do ambitious projects like Robot, the most expensive Indian movie under production. But what is his next move as a man going to be?
Gayathri: He remains silent on it. But I spoke to some sources very close to him – I won’t reveal who- and all of them say that his desire is to live a quiet life in pursuit of spiritual things. As his biographer I feel personally that he should enter politics. He would make a tremendous difference to the system, to Tamilnadu.
BW: What impressions did you form about the way he feels about his stardom? Did you get the feeling that he felt trapped as his star-image?
Gayathri: Definitely. You can see his restlessness with playing the same role again and again. He is yearning to play the kind of roles he did in the 70s. In fact, without exception, all his fellow stars said Rajini must once again return to being the actor he once was in movies such as Aarilirnthu Aravathu Varai.
BW: What else can you tell us that most people may not know about the Superstar?
Gayathri: My book has gone deeply into not just his childhood but also his father’s childhood. How his grandfather abandoned the family, and Rajini’s father had to struggle to bring up the family. As a result he became a strict disciplinarian.
BW: What sort of approach/attitude have you taken to telling Rajinikanth’ story?
Gayathri: A balanced one. I have not adulated him. I have looked at his positive and negative side.
BW: What negative side, for instance?
Gayathri: All his numerous vices from the past: smoking drinking, a few failures, you know…
BW: Nothing now, though.
Gayathri: Absolutely not.
BW: Did you have to leave out anything from the book?
Gayathri: Sadly, the parts about Rajini’s brother, Nageshwar Rao, who died early. My editors felt it was making the book too long. My heart broke to leave that out because I researched that extensively. I’m hoping it will still get into the second edition!
BW: What did the Superstar tell you about the changes sweeping Tamil cinema – all the innovation and offbeat themes?
Gayathri: He is full of praise. Very open about praising young actors. He was the first star to openly recognize movies such as Paruthiveeran and Kalloori as new achievements in cinema.
BW: You spoke to the other stars. Did anyone say anything provocative?
Gayathri: No, all of them had only wonderful things to say about him. Well…perhaps SriPriya said something about how at one point in their platonic relationship there had been some tension, some disagreements. But they sorted it out.
BW: Every journalist must have wanted to write Rajini’s biography. How did you – an ophthalmologist by profession- beat them all to it?
Gayathri: I was feeling burnt out in my profession and wanted a change. Writing has always been a passion, so I knew I wanted to write a book but I didn’t yet know what it would be about. In March 2007 I was one of the contestants in the hot seats on the KBC show with Shahrukh Khan hosting. I didn’t make it to the final but something about writing a bio of SRK came up. That’s when I thought: why not write a biography of Kamal or Rajini? I was-am- a fan of both.
BW: Why Rajini and not Kamal?
Gayathri: To be honest, my first idea was to write on Kamal. That didn’t work out for various reasons. That’s when I thought it would be perhaps more interesting to write Rajini’s life story.
BW: And how did the project begin? How did you get access to the Superstar, and what did he have to say about you writing a book on his life?
Gayathri: Once I returned to Chennai from the KBC show I tried to meet Rajinikanth right away. But he was abroad shooting, and I met his wife instead. When I told her about my project she was happy that someone was writing her husband’s story.
BW: What did the Superstar finally say when you met him?
Gayathri: He had no problems about my writing his life but he made it clear that he did not want to participate in it because then it would become autobiography.
BW: So this is an unauthorized biography?
Gayathri: In the sense that Rajinikanth’s presence and participation is zero in the making of the book, yes.
BW: So he doesn’t actually talk in the book – that is, there are no interviews with him?
Gayathri: No. He did not want to talk. He did give me a few letters of his that I could quote from.
BW: But you met him quite a few times…what did you’ll talk about?
Gayathri: We spoke always off the record. So none of that went into the book.
BW: The book doesn’t tell his side of the story in his words, then?
Gayathri: That was the point of my book. This had to be not Rajini’s point of view, nor mine but a third person’s objective narration.
BW: But don’t you find that the biographer invariably shapes the material, and so it does become your point of view?
Gayathri: That’s the process, but I’ve used only facts. There are no conjectures here.
BW: So if the Superstar himself did not tell you his story, how did you gather all your information?
Gayathri: I knew nothing about Rajinikanth before I began. I spent a year researching and writing the book. I traveled to Bangalore and Mumbai interviewing his friends and family.
BW: Such as?
Gayathri: The ones who were bus conductors with him in Bangalore, for instance.
BW: How did you get hold of all these people after so many years?
Gayathri: I did. Somehow I found them. Luck and persistence. And they were glad to speak to me.
BW: And how did you get so many important people to participate in the book? People such as the CM, Kamal Hassan, AVM Sarvanan and K.Balachander, to name a few.
Gayathri: Oh, they were glad to speak to me. Everyone asks me that – how did you get all those big people to write and talk in your book. The answer is simple: because it is about the Superstar – everyone is happy to talk about Rajini.
BW: Can we expect a lot of trivia about his film days?
Gayathri: I’ve avoided trivia. When people heard I was writing his story, a lot of industry trivia and stories came my way. First I put it in, then took it out. I did this because all that information was slowing down the pace of the book. I see Rajini as someone fast – talks fast, acts fast. The book also had to be fast – like him. So I’ve conceived it more like a screenplay than a book: always cutting to the chase.
BW: Have you spoken to his fans clubs?
Gayathri: Oh my God, they love him. They will give their lives for him. They had so much to say about what he meant to them.
BW: What next? The life of Kamal?
BW: What was the most challenging thing about writing the book?
Gayathri: The writing. The actual process of telling the story of someone who is larger than life, a mythic figure, a legend. How do you capture it in words? There are so many sides to him: who he was, who he is, his failures, his deeply spiritual side…it was like a jigsaw puzzle that I had to put together.
BW: The life story of Rajinikanth was long overdue. And you have made it happen, Dr. Gayathri. Our congratulations to you and our best wishes to the successes of the book.