After 12 days, Rajinikanth’s Annaatthe has grossed 2,250,000,000 Rupees (30,204,000.00 USD) 5 at the box-office. This despite the film receiving almost universally dreadful reviews. I myself, despite being an eager Superstar fan, found the film dreadfully loud, sentimental, violent and unconvincing. In spite of excellent parts, not least of which is Thalaivar’s reunion with Kushbu and Meena, it just does not pull together as a whole. The Times of India review gives the film 2/5 stars and is titled, “Even Rajinikanth cannot save badly written Annaaatthe.” Well it looks like they were completely wrong. The Superstar, it seems, has saved the film single-handedly!
What is it about Rajinikanth that enables him to draw the faithful even as a 70 year-old playing his signature super cool and superhumanly heroic character? Does the answer lie in his indubitably unique persona and ability to connect with the masses? Or does it lie in the Tamilian culture of adulation, veneration and deification of exemplars, and the ease with which Tamils nominate living culture heroes !
The screening of a new Rajinikanth film (there have been 168 to date) always brings to mind the Tamilian (Hindu) notion of divinity – that God is everywhere and in everything. This immanent deity has two significant implications. In deep metaphysical terms it means that knowing or experiencing the attendant reality requires a transcendence of the egoistic self and recognizing the unity of all consciousnesses in one consciousness. This unification or oneness of the divinity is, counterintuitive as it might seem, analogous to the Islamic notion of Tawhid. On more mundane egocentric level, however, this immanence means that Tamilians might choose to designate any one of the innumerable parts. of the ubiquitous divinity, as the bearer of the presence of the whole. While some might deem this to be idolatrous or, in Islamic terms, Shirik. for Tamils separate parts of the divinity, ranging from rocks and trees to consecrated icons, can each stand for the whole. It is this synecdochic ontology that allow Tamilians to turn, the adulation of public figures into a form of worship. While this deification of living people, ranging from gurus to politicians, is widespread it is the ritualistic offerings made to movie SUPERSTAR Rajinikanth at the opening of his films that epitomizes of this phenomena in contemporary Tamil culture.
It seems that when Madurai Veeran is depicted without his consorts, he is identified as “Veeranar”. He is always depicted with a sword and most often it is an aruval. This is Rajinikanth’s weapon of choice in Annaatthe in which he wields the aruval throughout. According to Karthikeyan Damodaran and Hugo Gorringe, this weapon has been identified as a signifier of caste (Thevar) pride in recent Tamil cinema and there is a genre known as theMadurai Formula film or the 3M film where the Ms are murder, mayhem and madurai. While Annaatthe does not quite fit with this genre, the prominence of the aruval in Annaatthe, and its symbolism, intended or otherwise, can not be ignored.
Vaa Saamy is the 4th single released from the Annaatthe soundtrack.As observed in Film Beat “The Vaa Saamy song hints that Annaatthe will not just revolve around the family man avatar of the Annaatthe, but also features him as an action hero.” The clips featured in the video release are indeed stylishly violent in the Superstars’s signature style but what can it signify in the aftermath of his anti-climactic political non-entry? After the powerful social reform symbolism of his his roles Kabali and Kaala by Pa Ranjith, the violence in the following releases, Petta and Darbar seemed a little gratuitous. Now, in Annaatthe, the Superstar’s first release after the reneging of his promise to enter the Tamil Nadu political arena, one wonders what his avenging avatar might signify!. While I expect to be disappointed at the deepest connotative level, I still look forward to enjoying the incomparable denotations, detonations even, of his incomparable stylistics. … Vaa Saamy!!!
The late great SP Balasubramaniam’s last recorded vocal graces Superstar Rajinikanth upcoming film release Annatthee. The song is which is titled Annatthee Annatthee after the the film, seems to usher in a rousing return to the rustic rural styling that the Superstar brand is founded on.
Pa. Ranjith is the director I admire the most in mainstream Tamil Cinema. His ability to infuse this commercial medium with the messaging of an ascendant Dalit consciousness, as he did in Kabali and Kaala, while maintaining box-office success, is astounding. Ranjith is a fearless activist and provocateur. Ranjith hails from a cheri (ghetto) in Karalapakkam, Tamil Nadu and, according to wikipedia, he is from the Paraiyar community.
Pariah has become a slur and a derisive word in English and in Malay and Indians get upset and enraged when they hear this word. Why? Well, this name comes from the cast order that is Indian and Hindu. Attitudes towards it reflect the worst racial prejudice that is innate to Indian culture. The Pariyar are a community that is categorized as outside of the Brahmanical social order. While I deplore the use of the name of this community as a slur in English and Malay, I suggest that it is more important that Indians stop flinching when they hear this word, as that reaction comes from their own racist impulse.
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