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In the Indian film Robot, Rajinikanth gives an enthusiastic performance in a double role as both doctor and robot. He’s called Superstar in India and even in Japan is known for his role in Muthu, which was released here. [Title in Japanese is “Muthu the dancing Maharaja.” Heh. - FG] I met with two people who have encountered Rajini to discuss the man himself and the appeal of Indian movies.
Let’s meet the first. “At last, we can see a Rajini movie in Japan” excited words from Tetsunosuke, the owner of Rajinikanth fan site ラジニ★jp, which has been bringing the latest information on Rajinikanth for about 10 years. Until now, Rajinikanth starrers opened overseas and to go and see them one had to be an ardent fan. Unfortunately he did not see Robot in India. “When Robot released, you could see it in Singapore and Malaysia. Even though I tried very hard, I couldn’t get to India.” So, he had to settle for a different country.
On Robot: “It’s not clasic Rajini style. Indian film writing has changed. The desire to build a world market has come to maturity. (*grin*) First of all, there are no inside references - like political or movie star references. The most popular hometown references aren’t there. Then again, in foreign countries, we would ask ‘What is that about?’ at those references. But it’s bold to take them out. That is to say, they made this with the world market in mind.” Tetsunosuke explains. Even though the writing has changed, domestic Indian fans don’t seem to think it’s bad. “I think when the signature lines [punch lines he means - FG] aren’t there, it’s a negative point. To make the movies for the world, you have to have self confidence. (*grin*)”
For Tetsunosuke, with ten years of experience as an Indian movie fan, Rajini love has taken up nine of them. First there wasn’t Rajini. “Returning from work, I spotted an Indian movie.” And then, he met Rajini. For a person who had only had seen a filtered India, a trip to fully experience the country was a must. At the airport, when getting off the plane, it was like a baptism. “At that time, I was wearing a Rajini T-shirt and at the airport, while getting off the plane, I was mobbed. ‘You! You’re Japanese? Why are you wearing a Rajini shirt? Come to my house! We’ll eat dinner!’ This is the real thing, I thought. (*grin*)” After that, “I would ask for help while looking for Rajini related things and people would leave and come. An ill grandmother was saved by a Rajini-run hospital. On her arm, ‘Rajini” was inked. On the arms of children it was printed! It was almost religious... and a little overwhelming. (*grin*)” It certainly seems fun to look back on the trip.
And when he stepped foot in an Indian movie theater, he understood the power of Superstar Rajinikanth. “There’s a huge enthusiasm level from the crowd. It’s like attending a concert. You can call it the masala feel. Confetti is thrown and everybody dances when Rajini comes on screen. There’s a real feeling of love from the crowd.”
After that trip, he returned to India ten times and met Rajini himself three times. “Outside of work, my time is filled with publicity, enlightenment, and education. (*grins*)” And the reason he loves Indian movies? “They set one’s emotions free. They say there are nine emotions in Indian movies. We really have a small understanding of human emotions but watching Indian movies, you experience the full range. And Superstar does them best. Rajini says that until he’s 80, he’ll do his best in the film industry. He doesn’t have a losing spirit, does he?” Tetsunosuke says, smiling.
And now the other person. “Rajini is my heart’s teacher,” says Mr. Nakayama. Ever since Mr. Nakayama saw the record breaking, mega-hit Muthu, he’s been a massive Rajini fan and has overseen the Rajini fan club. At the time of Muthu’s release... “The comparisons were interesting! They said the hero is like India’s Kimutaku and the heroine is like Takako Matsu. The director is India’s Akira Kurosawa and the music is by India’s Tetsuya Komuro. (*grins*) At first I thought, “This is India’s Kimutaku?” But soon I thought he had a cool appearance. That was the puzzle. (*grin*)” Mr. Nakayama says, looking back. “When the subtitles read ‘Superstar,’ there was an enthusiastic uncle building up an infectious feeling! (*grin*) Why was that man captivating? Why did they call him the Superstar? I couldn’t solve that mystery!”
The first time the lucky Mr. Nakayama was onsite with the man who stole his heart it was a chance meeting. “His chest was so big, it would absorb a person. He was like Buddha. ‘My brother,’ he said. (*grins*)” It seems touching the gentle Rajnikanth is a powerful feeling. After this trip, he returned to India seven times for Rajini’s new releases and met Rajini three times. Now, Robot, the film he’s been impatiently waiting for is releasing in Japan. “It’s similar to Muttu. After watching Robot, everybody will be speechless. This is Rajini’s mystique. You love him after a taste,” says Mr. Nakayama, contentedly. It was his prayer that Rajini return to Japan.
Now Mr. Nakayama can’t easily travel to India but the warm feelings he developed for Rajini from that first film haven’t changed. And what about the mystery? “Little by little, I get the feeling it can be solved,” Mr. Nakayama laughs. “Rajini was even a ticket taker on a bus. He’s a real man of the world. In my life, when there are setbacks, I get courage from his movies. He deserves respect as the heart’s true teacher. This time in Robot, it may be a sci-fi film but my feelings on facing the true nature of Rajini’s body of work haven’t changed. The passion won’t die.”