Rajinikanth is the most popular living human being in Tamil Nadu. With a zillion fans who have worshipped him thru the years, he possesses the biggest bully pulpit in the state. The people of the state have showered their love on him for nearly three decades. The people of Tamil Nadu have embraced his movies and performances virtually every time, to make him the safest investment in the industry. The media have stopped covering him as a human being capable of flaws and moved on to the worshipping stage for nearly 15 years now. Like several demigods of the common man he is known just by his one word title ‘Superstar’. If any one should be stepping in front and center for Kamal Hassan and the gross censorship of freedom of expression and creativity in this time of his need, it should be Rajinikanth. So far he has uttered statements that read as a pathetic plea to the protesting Muslims. Instead of defending free speech and expression and fighting for his industry and peer, he has tried to placate the rabid mobs that are seeking a pound of Kamal Hassan’s flesh.
The religious sentiments of a vocal Muslim minority and their place in the political puzzle are being used to muzzle one of Rajinikanth’s greatest peers. This isn’t enough to make his blood boil? Is this not the sort of situation where he can use his influence and vast accumulation of street-cred? If he went on cable channels tomorrow and asked the government and those who have protested to do the right thing, does that not have a profound impact on the story? Does he not influence the way the story is covered? Does he not make those who havent established themselves in the industry yet feel good about their choice of profession? If he requested a meeting with the Chief Minister and used all of his powers of persuasion to remind her of the industry she came from, would that not affect even the most political decision at its core? Does he not owe this simple defense and disobedience to the industry and creative form that gave him so much?
(Also we have the small fact that if he uttered some thing once, we know it is like he really said it a 100 times…)
Rajinikanth in his various roles has ridiculed Brahmin practices (in Dalapathi), endorsed polygamy (in Veera) and even articulated a vastly different role for women in society (Padayappa) than the roles his wife and daughter have taken. Each of these roles could someday be the butt of similar censorship as ‘Vishwaroopam’ is today. Rajinikanth had a chance and based on today’s events still has a chance to stand up for the industry and creative expression. I hope he does. I truly truly hope he does and that I get to delete this post in a day and apologize. Standing up for free speech in a big and bold way is the right thing to do. Otherwise Rajinikanth may as well be known not as a Superstar or a reluctant Superstar but as the Irrelevant Superstar.