Rajinikanth was born as Shivaji Rao Gaekwad to his mother Jijabai and father Ramoji Rao Gaekwad, on December 12, 1949 in Bangalore, Karnataka, India. He was the youngest among four children; has two elder brothers and a sister. After the death of his mother, he struggled with an impoverished lifestyle during his childhood. He had his formal education in Acharya Patasala and had his higher education in Ramakrishna Mission in Bangalore. Between 1968 and 1973 he worked in many places in Chennai, thus moving continuously from Bangalore to Chennai. He performed various odd jobs before joining the then-Bangalore Transport Service as a bus conductor. In 1973, he moved to Chennai to seek a career in acting and joined the Madras Film Institute with the help of a friend.
Rajinikanth left his job as bus conductor and joined the Madras Film Institute in 1974. Rajinikanth made his debut into movies through Tamil cinema with Kailasam Balachander's Apoorva Raagangal. He worked in Bollywood with Andha Kanoon. He appeared in several Hindi films, such as Chaalbaaz, Uttar Dakshan, Gangvaa, Jeet Hamaari, Asli Naqli, John Jani Janardhan, Meri Adaalat, Giraftaar, Hum, Farishtay, Tyagi and many more. He starred in the 1988 American film Bloodstone, which released with much fanfare in India but was unsuccessful in the United States. His 1995 film Muthu was dubbed into Japanese while his 2005 film Chandramukhi was dubbed in German and released in all German-speaking nations. He has acted in about 101 movies in Tamil, 17 in Telugu, 11 in Kannada, 2 in Malayalam, one each in Bengali and English, and 24 in Hindi (apart from a few movies where he did guest appearances in Hindi).
Supporting roles: 1975–1977
Rajinikanth's first film was Apoorva Raagangal, a film directed by Kailasam Balachander. Though Rajinikanth refers to director Balachander as his guru or mentor, it was director S. P. Muthuraman who actually revamped Rajinikanth’s image entirely. Muthuraman first experimented with him in a positive role in Bhuvana Oru Kelvikkuri (1977), as a villain in the first half of the film and a protagonist in the second. Around this time Mullum Malarum (1978), directed by J. Mahendran, established Rajinikanth in the Tamil film arena as a film hero. The success of Bhuvana Oru Kelvikkuri prompted Muthuraman to make a mushy melodrama with Rajinikanth as a hero sacrificing everything for his siblings in Aarilirunthu Arubathu Varai (1979).
These films were the turning points in Rajinikanth’s career; he changed from an actor who merely enthralled the audiences to one who could also evoke emotions. The acceptance of Rajinikanth sans his stylized mannerisms proved he had at last become a "star". His film roles were mainly as a villain during the period 1975 to 1977, co-starring frequently with Kamal Haasan as the protagonist, in movies like 16 Vayadhinilae, Moondru Mudichu and Avargal. In 1978, Rajinikanth acted in the film Bairavi.
Lead roles: 1978–1989
His first major role as a solo hero was in Chilakamma Cheppindi, a Telugu film. Later he performed as lead hero in the Tamil film Bairavi. He still appeared in several films in Tamil, Telugu and Kannada. In Kannada he was appreciated in movies like Sahodarara Savaal, Galate Samsara, Kiladi Kittu and Kumkuma Rakshe. In Anthuleni Katha, a Telugu remake of Aval Oru Thodar Kathai, he enacted the role of a drunkard brother of Jayaprada, which made him popular among Telugu audiences. In fact, Anthuleni Katha was the first movie in which he appeared in a major role. Previously, in Apoorva Raagangal and Katha Sangama he had performed very small roles. At that time he was the busiest actor in India; he would complete shooting at Madras at noon and fly to Hyderabad, where he would complete shooting by evening, then fly to Bangalore and finish the shooting by night and again fly to Madras. At this point in his career, Rajinikanth abruptly chose to quit acting, but was coaxed back. He continued acting with the blockbuster Tamil film Billa, which was a remake of the blockbuster Bollywood movie Don. With its phenomenal success he was accepted as a full-fledged hero. Billa was followed by a row of hits, namely Murattu Kaalai, Pokkiri Raja, Thanikattu Raja, Naan Mahaan Alla, Pudukavithai and Moondru Mugam. K. Balachander’s first home production, Netrikan, proved to be yet another milestone in Rajni’s career. He acted in his first cameo role alongside Meena Durairaj, who was a child actor then, in the movie Anbulla Rajinikanth (1984). More box-office hits dominated the 80s, including Padikkathavan, Thee, Velaikaran, Dharmathin Thalaivan, Mr. Bharath, and Maaveeran. In his 100th movie, Sri Raghavendra, he played the Hindu saint Raghavendra Swami.
Career peak: 1989–1999
His movies released during the nineties included Thalapathy, Mannan, Annamalai, Uzhaippali, Veera, Baasha, Muthu, Arunachalam and Padayappa. Rajinikanth wrote his first screenplay and acted as a special appearance in the film Valli (1993). His film Baasha was released in 1995. His film Muthu was the first Tamil film to be dubbed into Japanese (as Muthu: The Dancing Maharajah) and became popular in Japan. Padayappa's release in 1999. Padayappa was directed by K. S. Ravikumar.
After more than a three-year sabbatical from cinema, at 52 years of age, he starred in his home production, Baba, which released on 15 August 2002. The screenplay revolved around a story about a gangster who later engages in spirituality. It fell short of market expectations and the high bids reportedly translated to heavy losses for the distributors, which Rajinikanth repaid.
Recent work: 2005–present
Rajinikanth chose to act in director P. Vasu's Tamil remake of the Malayalam film Manichitrathazhu, titled Chandramukhi. It was released on 14 April 2005, and went on to create new box office records, such as being the longest running Tamil film as of 2007. Just after Chandramukhi's release, it was reported that AVM Productions were to produce a film directed by S. Shankar starring Rajinikanth. The film was titled Sivaji: The Boss and released on 15 June 2007; it went on to become ranked among other major Bollywood and Hollywood releases of the year. Sivaji charted as one of the top-ten best films of United Kingdom and South Africa box offices upon release. Following Sivaji, Rajinikanth worked with P. Vasu again for Kuselan, a remake of the Malayalam film Kadha Parayumbol, in which Rajinikanth played a cameo role as himself, a star in the Indian film industry, and as a best friend to the main character. According to Rajinikanth, the film somewhat narrarates his early life. The film however performed poorly at box offices; some distributors incurred major losses due to the film, which Rajinikanth voluntarily settled with his own budget.
During the course of the production for Sivaji, Ocher Studios, the animation company of Rajinikanth's daughter Soundarya Rajinikanth, in association with Adlabs announced their intention of producing a CGI animation film starring an animated version of Rajinikanth. He will be lending his voice to the lead character in the project, titled Sultan: The Warrior; it will be directed by his daughter Soundarya Rajinikanth, with music provided by A. R. Rahman. Rajinikanth has also been signed to work with the Sivaji team of S. Shankar and A. R. Rahman for the high-budget science-fiction film, Endhiran. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan will play opposite Rajinikanth as heroine for the first time. A. R. Murugadoss had previously shown interest in directing Rajinikanth in his next feature film after Ghajini. Rajinikanth has stated that he is interested in starring in Pyramid Saimira's next production, in order to compensate for Kuselan. Rajinikanth announced that he will no longer be acting in "youth roles" after Endhiran and will begin to act in roles which will be closer to his real age.
Awards and honours
Rajinikanth was named as one of the most influential persons in South Asia by Asiaweek. He won a Filmfare Best Tamil Actor Award for Nallavanuku Nallavan in 1984 and received a nomination for his performance in Muthu in 1995. Between 1977 and 2009, Rajinikanth received several awards from Tamil Nadu State Film Awards, Filmfare Awards, Cinema Express and Filmfans Association for his on-screen performances and off-screen contributions in writing and producing. He has received awards in the Best Actor category for his performance in the films Sivaji, Chandramukhi, Padayappa, Peddarayudu, Baasha, Muthu, Annamalai, Thalapathy, Velaikaran, Sri Raghavendra, Nallavanuku Nallavan, Moondru Mugam, Enkeyo Ketta Kural, Aarilirunthu Arubathu Varai, Mullum Malarum and 16 Vayathinile. He received an award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Bhuvana Oru Kelvi Kuri. He has also received awards in Best Story Writer and Best Producer categories for Valli.
He has also received other honours such as the Raj Kapoor Award in 2007 from the Government of Maharashtra. He was named and honoured with the Padma Bhushan award, India's third highest civilian honour, in 2000 from the Government of India. In September 2005, Rajinikanth won the Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Actor for his role in the film Chandramukhi. Recently, he was selected as the Indian Entertainer of the Year for 2007 by NDTV, competing against the likes of Shahrukh Khan. In 2010, he received the Chevalier Sivaji Ganesan Award for Excellence in Indian Cinema.
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