Press Trust of India
January 23, 2013 17:03 IST
Before Rajinikanth made it big as an actor, he worked as a bus conductor
Did you know that passengers would let buses go empty and wait for the one where Rajinikanth was on duty as the superstar, who was then a bus conductor, amazed people by issuing tickets and returning the change in his trademark style?
Critic Naman Ramachandran's biography on Rajinikanth recounts the actor's career in meticulous detail, tracing his incredible cinematic journey from his very first film Apoorva Ragangal in 1975 to memorable forays into Bollywood like Andhaa Kanoon and Hum, from landmark films like Billa, Thalapathi and Annamalai to the mega successes of Baasha, Muthu, Padayappa, Sivaji and Enthiran.
Along the way, 'Rajinikanth: The Definitive Biography' provides rare insights into the his personal life, from his childhood days to his times of struggle - when he was still Sivaji Rao Gaekwad - and then his eventual stardom: revealing how a legend was born.
During his days of struggle, Rajinikanth worked briefly at Mysore Machinery in Bangalore before getting a job of loadingsacks of rice into trucks at 10 paise per bag. He then sat for an examination and obtained a bus conductor's licence from the Bangalore Transport Service.
He joined service on March 19, 1970 along with driver Raja Bahadur. "The driver-conductor pair was thrown together a lot, working the gruelling early morning shift that began at 6 am and ended at 2 pm," the book, published by Penguin, says. "There was no one faster than him in issuing tickets," remembers Badhar.
"He would give out tickets with a flourish, return change in style. It was all about style. Passengers would look on in amazement. He would always flick back his forelock in those days, that's why he is bald today," says the driver.
"Passengers would let earlier buses go empty and wait for the bus where the entertaining conductor was on duty and crowd in. Shivaji definitely knew how to work a crowd and play to the gallery even then," he recalls.
Badhar and Rajinikanth's other friends advised him to enroll in the newly formed Madras Film Institute. It was sound advice as Madras was the epicentre of the south Indian film industry then.
At the time, Rajinikanth knew only a smattering of Tamil, having picked up a few words from watching movies and from friends.
"He asked me for my permission to join the institute," says Rajini's elder brother Satyanarayana. "I told him not to worry about the family. He should come up in life with his acting. And with the blessing of Lord Raghavendra, we decided to send him."
Thus, Rajinikanth, then Shivaji Rao, decided to join the Madras Film Institute, taking casual leave and later unauthorised leave from the BTS, not wanting to lose the security blanket of a government job should he not make it in the world of cinema.
K Balachander did not cast about long for a screen name for Shivaji Rao; he chose a character name from his own film, Major Chandrakanth. A V M Rajan had played a character named Rajinikanth in the film, and Balachander christened Shivaji Rao with this name.
And thus was born Rajinikanth, soon to be a household name. The name literally means 'colour of night'; it was a comment on the colour of Shivaji Rao's skin.