Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Jottings : Slice of life - 30

Jottings : Slice of life - 30
In the midst of all the euphoria surrounding Rajnikanth’s “Kabali”, I can only sympathize and pity the Person Rajni who has to endure all this. This may sound very strange to you. When a movie has raked in 250 crores on its release, screened across 8000 theaters worldwide, watched almost with frenzied religious fanaticism by every section of Indian society; profusely written, spoken and reviewed about in all forms of media, Daily lives forced to come to standstill in major Indian cities and beyond to honor the occasion of his movie release, ardent fans flocking and stampeding into screening halls with milk, garlands and other ritualistic paraphernalia to propitiate their God incarnate( as he appears to them) each time he appears on Screen - like the resurrection of Jesus - praying for immortality of their beloved superstar, Families forsaking their humble earnings to get an invaluable ticket to watch the first show in the hope of attaining fulfillment of their life purpose, educated sections of population trying not to be overtly fanatical or emotional, but surreptitiously betraying their thoughts, emotions on Mobile messengers applications and group chats - With all this happening, why is that I feel sympathy and sad for Rajni. Is this not , after all, the greatest day in his aging life to witness the kind of appreciation and welcome his mere presence is bringing in? Is not a wonder that yet again, his idiosyncratic histrionics was all that was needed by public from his movie? Who bothers if Rajni enjoys doing what he is doing?
It is exactly for reasons mentioned above, I sympathize with him. What have we done to a Man who walked into films in late sixties from difficult life conditions to find himself an artistic outlet in movies? Why have we abandoned Rajni -the talented actor, over the last three decades? Where is that energetic, angry young actor who was blossoming into a fine artist and could play serious roles with ferocious ease and inimitable style? Where is that Man who during his most fertile years between 1971 to 1985 was cast into some very admirable films by able directors only for his ability to play wonderful and controversial characters, and not merely to fantasize on screen? Where is the man whom we have trapped in the golden prison of our own making, typecasting him, not allowing him to experiment, grow, mature; relentlessly pushing him to cyclically repeat himself to the point of weariness in order to satisfy our trodden, crushed middle class ego’s fantasies of a Superman?, and above all, where is the man, who I believe, still has the artistic capability to rise beyond this trap and break new grounds? But, Will we ever allow him to be himself - which is , an actor who needs to be acting new roles, and not having always to accommodate his work to suit mass hysteria and public taste.
The answer to these questions, if posed to one of his devoted fans, would be : But that is how Rajni presented himself to us. Yes true, that was one phase of his career, but what right do we have to expect him to put on the same gloss over and over again to merely appease our credulous sense of inferiority and dreams of incarnating a superman on screen to cover for our sense of inadequacies. The point is: would we have allowed him to do anything else. Time and again, the actor in Rajnikanth did try to do something different, present a side of his acting that could somehow help him slip out of this rut he had fallen, or pushed into ( depends on who is doing the talking), but did we ever embrace that change with equal enthusiasm and fanaticism we now accord to run of the mill movie called Kabali. Have we allowed him to successfully choose a role with the slightest change in script, style or anything other than a manifestation of demigod persona, each time he appeared on screen. A sincere answer is No.
What can a man do under such debilitating circumstances? He would turn to alcohol for solace; try desperately to keep a visibly aging and diseased body look young on screen despite every indication that layers of paint are not camouflaging the wrinkling skin anymore or the tremor in his voice is giving away his true identity; running off to the mountains in the name of spiritual solace or seek anonymity in other continents of the globe, check into hospitals in the middle of the night hoping to recover enough to continue the fiasco. But even such moments of privacy end up becoming public spectacles. This is the price an artist pays for giving into public demands, and not being wise enough to break the shackles early enough in one’s artistic journey.
When we allowed an Amitabh Bachan or a Kamala Hasan to transform , reinvent and find consummation in avant garde Movies, why did we not accord the same privilege to Rajni, who may not (arguably) be as gifted as them , but certainly was capable of doing much more than what we have seen in last two decades at least. For an art to grow and refine itself, it must have audiences capable of genuine critical appreciation. Fanaticism cannot prevail or help grow greatness. When such an atmosphere of mature appreciation is not present, art cannot aspire for greatness. There is long standing debate as to why Indian Cinema cannot be compared to Hollywood or other European theaters. We get very defensive when asked. But the truth is blunt and brutal: We have to get away from hero worship , and take art on its own merit. Only when that happens, can we expect to see a degree of sanity creeping in our largely commercialized “industry” of film making. The immediate reaction of many when i say this would be “ Are you suggesting there is no Hero- worship elsewhere?”, Frankly, that is not my concern. I can only point out what I see very clearly wherever I see it. And I may be totally wrong as well. In the recent past, there have been several movies in different Indian languages made with great story, relatively unknown actors and virtually unknown directors. They are wonderful. Those films are beginning to represent the possibilities for future. I only hope, we as matured audience, will raise our bars enough to give them the same kind of welcome we give to commercial pictures.
I wonder how many more movies will Rajni continue in this vein. There has to be a stop at some point. I have grown up watching him, so I do have a soft corner for him. But I think, we are pushing him too far. We need to let him cool his heels, and start playing roles which are less demanding on himself physically and mentally. If there is any respect left in us for what he has done in the name of entertainment for indian cinema - we should begin to accept him in any role he chooses to play, and not be judgmental about it. Not push him so relentlessly to live up to an image that surrounds him so impregnably. For a man who is deeply spiritual, philanthropic and graciously remembers his roots, I am sure all that he would in the deepest corner of his heart pray for - is to finally be left alone and not sucked into glare of unchanging limelight each time he walks in front of the camera.
I wish and pray that he will, during this lifetime, see such a day, and we as his well wishers and patrons will embrace him with equal, if not more, acceptance and love for whatever he chooses to do - on and off screen.
God bless…
Yours in mortality,

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