By T S Sudhir
Yesterday at the Landmark store at a mall in Mumbai, I saw a young man intently reading portions of `Rajini’s PUNCHtantra’. I asked him if he is a Rajini fan. He first said yes and then perhaps as an afterthought, “well, not really. I was just wondering if this is a book about Rajinikanth’s business acumen. Given the kind of marketing overdrive we saw before the release of `Robot’, he seems to have a hit business plan.”
This was not a south Indian speaking and therefore his introduction to the magic of Brand Rajini was limited to a `Robot’. But for the lakhs and lakhs of Rajini fans and observers who may wonder what possibly can be written new about a man who has inspired so much admiration, eulogistic reviews, literature and jokes, `Rajini’s PUNCHtantra’ takes the Superstar’s punch dialogues on a road less travelled. Or to borrow one of Rajini’s oft-quoted dialogues `en vazhi thanee vazhee’ (I take the road less travelled).
The book links a select 30 punchlines of the superstar to business mantras that could be the Bible for every corporate czar. This rather hatke interpretation is the brainchild of P C Balasubramanian, a chartered accountant and Raja Krishnamoorthy, who has made a name both in the field of acting and HR.
The thirty punch dialogues interpreted as management mantras seem to have caught Rajini offguard too. The actor obviously after reading the draft of the book, writes on page 1 of `Rajini’s PUNCHtantra’ “I am amazed to see the creativity, interpretation and the strong relevance of some of the punchlines in both business and life management.”
Indeed, so far, most of Rajini’s punchlines have been seen in the context of the politics of the day in Tamilnadu. Like in his superhit `Muthu’ where he says “Naan eppo varuven eppadi varuvennu yarukkum theriyadhu…aana varavendiya nerathile correctaa varuven.” (No one knows when and how I will come but I will be there at the right time). His fans and janta of Tamilnadu saw this as a hint that he will make an entry into politics at the right time.
The authors, however, interpret it as the Hanuman effect. They say `That individual who is larger than life, almost comes out of nowhere at the right time and surprises the expectant and dependant population with a necessary solution – a typical Hanuman bringing the Sanjeevani at the right time. Many technology organisations in the last twenty years have been corporate Hanumans like Google for search engines, Amazon for books and Facebook for social networking, Maruti for small passenger cars and Nokia for mobile handsets.”
His “En vazhi thanee vazhi” line from `Padaiyappa’ is interpreted thus. “You need to be different to succeed. Don’t choose a `me too’ line of business or a `me too’ way of running a business.” It is almost as if Rajini planned his career too the same way. Starting off as a villain whose style statement the audience fell in love with. Everytime he flicked his cigarette, he lit up the big screen. His different style of wearing his glares, spawned an entire generation of `Me too Rajini’ copycats.
The Rajini biography is something most Tamilians in the last three decades have grown up, revising each chapter, everytime a Rajini film releases. How the bus conductor purchased a ticket for himself into the world of films and Rajinikanth became the byword for all that is grand in Tamil cinema.
The cover photograph of the book is taken on location of `Enthiran’ (Robot). You can see the reflection of a spot boy holding a reflector in Rajini’s glares. Rajini clearly knows to make best use of all the spotlight that is on him. But he takes Brand Rajini up several notches, by shying away from the spotlight. His embarrassed shyness, reticence, humility is what adds to the aura and despite doing no ads in his career, Rajini when he speaks, remains brand ambassador par excellence. Like he did when he spoke for the DMK before the 1996 elections, playing a significant part in Karunanidhi sweeping the polls.
When I interviewed Rajini before the release of `Sivaji’ he told me his favourite Rajini dialogue was “Naan oru thadavai sonna, nooru thadava sonna maadhiri” (If I tell something once, it is equivalent to saying it a hundred times), delivered with the swish of his index finger. The authors quote Churchill to highlight the significance of this mantra. “If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point. But hit it with a tremendous whack.”
Chapter 30 of the book quotes what Rajini said at a launch function of his film `Chandramukhi’. His previous film `Baba’ had turned out to be a black sheep, and the superstar was under pressure to deliver a hit. “Naan yaanai illa, kuthirai, keezha vizhundha takkunu yezhunthupaen.” (I am not an elephant but a horse for I get up in a jiffy when I fall). `Chandramukhi’ went on to create several box-office records. The authors say `to be a giant can be an illusory strength. True heroes are dynamic and energetic’.
As if in sync, `Rajini’s PUNCHtantra’ has sold 6000 copies since it was released on his birthday in December and is rated by Landmark as one of the bestsellers.
Did I hear Rajini asking “Ithu eppadi irukku?” (How is it?) !!