The Rajinikanth we know now is way beyond a multi-star given his on-screen presence. But we can’t get enough of his old-fashioned character roles, in which he steals the show despite not being a role you’re instantly convinced to grab attention.
As he turns 71, here are five films from the 70s we picked that show that the style quotient is one of the many reasons for Rajinikanth’s rise to stardom, and not the only reason.
Mangudi Minor – 1978 (VC Guhanathan)
The film is the Hindi remake of Manmohan Desai’s Raampur Ka Lakshman. Rajinikanth plays a negative role in this film. You could tell from his accent that he was still improving his Tamil, but it looks impressive nonetheless. The scene where he makes the cops believe that he is not the boss of an underground gang they are looking for, which stands out on this date and a novelty of the time.
Aval Appadithan – 1978 (C Rudraiah)
This 1978 Deepavali fare is one of the most impressive films in the Rajini-Kamal combo. Each character in this film is carefully and uniquely engraved. Sripriya’s morality is under scrutiny due to his troubled upbringing, Kamal Haasan is a Platonic lover, and Rajinikanth is an opportunistic macho who believes that women are primarily a source of gratification for the senses. You can witness a Rajinikanth, who lacks image awareness but still performs his role with aplomb.
16 Vayadhinile – 1977 (Bharathiraja)
This rural drama from Bharathiraja will be featured if ever a rulebook on rural filmmaking is released. Although Kamal Haasan’s Sappaani is very experienced, there are plenty of scenes where Rajinikanth, as the villainous Parattai, displays his ability to steal thunder for only two or three years in the movies. Parattai’s character is said to be designed on the lines of Kondaji, tried out by Rajinikanth himself, in the 1975 film Kannada Katha sangama.
Moondru Mudichu – 1976 (K Balachander)
Another gem of the Rajinikanth classics, Moondru Mudichu makes it difficult for you to argue against the hypothesis of Prasath (Rajinikanth) lending a shade of gray or two to Darr‘s Rahul (Shah Rukh Khan) and Priyamudan‘s Vasanth (Vijay). Playing a friend of Kamal Haasan in the film, Rajini is apparently an angel to the former, whose wickedness is only known to the main lady Sridevi. The horns of Prasath are fully exposed in Vasantha Kaala Nathiyinile rowing boat scene. Not just in an openly rude villainous Paratta role, Rajini is at his peak even with an intriguing character masquerading as a good guy.
Naan Vaazhavaipen – 1979 (D Yoganand)
Taking charge of the oar in a Sivaji Ganesan movie is almost impossible, only if you are not Rajinikanth. Rajini’s role in this movie can be called an extended cameo, but it is too heavy and important to be called that. Rajini is well presented in the second half of the film, as an expert criminal who could help Sivaji out of his catch-22 situation as the latter is implicated in a murder he did not commit. For the short time Rajini had on screen and that too in a film directed by a dean called Sivaji Ganesan, the indelible mark left by the Superstar as a youngster can only be explained by Aandavan, to borrow the jargon of the first.