Rajinikanth Birthday: The Many Looks Of The Superstar

Twelve films where Rajinikanth sported unique looks that also helped build 'Brand Rajini'.
Rajinikanth Birthday: The Many Looks Of The Superstar

It's December 12 yet again. And, depending on where you live, it can mean different things. It is the Day of The Virgin of Guadalupe in the Americas and Jamhuri (Republic) Day in Kenya, but if you are anywhere in India, especially Tamil Nadu, or Japan, you know it is the birthday of the "Superstar", Rajinikanth.

Amid all the listicles being made, here's one on his unique looks. Given that his career spans more than four decades, the choices also factor in the the "significance" of these looks to cinema, and to helping build the brand called Rajini. 

Avargal (1977)

Director: K. Balachander

Slick, parted hair, large-framed glasses and a thick-moustache perched atop a sincere smile – features that deceive you into thinking that Ramanathan is a gentleman. You need to watch the film to know he is an incessant "sadist".

Thappu Thalangal (1978)

Director: K. Balachander

Sporting a 'keda messai' ('scoundrel' moustache) and a bicycle chain around his neck, Devu is a… scoundrel. The film is a grim tale on the cycles of morality a person goes through, and Rajinikanth sells you every 'thappana thaalangal' (wrong beat) he makes.

Ninaithale Inikkum (1979)

Director: K. Balachander

Rajini plays Deepak, a singer/guitarist of a band that also features Kamal's Chandroo. As a young man with a French beard and flowy hair, Rajini is entertaining and his antics add to the hilarity. The now-iconic cigarette-flipping was epitomised in this film. 

Note: the scene is inspired from Roald Dahl's short story – Man from the South.

Johnny (1980)

Director: J. Mahendran

Rajinikanth plays dual roles as Vidyasagar (left) and Johnny (right). Though Johnny is the titular character, what draws you in is Vidyasagar's psyche (his centre-parted hairstyle and box-framed glasses come a close second).

Thillu Mullu (1981)

Director: K. Balachander

One of those rare films where you see a clean-shaven Rajini.  Thillu Mullu, based on Golmaal (1979) enjoys a rich legacy, and the performances are a delight to re-watch.

Netrikkan (1981)

Director: SP Muthuraman

Rajinikanth plays both the lecherous, rapist father (Chakravarthy) and the righteous son (Santhosh). Chakravarthy sports a thick grey hairdo, a Casanova moustache and shades, and wears a suit. Looking back, it is amazing that a top actor even agreed to play this part! 

Moondru Mugam (1982)

Director: A. Jagannathan

Rajini plays Arun, John and… Alex Pandian. Alex is that policeman who sports dem Lennon glasses and a well-made moustache and stuffs a navy-blue tie inside that khaki uniform. To this, add his walk and countless punch dialogues, and you have yet another memorable Rajini character.

Thambikku Entha Ooru (1984)

Director: Rajasekhar

Breaking some rules here, as this look isn't unique; he sported a similar style in many films from the late 70s to the late 80s. However, this film really managed to capture that 'early Rajini hair-style' and the (often unspoken) charm that he exhibits. If in doubt, check out the song.

Sri Raghavendrar (1985)

Director: SP Muthuraman

Rajinikanth's 100th film paid homage to Sri Raghavendrar, and he played the saint. Never before, and probably never after that have we seen the star play a part that requires him to be calm, peaceful and profound. 

Baashha (1995)

Director: Suresh Krissna


If Annamalai (1992, same director) sealed the fact that 'Superstar' is just not any random title, Baashha made it the religion it is today. The stylish semi-beard, a hairdo where just a couple of strands spill on the forehead, rimless maroon coolers and a patterned coat – this is an image so etched in pop-culture. The clipped dialogues continue to be a rage, and movies still get made on the 'Baashha template'.

Enthiran (2010)

Director: S Shankar

A film where Rajini showed us that all those years of saviour roles did not corrupt the "red-chip" within him. How much Chitti 2.O impressed – with his look, body language and snarky attitude. Be it his old-school 'bwahaha' evil laugh or the "Black sheep! vashee meheheheh" bleating; those absurd onomatopoetical dialogues were fantastic and needed a  Rajinikanth to deliver them in style.

Kabali (2016)

Director: Pa. Ranjith

The poster set the expectation high for this film. Rajini looked like he'd aged well, dapper in a grey suit and sitting stylishly on a couch, with the Malaysian skyline in the background. When Kabali, his character, said "Naa thirumbi vandhutaen-nu sollu", Rajinikanth probably meant it too!

Rajinikanth also probably kicked off the trend of stars collaborating with supposedly "non-mainstream" new-age directors. But then, he's always been that pathbreaker who set out to be an actor when actors didn't look like him, did "twisted" roles… It is important to take a holistic look at his body of work to realise how much the Superstar has influenced the narrative of Tamil, and Indian cinema.

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