Rajinikanth, from sadistic villain to superstar saviour

The superstar, who today has a god-like aura for his fans, began his career with lecherous villainy.

Mayur Lookhar

Rajinikanth is, arguably, the most adored superstar in the country today. Critics choose their words carefully when writing about him and his films. He is the ideal hero who loves his mother and would not look at any woman other than his heroine. It is this celluloid image that has earned Rajinikanth the reputation of the ultimate hero, the ultimate gentleman.

However, the actor wasn’t always a saint in his films. The early roles Rajinikanth played may come as a shock to the current generation of his fans.

Born Shivajirao Gaekwad, Rajinikanth made his debut playing a small role in K Balachander’s Apoorva Raagangal (1975), which starred Kamal Haasan and Srividya. Rajinikanth played Pandiyan, the abusive husband of Srividya. The film won the National award, but Rajinikanth did not have much to do with its success.

His next, Katha Sangama (1975), saw him rape a blind woman. He then played a drunk in Anthuleni Katha (1976), one who gives his sister a lot of trouble.

Moondru Mudichu (1976) saw an envious Rajini fail to come to the rescue of the drowning Kamal Haasan. With Balaji (Haasan) out of the way, Prasath (Rajinikanth) thought he could marry Selvi (Sridevi), but the heroine had other ideas and hatched a surprise revenge plot.

Avargal (1977), another Balachander film, had Rajini play the sadistic husband of Sujatha.

The actor played his first positive and leading role in Eranki Sharma’s Telugu film Chilakamma Cheppindi (1977).

Despite getting elevated to lead status, Rajinikanth played the antagonist in 16 Vayathinile(1977), a film in which he again attempted to rape the heroine.

In 1977, director SP Muthuraman’s Aadu Puli Aatam (1977) introduced us to the ‘This is Rajini style’ phrase. However, that too was not in a positive role.

In the same year, Rajinikanth took his hideousness to a disgusting new level in the film Gaayathri, in which he played a blue-film producer who secretly films his love-making with his wife Gaayathri (Sridevi).

The villainous streak continued in 1977 with Mangudi Minor, which was inspired by the Manmohan Desai-directed Hindi film Raampur Ka Lakshman (1972). 

The same year, Rajinikanth played his first solo lead in a Tamil flick, Bairavi. The film’s success earned him recognition as a star. Bairavi triggered a transformation in Rajinikanth’s career, and he switched to playing the protagonist. However, Aval Appadithan (1978) saw him back to his nefarious ways, playing a cunning boss who attempts to rape Manju (Sripriya).

Once he started climbing up the stardom stakes, however, Rajinikanth stopped playing sadistic characters, and he even stopped receiving such offers. From terrorizing the woman characters in his film to being lionized by them, Rajinikanth has come a long way indeed.

The superstar returns to the silver screen playing a don in Kabali, which is scheduled to release on 22 July. But women can relax; this don isn't getting back to his lecherous ways.