"In an autobiography I'll have to write the truth... I have read Mahatma Gandhi's autobiography and if I can muster up the kind of courage that he had, I will write one..."
This was the renowned Indian film actor, Rajinikanth's response, in answer to a question posed by his mentor, a well-known Indian film director. It features upfront in the newly launched Rajinikanth: The Definitive Biography, written by film critic & author, Naman Ramachandran, and published by Penguin Books.
Rajinikanth is, quite simply, the biggest superstar, cinema-crazy India has ever seen. One of the most influential people in South Asia according to Asiaweek, and the most influential Indian of the year 2010--Forbes India, his stylized dialogues and screen mannerisms are legion, as well, his guy next door-cum-superhero image has found a hysterically appreciative following among millions of moviegoers.
I first remember seeing him in mainstream Bollywood films. In a world of chiseled, buffed heroes, this rather shorter, darker, not-stereotypically-handsome star stood out--for me--due to his sheer audacity in dominating the screen with his over-the-top gestures.
Interviewing the author Naman Ramachandran, about his book, what struck me was his interpretation of this actor's journey. While this--now adulated superstar--came from humble origins, and of course one expects a certain level of grit and determination to make it big in showbiz; yet, it was a surprise for me to discover the extent of years of hard struggle, that this star had to go through, very early in his career, before achieving this degree of success.
Thus while this biography traces his incredible cinematic journey, it also shares rare insights into the actor's personal life. In today's world of shortcut-to-fame seekers, what stood out for me was the author's personal reading; of this star's biography being at heart about a boy with not enough to eat; about a young man reduced to manual labour to earn a living, and then for somebody like that to become one of the world's greatest superstars? That feels truly extraordinary.
As an Indie author, what I take away then is the underlying message: that when your best shot is not enough... then perhaps one needs to simply try harder? And like Rajinikanth, it helps if you have no ego. Is it possible to simply think about the work and not the fame? That too when X-factor still rules? What do you think?
Rajinikanth has not written his memoirs so perhaps this book is the closest we are likely to get to the definitive Rajini story. Rajinikanth: The Definitive Biography launches 12/12/12, which is also the actor's 63rd birthday. Available here on Amazon http://amzn.to/WAPYRo
You can find Laxmi Hariharan at http://www.laxmihariharan.com