Thursday, May 31, 2007

Smoking and the superstar

I started smoking when I was 14. I quit today. Or rather, I will quit today. In other words, I am going to quit today. You see, as plainly as light is day, that I have problems believing this. That I am going to quit today.

A few days after I quit, Rajnikanth will be back on the screen. Hopefully, he will be puffing away as usual. I think millions of fans must have been really impressed with the way Rajnikanth smokes. It was then a sort of coincidence that I first got caught smoking at home after watching Annamalai at a theatre in my hometown. And, what was worse for me, was that I hadn't even smoked that day.

Even though I didn't quite learn to smoke the way Rajnikanth does, smoking and the superstar are forever connected in my mind. My grandmom made sure of that the day I got caught. I used to smoke back then, but because of the rush at the theatre I didn't quite get the time to buy cigarettes. But the guys who sat in the row in front of me kept smoking beedis and because I was clean I went home with a clear conscience. When I got caught I could not reveal I had gone to the movie, and that too a night show! So unable to say that I didn't smoke, but had only gone for a movie, I invented something I don't remember now. I lied. It was easy. But no one really believed me though for my sake they all pretended to.

That brings us to the superstar again. Back in 1987, Nayagan, which many consider to be the greatest film ever made in Tamil, was released. During that time a Kamal film was alway released simultaneously with a Rajnikanth starrer. My dad took my mother, brother and me to both the movies one day after the other, the first time I ever went to the movies two days in a row. Nayagan was the first one. I remember being somewhat dazed during the interval, when my brother, then only six, started making fun of the movie. We laughed through the rest of the movie and were shooed out for ice creams. My mother was a huge fan of the movie and the scene in which Naazer meets Kamal in the jail was the definitive moment in the movie for her. My brother and I though never quite understood until years later what that movie was about.

But in sharp contrast we both enjoyed Manithan. Towards the climax of the movie, which I recently saw again during a bus ride to Nagercoil, Rajnikanth starts to catch and throw bombs - made of nothing less than shining aluminium - back at the goons. For weeks afterwards all our games at home included bombing sessions where we threw pebbles at each other and laughed with gusto. Rajnikanth could thrill you that way. It would have been hard to get Kamal to throw bombs. He just was too morose and pretentious for it.

Obviously the connections between smoking and superstar is not just in my mind. It's there in yours too, albeit in a different sort of way. Will I watch Sivaji? You bet I will even though I don't expect I will like it. But I do like Rajnikanth and always will.

Here's a link to a Hindu story.