The Dadasaheb Phalke Award Dispute: Why Kamal Haasan? Why Not Rajinikanth?

With Kamal Haasan fans at war with Rajinikanth getting the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award, we ask why not Rajinikanth?

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The Dadasaheb Phalke Award Dispute: Why Kamal Haasan? Why Not Rajinikanth?
Right after the  Government announced the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke award for Rajinikanth supporters of Kamal Haasan began their automaton’s alaap about how the award was given to the wrong actor. They see politics in the decision to honour Rajinikanth.

 Really?! With due respects to  Kamal  Haasan who is without doubt one of  India’s finest most accomplished actors, Rajinikanth, whose fan I am not,  is also capable of greatness and has achieved a lot more than Kamal Haasan. In his early films like Thee (1981 the remake of Deewaar), Kazhugu (1981), Pokkiri Raja (1982), Ranga (1982) and so many others, Rajinikanth not only had the masses eating out of his hand he also had the critics going ga-ga over his performance. This is true of a majority of his films, right up to Enthiraan (2010), Kaala (2018), Darbar (2020).

“Rajnikanth is a bigger star, but Kamal Haasan is the real actor,”  is a  myth that was created by Kamal Haasan’s fans and media machinery. Rajinikanth never corrected this fallacy. He never needed to. He was too busy churning out the hits. In our cinema, if you are more successful than the average Joe you are not considered a  great actor. Rajesh Khanna the biggest superstar of  Hindi cinema of all times, was branded mediocre. You only have to see Anand or  Aavishkar experience Khanna’s brilliancy.

Hema Malini, indisputably the biggest female star of Indian cinema, was never taken seriously as an actor. The articulate Javed Akhtar explains it this way: “God has made you so incredibly beautiful. How can He make you talented as well? Chal jhoothi!”

Stretching that line of thought, how can God make Rajinkant an unparalleled superstar and also give him talent? Rajinikanth was always more interested in stardom than awards. He never wooed the media (an artform that Kamal Haasan excels in). Damn, he isn’t even articulate, often mumbling incoherently and leaving off half-completed sentences mid-way. He isn’t well-read like Kamal Haasan. Nor does he aspire to be the chief minister of  Tamil Nadu.

But you know what? Rajnikant is a far bigger star than Kamal Haasan can ever be. He has what Kamal Haasan possesses only partially: indelible connectivity with the masses.  His fanatical fans see Rajnikanth as a  messianic mass leader who genuinely cares for the public. With  Kamal Hassan, there is always that feeling that he is not one of the masses, but many pegs above them, trying not to look down on them. And being the actor that he is,  succeeding in not looking like he is looking down.

Image source: SpotboyE archives