Rajinikanth is a synonym for flamboyance (or should it be the other way around?) Born Shivajirao Gaekwad in 1950, Rajinikanth has played a variety of roles: he’s been a rapist and a thief, Robin Hood and the ideal son. Tamil cinema’s very own Angry Young Man, whose new movie Lingaa opens on December 12, has developed a unique style over a long and eventful career that several have tried to imitate to their peril.

Here’s what makes him the legend that he is.

Nobody talks like him

Baasha (1995).

Rajinikanth’s punchy dialogue delivery is his trademark. He is one of the rare Indian stars who treats a great line with the respect it deserves. In a scene from one of his biggest hits, Baasha (1995), for example, he says if you come back here again, I will bury you. If I say something once, it’s equal to saying it a hundred times.

Nobody walks like him

Annamalai (1992).

There are actors who walk into the frame in slow motion. And then there is the frame that stops because Rajinikanth has walked into it. A scene from Annamalai (1992).

Nobody plays the bad guy like him


Before he became cinema’s avenging angel, Rajinikanth was its unrepentant devil. His early roles, in which he was often pitted against a fair-skinned Kamal Haasan, saw him plays rapists, stalkers, and sadistic husbands. A scene from Avargal (1977).

Nobody dances like him

Muthu (1995).

From Muthu (1995), whose fame spread far and wide, including to Japan, where it was released as The Dancing Maharaja.

Nobody puts down women like him

Padayappa (1999).

Rajinikanth has had his fair share of showing women their place – an uncomfortable but inextricable factor in his popularity. From another mega-hit, Padayappa.

Nobody handles delirium better than him

Sivaji (2007).

Armies of filmmakers, writers, cinematographers and editors have helped create the Rajini persona. Credit also to the man for his ability to carry off moments of utter mania. A scene from Sivaji (2007).

Nobody speaks Hindi like him

Gair Kanooni (1989).

Rajinikanth’s cinematic adventures include a bunch of movies made in Mumbai in the eighties and nineties, one of the highlights of which is his Southern-inflected Hindi accent. A scene from Gair Kanooni (1989).

Nobody smokes like him

Gerafataar (1985).

No actor’s image has suffered more from the Health Ministry’s anti-smoking drive than the king of the animated nicotine stick. From the Hindi movie Gerafataar (1985).