50,000 Rajinikanth fan clubs, millions of followers: The universe of the superstar fan

In 1995, Rajinikanth said that he didn't want any more fan clubs but there are thousands of unofficial ones that function in his name.
50,000 Rajinikanth fan clubs, millions of followers: The universe of the superstar fan
50,000 Rajinikanth fan clubs, millions of followers: The universe of the superstar fan
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A day before Rajinikanth is set to make an announcement about his political entry, his fans across the state are beside themselves with excitement.

The actor, who is arguably one of south India's biggest stars, triggers extreme fan mania before every film release – from special pujas to gigantic cut-outs, Tamil Nadu transforms into a Rajini festival.

The official number of registered Rajinikanth fan clubs is 50,000.

Sudhakar, the administrator of the All-India Rajinikanth Fans Association, is a very busy man. Since December 26, the superstar has been meeting his fans at Raghavendra Mandapam in Chennai every day.

Sudhakar, who is looking into the arrangements, says he barely has any time in the midst of organising photo sessions with fans.

Rajinikanth has been hinting for a long time now that he may join politics, but, thus far, he has not made any crucial decision.

Although most of his fans are convinced that Sunday's announcement will mark Rajini's official entry into politics, Sudhakar is much more guarded in his response.

"He has said he will give his views on politics, not make an announcement about his political entry," he says.

Suresh, one of the organisers of Rajinikanth's fan associations in Coimbatore, says that the actor has at least a 1000 fan clubs in the district alone.

"Each of these clubs has at least 25 persons," he says.

Suresh, who is now 47, joined the fan club when he was in his teens.

"I've been a member for over 30 years now," he says. "We do a number of charitable activities as part of the fan club. We contribute to Udhavum Karangal, pay the fees of students in need ... We have also organised money for people's medical expenses."

Thamizhazhagan, who is the admin of the Twitter handle Rajni_FC, laments that although Rajinikanth fans do a lot of "good work", people believe they have been inactive since 1995.

"We help out during times of crises, like the Chennai floods, and otherwise too," he says. "However, since they stopped registering fan clubs in 1995, many are part of unofficial clubs. The online fans are also unofficial since many were not born then or were too young to have joined."

Rajinikanth has 4.4 million followers on Twitter while his fan club handles have tens of thousands of followers. The superstar, however, does not follow any of them.

In 1995, Rajinikanth had reportedly said that he didn't want any more fan clubs to be set up for him.

A year later, he took a calculated jibe at the AIADMK, stating that if Jayalalithaa was voted to power, "not even god can save Tamil Nadu". The DMK-TMC alliance swept the 1996 state elections and Rajinikanth has claimed that he was one of the main reasons why Jayalalithaa lost the polls.

While some say the superstar didn't want any more fan clubs because "there were too many", others suspect that he'd made the decision because of his interest in politics.

Asked what he believes is Rajinikanth's political ideology, Thamizhazhagan says it is "transparency and anti-corruption". He asserts that the vast majority of his fans want him to join politics and that they will support his move wholeheartedly. He adds that river linking is among the superstar's main agenda.

Thamizhazhagan alleges that it is because other political parties fear Rajinikanth that some channels have called people to speak poorly of him. And because Kamal Haasan is Rajinikanth's friend, Thamizhazhagan doesn't want to oppose the former's political entry.

According to Azhagar, who is from Madurai, although the number of official Rajinikanth fan clubs has been at 50,000 since 1995, there are scores of unofficial clubs – anywhere between 50,000 to a lakh – existing in the state.

Everyone in Tamil Nadu, from fans to skeptics, is curious about Rajinikanth's announcement on Sunday. Will he finally take the plunge or will it be a damp squib as it has been in the past? And if he does make that long delayed entry, will the fans, many of whom may be loyal to either of the two Dravidian parties, stand by him?

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