Manu Joseph writes a stinging, whiplash of a take on Rajinikanth the phenomena, as eloquently and evocatively as only he can and with a self appointed sense of intellectual hubris that only he can afford

A hero and beloved clown of semi-literates A rebuttal to Manu Josephs post on Rajinikanth
Features Rajinikanth Monday, July 25, 2016 - 17:02

Journalist Manu Joseph’s Facebook post calling Tamil superstar Rajinikanth, “the hero of semi-literates” and a “beloved clown” who “has no talent” has, as expected, outraged fans and film lovers. A Hyderabad-based marketing branding professional, Rajesh Balasubramanian’s line-by-line rebuttal trashes the senior journalist’s argument. Incidentally, Rajesh is no fan of the superstar.

Read Rajesh's full post here:

Manu Joseph writes a stinging, whiplash of a take on Rajinikanth the phenomena, as eloquently and evocatively as only he can and with a self appointed sense of intellectual hubris that only he can afford.

Now, let me try and articulate my take to his take, bit by bit. Am sorry for using the word Rajinikanth and Manu Joseph excessively in this note. I tried my best to limit it with pronouns but just couldn’t.
------------------------------------------------------

'There is no reason why Rajinikanth exists', says Manu Joseph.

-- He is right. Just as there is no reason why Coca Cola exists either. Just as there is no reason why Haldiram's Moong Dal exists. Just as there is no reason why Ramesh Sippy’s Sholay exists. Just as there is no reason why Pokemon go exists. The truth is that they do and that we need to live with it. We have every right to turn down the offer that is thrown at us. There is no point cursing the drink while sipping it. Its a stupid waste of time. It is the consumers who create legends and not the other way around. If you dont want to consume something, just dont.

I've been trying to warn Rajini for a long time -- don't take them seriously, you're not pan-anything, you're the hero of semi-literates, says Manu Joseph

-- I still remember being riveted to a Norman Mailer novel, when I had to close the damn book and rush to the theater. The reason was to watch Rajnikanth's Baasha. I didn’t feel anything amiss then. I dont feel anything amiss now. I dont think my desire to watch a Rajini film was reeking of reverse intellectualism or phony rationalism. I wanted to watch his movie on screen, thats all. It was the same pair of eyes that watched Rajini’s ‘Baasha' that night, It was the same pair of eyes that read ‘The Fall’ by Albert Camus, the week after and it was the same pair of eyes that had watched ‘The Full Metal Jacket’ by Kubrick a month before. There was nothing beguiling or hypocritical in any of these three unique experiences. That the mind wrenching monologues of Jean-Baptiste Clamence have stayed imprinted far longer than the harebrained dialogues of Manik Baashha is another story. It just means, the mind filters what it thinks is revolutionary and discards the rest. This doesn’t take anything away from that month in my life, when three philosophically incongruous products were consumed by me with relative ease and without much anguish.

'The fake urbane fans of Rajinikanth have finally completely destroyed him’, says Manu Joseph

-- Apart from the literary finesse in that sentence there is nothing much to it. I dont think anybody has destroyed anybody. I believe, Rajinikanth does what he feels is right just as most of us do what we think is right. I believe Rajinikanth to be a reasonably intelligent man and has enough working neurons to make personal and career decisions. I am sure he cannot mathematically explain the inertial frame of reference of Enstein. Just as Manu Joseph will also not be able to and just as most of us will not be able to. Which means we (Rajinikanth, Manu Joseph and most of us) are not the highly advanced, precociously intelligent people who deal with matters that matter to none. So while this select few are trying to interpret the language of the gods and signals from the universe, we the rest of us ( incl Manu Joseph) deploy our naturally provided or consciously honed material or skill, which the world consumes and with which we trade our existence; Rajinikanth with his cigarette tossing and tailor-made dialogues, Manu with his awe-inspiring language and captivating columns and I with my ability to insert squares and circles in MS powerpoint.

'He is the very end of analysis’ , says Manu Joseph.

-- I think there are too many of them whose journey begins where the road to analysis ends; From Arnold Schwarzenegger to Deepak Chopra to McDonald’s burgers. According to me, he is an analysis waiting to happen. There must be something affirming and real in the product called Rajinikanth that simply works. We need to find out, what that is. He is a product that is consumed far more than others and has has gone on to attain an impossible, incomprehensible cult hood that doesn’t render itself well to critical enquiry nor fit into rational boundaries. It is spooky, no doubt.

'He has no talent...When he puts his right elbow on his left palm and the left elbow on the right palm, he demands that everyone accepts it as dance. And his ability to toss a cigarette in the air and grab it with his mouth is attainable even to my mother’, says Manu Joseph.

-- He is right here. But there are enough examples and instances of talentless people and things become ultra successful and achieving inexplicable iconolatry. But we need to understand that when it comes to contemporary commercial art forms like movies, we are generally a tasteless and talentless people. We are quite addicted to lack of talent. We ooze talentlessness through every creative pore available. Making talentless people into nebulous icons is the evening hobby of our nation anyway. We are so bereft of talent availability, that we even anointed Aamir Khan as the passionate crusader and intellectual custodian of good films. To me he is an above average actor who tries too hard and a below average intellectual who tries too hard. But yes, he tries too hard and I’ll give that to him. His desperate effort to appear above par is felt even by his shadow that follows him and sometimes by the stool that he sits on. Therefore Manu Joseph's attempt at contrasting Rajinikanth's axiomatic mediocrity with Aamir Khan's ostensible superiority is a bad idea. Its like choosing between the American Onion and Spanish Tomato flavours of Lays. Both are pathetic calories.

Its just that, we dont need to specifically target Rajinikanth for lack of talent. Out here, Rajinikant is not an exception to non-talent. He is part of the ever growing club of super successful non-talented people. However, there is only one thing that differentiates him from the others when it comes to being non-talented. Unlike others, he endorses his talentlessness wholeheartedly and admits to it publicly. He admits to it without a shard of wanting to attain reverse glory. He believes his success to be miraculous and without reason. I think he has rationalized with his life journey far better than many of those cigar smoking, green tea drinking snobs, who still read Derrida and Jon Paul Sartre by the night to feel intellectually secure. Watch any of those videos on youtube. You will understand what I am saying. Manu Joseph cannot get celebratory pom-poms for having said that Rajinikanth has no talent. There is some one who beat him to it and his name is Rajinikanth.

'Tamil Brahmins preferred Kamal Haasan, who was more talented than a bride—he could sing, he could dance, he could laugh and cry at the same time. Naturally, they had an innate contempt for Rajnikanth, but in time discovered the fake charm of appreciating him. There was something intellectual in calibrating the folly of the dark masses and renaming it phenomenon', says Manu Joseph.

-- There is an obvious over generalizing and unauthorized representation happening here, but lets consider for a mayflyish second that its true. So to this temporarily assumed truth, my take is that there is something called an acquired taste; A product that you do not like initially, but grow to like/love over a period of time (like sushi). So, It is not called a fake charm as Manu Joseph says. It could just be newly found tastebud.

I am not a Rajini fan though I have grown up watching his films. I have enjoyed the pulsating numinous experience called Rajini the same way I enjoy the night festivities around Charminar during Ramzan. His movies are trite, tedious and boring though the cultural fever and irrational passions he generates every single time there is a release, is an unimaginable occurrence. I like watching him off screen in award functions and interviews. Out there, He seems real, reasonable, just like most of us. He does endear himself to me at some levels, but never as an actor or a star. I dont think the world has become any the culturally better, cerebrally richer or philosophically more profound because of his presence or contribution. But that I think of most people including Manu Joseph and myself. He cannot be the sole owner of the Dark Ages. There are too many pallbearers of impact less existence and non performance out there and writers are not excluded from that irrelevant assemblage, just because they can write.

This post was first published on Rajesh Balasubramanian’s Facebook page.

Note: The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the author

Become a TNM Member for just Rs 999!
You can also support us with a one-time payment.