“Raaman andaalum, Raavanan aandaalum enakkoru kavala ille,” (Whoever be the ruler -- Rama or Ravana -- I don’t care). The hit song from Rajinikanth’s film Mullum Malarum plays out before Muneesh picks up his mobile phone. It is not just his phone that has ‘Thalaivar’ vibes. Muneesh is one of many Rajinikanth look-alikes who came to Chennai’s Poes Garden hoping to catch a glimpse of the superstar. Actor and now politician Rajinikanth turned 70 on Saturday.
Wishes poured in from various quarters including from Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the actor, who had his ardent fans gather in front of his residence hoping to greet him on his birthday. Among them was a group that had several Rajinikanths.
There was ‘Baba’ Rajini, ‘Enthiran’ Rajini, ‘Arunachalam’ Rajini, ‘Padayappa’ Rajini, ‘Annamalai’ Rajini, then a couple more ‘Arunachalam’ Rajinis, and a ‘Manick Baasha’ Rajini among others. The ‘casual look’ Rajini complete with the superstar’s trademark white kurta-pyjama set, standing in between ‘Arunachalam’ Rajini and ‘Annamalai’ Rajini is Erode ‘Rajini’ Muneesh.
“We are all stage artistes from across Tamil Nadu,” begins 44-year-old Muneesh over the phone to TNM. Insistent that he should be identified as Erode ‘Rajini’ Muneesh, he hails from the western district in Tamil Nadu and tours the state as part of dance troupes performing for audiences. Wherever his art takes him, Muneesh goes. But if there was one annual ritual he makes sure not to miss, it is his Thalaivar’s birthday. Every year, he travels to Chennai to celebrate Rajinikanth’s birthday.
“I am a Thalaivar fan since I can remember. I have been performing as a dancer for the last 27 years and I also perform as Thalaiavr sometimes,” he says. The preparation to gather a group of Rajinikanth look-alikes began in January 2020, when Muneesh started a small WhatsApp group to connect with other artistes, who also perform as look-alikes of cinema and political stars like former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu MG Ramachandran. Muneesh, however, dresses up only as Rajinikanth since his face is suitable to look like his superstar, he says.
“The group slowly grew and now we have 75 artistes who don makeup to look like popular actors and entertain audiences. We call ourselves ‘Thalaivar Thondars’,” he adds.
This year, Muneesh’s trip has been to seek Rajinikanth’s approval to campaign on the star’s behalf in Tamil Nadu’s hinterlands for the 2021 Assembly Elections. “Thalaivar cannot reach everywhere. That’s why we are here. We will dress up as Thalaivar and go to villages and campaign on his behalf. We will get people’s votes and help him become the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu,” Muneesh explains.
Though the group waited in front of Rajinikanth’s house for a long time on Saturday, they started back to their hometowns in disappointment as the actor-politician did not meet any of his fans on his birthday.
Rajinikanth recently announced that he will launch his political party in January and appointed Tamilaruvi Manian and Ra Arjunamurthy to oversee the affairs till the party is launched. His announcement comes at a significant point in time in the state as Tamil Nadu is gearing up for its Assembly polls in 2021.