the sublime awesomeness of Tamil action

It was my boss Murali who first said to me the name “Rajinikanth”.

Murali is a natural storyteller. He’s utterly captivating, Murali, with one of those personalities that immediately commands any room into which he steps. Some of us tend to be indistinguishable from the wallpaper, but Murali is of the kind with an invisible spotlight trained on him at all times. So to see Murali get a faraway look in his eyes when speaking of a film hero — that man must be spellbinding indeed.

And what Murali told me about Rajinikanth was nothing short of unbelievable: something about shooting at a bad guy, realizing there were actually two bad guys, and then throwing a knife to split the speeding bullet into two pieces that each perfectly pierce the hearts of both bad guys.

While it may not have been that exact scenario, it was certainly in that general spirit. And whatever it was, my coworkers nodded in agreement at the assessment that Rajinikanth lived on a plane above us mortals. Oh, they knew of Rajinikanth. Everyone knew Rajinikanth. Except us Americans.

And we Americans are missing out.

After this conversation, I googled the name. The portrait I found didn’t seem particularly transcendent: a slightly pudgy man with an admittedly impressive mustache. But then I beheld the glory that you will experience in the two clips below. Part one:

Part two (it gets EVEN BETTER):

From there, I descended into the Youtube hole, and a world of Tamil cinema embraced me into its overdubbed bosom. Rajinikanth may be singularly glorious in Murali’s esteem, dear reader, but other South Indian action heroes are not far behind.

Conclusion: Tamil action cinema is incredible.

I cannot claim to understand who did what first in Tamil cinema. It’s possible that Rajinikanth is the greatest and all else are pretenders. It’s possible that Rajinikanth is the first and everyone else is biting his flow. It’s possible that Rajinikanth got famous copying someone else’s moves. All I know is that it gets better:

And better still:

Dear Indian readers of this blog, if there’s one thing we ignorant Americans know less about than Bollywood cinema, it’s Tamil cinema. In fact, I’m not even sure if Rajinikanth’s oeuvre is properly called “Tamil cinema” — I could be way off. (As the comment below points out, I’ve included at least one Telugu clip above.) What I do know is that I have yet to behold a knife splitting a bullet with my own eyes. I — and all Americans — would be in debt of anyone who could a) explain Rajinikanth and his antecedents to us, and b) embed the knifey-bullety clip below.


33 responses to “the sublime awesomeness of Tamil action

  1. From what my Tamil sources tell me (and i believe it, cos they also have Mani Ratnam) there are two divergent types of Tamil cinema- one spearheaded by Rajni and another which is cinema which is much more thought through (i actually can’t say Rajni’s antics aren’t thought through as well, must take a lot of outlandish thought to have the bullet split into two :D)…but while growing up on non-Tamil cinema, the first time I saw Rajni I was more like ‘wtf is this’ and I couldn’t understand how a.n.y. tamilian would get offended if you asked ‘why do people like rajni’…I don’t think I still get it, but I realise it’s the sort of cinema people watch to be happy- so whatever works for them! But thanks for sharing this, I could relate to the sense of discovery I felt so myself when I first saw Rajni 🙂

  2. Been following your blog for a while and its quite unbelievable that you JUST discovered the wonders of Rajnikanth.. I must point out (for the sadly uninformed) that he possesses no superpowers except sheer unadultrated awsomeness..
    PS : I have the bullet-knife clip.. but im woefully technologically challanged.. Help..

    • Just ‘discovered’ the ‘Thalaivar’ interested to see the ‘bullet knife’ clip, where can I find it or at least tell me the title of the movie, thanks 😀

  3. The third video is Telugu, not Tamil.

    Also, bollywood has equally absurd movies and fanfare for such movies. Delhi is not the market for that. More like UP-Bihar.

  4. So you’ve finally discovered Rajinikanth! Awesome! And I like the fact that you realize you were missing out on stuff in life 😛 There used to be this age old joke about Isaac Newton committing suicide after watching three of his movies…
    If I may suggest, I had a similar post in the same vein over a year or so ago…

  5. I live in Kerala, and while Rajinikanth is known by all, it’s the Mollywood heroes Mohanlal and Mammootty that command the greatest attention and respect. They are EVERYWHERE – on every TV channel, on every hair saloon signboard, in every rickshaw awning display. Well, almost.

    They are also even more mustachioed and pudgy than Rajinikanth, if such a thing were possible.

    I haven’t yet seen any of their films all the way through, but with such ubiquitous presence, I feel like I know them personally.

  6. All of them are Tamil cinema, except for the one with the dance moves which is a Hindi/bollywood film that also includes rajinikanth.

    Rajinikanth is the ultimate superstar. He has a god like image and has a great fan following. People believe that he is capable of all pyrotechnics. It is mostly harmless fun, and even educated elite like watching his Tamil films as it is almost like a fantasy story. Most of his films have the same story line “a single man fighting and winning against a corrupt and evil establishment or government”. Maybe his movies provide solace to the people who can’t fight injustice and inequality in daily life.

    If you are interested, also check for “Vijayakanth” movie clips. He is also an actor of similar style to Rajinikanth, but the fight scenes in his movies are even more surreal.

  7. This is a Tamil movie fight scene with “vijayakanth”. But he doesn’t have as much fan following and adulation as “rajinikanth”

  8. Another awesome(funny) “vijayakanth” movie clip:

  9. All of us are waiting for oct 1 his endhiran release!!! Rajni Is GOD!! 🙂

  10. you got chuck norris and jack bauer? we got rajnikanth.

  11. This is a clip from Rajinikanth’s latest movie “Shivaji” released in 2009. You can see that he is the ultimate style icon of the Tamil, err…Indian, movie industry:

  12. Also, Rajinikanth has great comedic talent. His movies have some of the best comedy and humor scenes. This one is from his latest movie “Sivaji”

  13. Dave,
    The Japanese are way ahead of you.

    About ten years ago, the Japanese discovered Rajini.
    Ever since then, Rajini’s Tamil movies are dubbed into Japanese and screened in Japan, running to packed theatres. Really.

    Next to Gautama Buddha ( yes, the Buddha was Indian), Rajini is the most revered Indian in Japan.

  14. Hey Rajni has become health conscious! He doesn’t flip a cigarette in the air and shoot it to light it and catch in his lips anymore, he’s switched to nicotine gum 🙂

  15. Biff! Bang! Pow! Great post. Interestingly, think I have the exact same Titan specs!

  16. Did you know that Rajni has been doing this for over 30 years? And his fight scenes have only got more awesome and more ridiculous. I think he can now honestly claim to be funnier than Seinfeld, Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle put together.

  17. Here’s a tamil view of Rajinikant… . I, for quite a long time was among those who never liked Rajinikant. He was not good looking, he could not pronounce Tamil words too well (even now), is dark, cannot sing, cannot dance, can only do roles that suit him and was never an exceptionally talented actor like say a Kamal Hassan or Amitabh Bachhan. I started liking him only a few years back & I don’t know why I like him, I can never explain that.

    I feel its got to do with a lot of factors like
    – The real Shivaji Rao (his birth name) & the humbleness, the simplicity of this person & the way he’s lived it so far, away from the limelight. He’s still every woman’s ideal husband, every child’s ideal dad, who every teenager aspires to be.
    – His normal looks, which made people feel he’s one among them
    – His popularity with kids (every kid’s favourite hero)
    – His ‘punch’ dialogues.. he started this trend & now even salman khan’s doing it.

    This article by his biographer gives a good introduction to Rajinikant:

    He’s the only star in the whole world who has a theme music & a ‘soundtrack’ to be played when his name’s shown in the opening credits…

  18. He sounds a lot like Mammootty, who was featured on the Kerala episode of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations. Both appear (to my uninformed eyes) to be cut from the Clint Eastwood / Dirty Harry mold.

  19. Mould?

  20. Here in Delhi we miss out on so much southern pop culture awesomeness. There’s also Baby Keerthika, a chubby little girl who dances like Mallika Sherawat:

  21. Rajnikanth is the Indian Chuck Norris.

  22. Can you please help me with the video about rajnikanth or something facing three enemies. He has only one gun, and only one bullet. But he has a knife or something, throws his knife, and then fires his gun, splitting the bullet and killing all three.

  23. What makes Rajinikanth entertaining is the absolete WTFness of anything he does. He’s so over the top with his stunts that you can’t help but be entertained. Of course no one in their right mind would take his fighting at face value, but once you acknowledge the absurdity, its a nice 2-3 hours to pass watching him beat up bad guys of all manners, while wooing a maiden about half his age.

  24. I’m surprised at how all the posts above talk mainly of the action sequences & nothing much… We are missing the most important aspect of a Rajini film. If you ask Rajni fans, they don’t actually go in to watch how Rajni beats up baddies, instead the answers to expect are : Style, Dialogues & Comedy… These three things have always been associated with Rajnikanth & are mandatory in his movies.

  25. a feiend of mine posted this on facebook. Thought you all had to read this about the great Rajinikanth.

    1. Rajinikanth killed the Dead Sea.
    2. When Rajinikanth does push-ups, he isn’t lifting himself up. …He is pushing the earth down.
    3. There is no such thing as evolution, it’s just a list of creatures that Rajinikanth allowed to live.
    4. Rajinikanth gave Mona Lisa that smile.
    5 .Rajnikanth can divide by zero.
    6. Rajinikanth can judge a book by it’s cover.
    7. Rajinikanth can drown a fish.
    8. Rajinikanth can delete the Recycle Bin.
    9. Rajinikanth once got into a fight with a VCR player. Now it plays DVDs.
    10. Rajinikanth can slam a revolving door.
    11. Rajinikanth once kicked a horse in the chin. Its descendants are today called giraffes.
    12. Rajinikanth once ordered a plate of idli in McDonald’s, and got it.
    13. Rajinikanth can win at Solitaire with only 18 cards.
    14. The Bermuda Triangle used to be the Bermuda Square, until Rajinikanth kicked one of the corners off.
    15. Rajinikanth can build a snowman out of rain.
    16. Rajinikanth can strangle you with a cordless phone.
    17. Rajinikanth can make onions cry.
    18. Rajinikanth destroyed the periodic table, because he only recognizes the element of surprise.
    19. Rajinikanth can watch the show 60 minutes in 20 minutes.
    20. Rajinikanth has counted to infinity, twice.
    21. Rajinikanth will attain separate statehood in 2013.
    22. Rajinikanth did in fact, build Rome in a day.
    23. Rajinikanth once got into a knife-fight. The knife lost.
    24. Rajinikanth can play the violin with a piano.
    25. Rajinikanth never wet his bed as a child. The bed wet itself in fear.
    26. The only man who ever outsmarted Rajinikanth was Stephen Hawking, and he got what he deserved.
    27. Rajinikanth can talk about Fight Club.
    28. Rajinikanth doesn’t breathe. Air hides in his lungs for protection.
    29. There are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Rajinikanth lives in Chennai.
    30. Rajinikanth kills Harry Potter in the eighth book.
    31. Rajinikanth does not own a stove, oven, or microwave, because revenge is a dish best served cold.
    32. Rajinikanth has already been to Mars, that’s why there are no signs of life there.
    33. Rajinikanth doesn’t move at the speed of light. Light moves at the speed of Rajinikanth.
    34. Rajinikanth knows Victoria’s secret.
    35. Water boils faster when Rajinikanth stares at it.
    36. Rajinikanth can throw the Thackerays out of Mumbai.
    37. Rajinikanth kills two stones with one bird.
    38. Google won’t find Rajinikanth because you don’t find Rajinikanth; Rajinikanth finds you.
    39. Rajinikanth gave the Joker those scars.
    40. Rajinikanth leaves messages before the beep.
    41. Rajinikanth once warned a young girl to be good “or else”. The result? Mother Teresa.
    42. Rajinikant electrocuted Iron Man.
    43. Rajinikanth killed Spiderman using Baygon Anti Bug Spray.
    44. Rajinikanth can make PCs better than the Mac.
    45. Rajinikanth puts the ‘laughter’ in manslaughter.
    46. Rajinikanth goes to court and sentences the judge.
    47. Rajinikanth can handle the truth.
    48. Rajinikanth can speak Braille.
    49. Rajinikanth can dodge Chuck Norris’ roundhouse kicks.
    50. Rajinikanth can teach an old dog new tricks.
    51. Rajinikanth calls Voldemort by his name.
    52. Who do you think taught Voldemort Parseltongue? Rajinikanth did.
    53. Chuck Norris once met Rajinikanth. The result – He was reduced to a joke on the internet.
    54. Rajinikanth got small pox when he was a kid. As a result small pox is now eradicated.
    55. Rajinikanth’s calendar goes straight from March 31st to April 2nd, no one fools Rajanikanth.
    56. Rajinikanth grinds his coffee with his teeth and boils the water with his own rage.
    57. The last time Rajinikanth killed someone, he slapped himself to do it. The other guy just disintegrated. Resonance.
    58. Rajinikanth once had a heart attack. His heart lost.
    59. Rajinikant is so fast, he can run around the world and punch himself in the back of the head.
    60. Rajinikanth can run at speed of light around a tree and screw himself.
    61.Rajinikant can lick his elbows.
    62. Rajinikant once ate an entire bottle of sleeping pills. They made him blink.
    63. Rajinikant does not get frostbite. Rajnikant bites frost.
    64. Rajinikant doesn’t wear a watch. He decides what time it is.
    65. Rajinikant got his drivers license at the age of 16 seconds.
    66. When you say “no one is perfect”, Rajinikant takes this as a personal insult.
    67. In an average living room there are 1,242 objects Rajinikanth could use to kill you, including the room itself.
    68. Words like awesomeness, brilliance, legendary etc. were added to the dictionary in the year 1949. That was the year Rajinikanth was born.
    69. The statement “nobody can cheat death”, is a personal insult to Rajnikanth. Rajni cheats and fools death everyday.
    70. When Rajnikanth is asked to kill some one he doesn’t know, he shoots the bullet and directs it the day he finds out.
    71. Rajinikant can give pain to Painkillers and headache to Anacin.
    72. Rajinikanth knows what women really want.
    73. Time and tide wait for Rajinikanth.
    74. Rajinikanth sneezed only once in his entire life, that’s when the tsunami occurred in the Indian ocean.
    75. As a child when Rajinikanth had dyslexia, he simply re-scripted the alphabet.
    76. Rajinikanth collects Honey from his private Moon – HoneyMoon.
    77. Rajinikanth can answer a missed call.
    78. Rajinikanth doesn’t need a visa to travel abroad, he just jumps from the tallest building in Chennai and holds himself in the air while the earth rotates.
    79. Rajinikanth’s brain works faster than Chacha Chaudhury’s.
    80. Rajinikanth doesn’t shower. He only takes blood baths.
    81. To be or not to be? That is the question. The answer? Rajinikanth.
    82. The quickest way to a man’s heart is with Rajinikanth’s fist.
    83. Where there is a will, there is a way. Where there is Rajinikanth, there is no other way.
    84. Rajinikanth’s every step creates a mini whirlwind. Hurricane Katrina was the result of a morning jog.
    85. Rajinikant doesn’t bowl strikes, he just knocks down one pin and the other nine faint out of fear.
    86. Archaeologists unearthed an old English dictionary dating back to the year 1236. It defined “victim” as “one who has encountered Rajinikant”.
    87. There is no such thing as global warming. Rajinikanth was feeling cold, so brought the sun closer to heat the earth up.
    88. Once a cobra bit Rajinikanth’ leg. After five days of excruciating pain, the cobra died.
    89. Rajinikanth is a champion in the game “Hide n’ seek”, as no one can hide from Rajinikanth.
    90. Rajinikant proves Newton wrong all the time. Every time he performs an action, he simply eliminates anything and everything that can provide the reaction.
    91. Rajinikant is a weapon created by God to use on doomsday to end the world.
    92. Aliens do indeed exist. They just know better than to visit a planet that Rajinikanth is on.
    93. We live in an expanding universe. All of it is trying to get away from Rajinikanth.
    94. If at first you don’t succeed, you’re not Rajinikanth.  
    95. Rajinikanth’s first job was as a bus conductor. There were no survivors.
    96. Rajinikanth does not style his hair. It lays perfectly in place out of sheer terror.
    97. When Rajinikanth plays Monopoly, it affects the actual world economy.
    98. Rajinikanth is the only man to ever defeat a brick wall in a game of tennis.
    99. Rajinikanth’s house has no doors, only walls that he walks through.
    100. Rajnikanth doesn’t answer nature’s call nature answers Rajnikanth’s call.
    101. Rajnikanth can double click 2 icons at the same time.

  26. Slate:

    To judge tamil film industry by Rajinikanth movies is just as skewed as judging Hollywood purely by James Bond movies.

  27. Jz came over some Kewl!! Rajnikantha facts for you
    Check em out..Here

  28. Probably a best/worst time to read a post on Rajnikanth is after being subjected to a 1000 jokes on him (like he comes 1st, 2nd and 3rd at the same time in a race).
    With a lot of courage I would admit that I haven’t seen a complete movie starring him, but if Keanu Reeves beats bullets in Matrix then that is awesome, but if Rajnikanth (or any other Indian movie hero) does the same I lmao. Maybe I am being a jerk, but well…

  29. This is incredible! Oddly enough, I found this post because I have a blog called “Sublime Awesomeness”. Needless to say, I made a post referencing this post (I linked back to your blog and everything, so I hope it’s cool). Anyway, thanks for blowing my mind into a higher state of consciousness with these clips!

  30. I’m bored at work so I decided to browse your blog on my iphone during lunch break. I really like the info you provide here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home. I’m shocked at how fast your blog loaded on my cell phone . I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G . Anyways, superb blog! Its such as you learn my mind!

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