Inherent bias: The one thing that teased my conscience as I parked my butt to write about my one and only Superstar. 21 years ago, when Baasha released, I wasn’t even born but it was the first movie I saw once I reached a stage where I could comprehend films. I’m not here to give the clichéd run-at-the-mill celebration about God the same way all the Indian critics write about – His style, His unique dialogue delivery, His screen presence and more often, His completely opposite mien outside the screen. I’ll try my best though to not let personal opinions supersede the neutrality of the article; if you do find it, take the liberty to close this tab.
This is not a review for Kabali, the movie every Rajni fan had been waiting for in every sense. Was Rajni going to finally act his age, a 65-year old gun-toting gangster looking for revenge? What about that hair flick of the 80’s funky avatar he managed in the first teaser which released on May Day? Or like always, are we going to see him romancing a girl one third his age and fighting a hundred people and blowing up planets?
No kidding, I wouldn’t mind the nature of the content of a Rajni movie, let alone care as much as I want to see my ‘Thalaivar’ on screen. This is more, especially much more since the episode of his hospitalization and his medical visit to Singapore. A nation held its breath and prayed for his recovery. So, when he did come out unscathed (who can touch God anyway?!), devotees like myself immediately wanted his next project to come out as soon as possible; a fitting reply to the folks who declared the downfall of the ethereal Superstar. And Kabali came out…
If you’re reading this right now, probably is the right time to tell you that I have tricked you into finally viewing what I exactly wanted. Somewhere, you might have actually hoped to see a review (spoiler-free or not) of the movie but instead I’m going to focus on just one single aspect of the movie.
For the uninitiated, Neruppu Da is the electrifying, mesmerizing introduction song for Rajni in the movie. Adjectives run out to describe the zing factor of the song. It amazes me that a non-SPB laced track composed by a newbie music director written and sung by some unknown artist would be the centre piece of the mania preceding the worldwide release of the motion picture.
That’s the thing, right? The people who were actually involved in the production are no less than me, eternal fans who grossly overpaid to watch the First Day First Show (FDFS) show of any Rajni movie and most certainly watched every show available during the following weekend. So, given the opportunity, what they conceptualized and executed was without doubt, the fieriest track for Thalaivar.
Of course, the writer here recognizes that he doesn’t have the golden ear to hear and dissect and present an argument on how good the exact song is. Probably, it is a loud cacophonic piece of junk which was made popular only because of the actor on celluloid and it probably is. However, now that you’re here, let’s move on to the crux of the article which sure as hell, I had an amazing time writing – the lyrics, of course.
I’m going to go ahead and give you the English translation of the lyrics beforehand itself. I finally arrived at Quora where one person painstakingly translated the vernacular into English.
The reason I do this is important in the sense that I’ll be taking cues from this as I analyze different segments of the song and present an overall idea.
If you haven’t heard the song yet, at the 32 second mark, we hear the word ‘Mudiyuma’ followed by an electric guitar riff (I hope I’m using the right terminology). A huge round of applause for Jhanu Chantar of the band Skrat for wielding the electric guitar with aplomb for, it effortlessly sets the mood for the song. ‘Mudiyuma’ literally means “Can you?” I use double quotes because Santhosh, the composer is actually asking the listeners whether they can. Can do what? Is not the question, but rather whether the ability to rise above everything around us. Of course, this is just conjecture.
At the 42 second mark, we hear the main riff which plays along with the title card introducing our hero. It must be mentioned that Pa. Ranjith recycled the title card last seen in Baasha. A string of dots illuminated within by stars going in a pattern spelling out SUPERSTAR before Rajni’s name flashes in English and Tamil. It was almost like a phoenix born out of the ashes, ready for one last ride after having seen everything. It’s not part of the lyrics but might have as well been a part of it. Of course, this is just conjecture.
Finally, 1 minute and 7 seconds into the mesmerizing opening, we hear Arunraja Kamaraj saying the most cherished part of the song. ‘Neruppu Da, Nerunga Da Paapom, Nerungginna Posukkura Koootam’ meaning “He is fire! Come close to him if you can. This group will burst you, if you dare come close”.
You probably are laughing your ass off when you read the above sentence. What group? What burst? Yes, I wait for you to listen to the next paragraph then.
‘Adanggunaa adanggura aalaa nee? Izhuthadhum piriyira noolaa nee? Thadai ellaam madhikkira aaLaa nee? Vidiyala virumpidum Kabaali!’ Roughly translates to “Are you the one who yields to suppression? Are you a thread that breaks with a pull? (Are you a single person to break that easily?) Are you the one who respects barriers? You are the Kabali who likes a new dawn!”
(The word document I’m typing in now is showing record number of grammatical errors.)
I’m going to stop the translation for some time for I believe this question is probably running in your head. What bullcrap is the writer trying to convey? If you go through the lines with a finer comb, you would discover an undertone of inspiration. He’s talking about a person who goes the extra mile, does the impossible helping the people around him, not yielding to any sorts of pressure, trailblazing his way through life. How coincidental, it mirrors the life of Shivaji Rao Gaekwad, a Marathi son of a police constable who was forced to labour as a coolie and eventually became a bus conductor as the story inked is well known globally. Just another case of a rags to riches story; something the world is never depleted off. However, when we come across one such tale of a person who’s birthdays and releases are celebrated as National Holidays, it strikes us like a ton of bricks and makes us admire the God.
Of course, this is just conjecture.
I’m just going to refer once more to the translation present in the link. There’s a line which reads “But your valor will forever be ferocious, This Nation will rise in its honor.” The line directly alludes to the phenomenon himself. Ferocity shall pave way to a rise. Shivaji Rao Gaekwad’s paramount rise will echo throughout affecting every devotee’s life in ways beyond imaginable.
If you have watched the movie, you would discover how much Kabali’s character resembles Dr. Ambedkar and his deeds to uplift the needy (Not a spoiler!). An inspirational character indeed, it would almost seem that everything fit exactly into place like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle; the universe conspiring to give us the best version of Rajnikanth yet.
Inherent bias: something which I hoped to delete from my thought process as I typed out this mammoth article probably creeped in at many places. I sincerely apologize for that but I hope you understand that like Santhosh and the team, enthusiasm to write about Him takes over you automatically without permission.
In the 160 movies he has acted, there have been many tracks which throw the spotlight on him with panache. However, it will be this song that will set to stone the legacy of the coolie turned phenomenon and forever immortalize Him.
I recently had the pleasure of chatting with my friend above the Vindhyas who currently resides in Delhi. I envy him for the fact that not only was he able to get his ‘Dharisanam’ of Thalaivar on the first day, but also the damn bastard scalped two tickets and made a healthy profit of two grand. He said and I quote “Dude, I have no idea what the singer is saying but it is now my fitness regimen track!”
The song transcends barriers like no other. That is the innate effect of the track and it carries out its objectives without breaking a sweat. 30 million Youtube hits for the teaser and another 15 million for the song teaser, breaking records is just another task for the man. Of course, as my ‘dosth’ himself asked me later “What do you gain by watching Rajni movies thousand times?” I had one thing to say – Magizhchi (Happiness)
I study in a college where fifty percentage of the populace are Tamilians so I can imagine them to nod their heads in approval of the facts presented. To the people who are unable to generally comprehend the reason behind the madness we exhibit around every theatrical release, I hope this piece will tag along with the many Quora answers you got when you searched ‘Why is Rajnikanth a phenomenon?’
Of course, this is just conjecture. Why? Of course, an opinion has been formed with half baked information. Passion is the only driving force here to finish this article in a record time of two hours (I hope it is).
So next time, you hear this song played by a FM station or someone putting a status on Facebook about the song, know that you were alive to witness one of the greatest entertainers India has ever produced celebrated over 216 seconds.
– Nived Bharadwaj