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Rajnikanth (or Sivajirao Gaekwad as he was known before his days in films) is a phenomenon in the history of Tamil cinema.

No other actor -- not even MGR or Sivaji Ganesan -- has evoked the kind of mass appeal that Rajni has, one that transcends hysteria in Tamil Nadu.

Everyone knows everything there is to know about the superstar, including the fact that he started his career as a bus conductor in Bangalore.

From Bangalore, he moved to Chennai to pursue his dreams to be an actor. As a student at the Adyar Film Institute, he caught the attention of K Balachander and was offered the role of Srividya's husband in Apoorva Ragangal. Kamal Haasan and Rajnikanth became names to reckon with after this film.

Rajni played a villain in all the films that followed like Avargal, 16 Vayathinile, Moondru Mudichu, till Bhairavi happened.

From villain to hero to action hero to saviour of the poor, the transformation was slow but steady. Films with subtle political messages also followed.

His last movie, Baba, was released three years ago and was not a success. Still, the mass appeal of Rajnikanth has not diminished.

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Text: Shobha Warrier | Design: Uday Kuckian

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