An afternoon with Rajini

“I am media shy.”

You can’t tell this to the over 100 media personnel that you yourself had invited for a chat. You can get away after saying this only if you were Rajinikanth.

Well, as it happened, it was indeed Rajinikanth who said this as he began his brief interaction with media people at a hotel in city a few days back.

The meeting was supposed to be a small gathering of only selected journalists, as in the words of his spokesperson, “Rajini sir wants to meet and thank journos for reaching the news of his political plunge to the public”.

Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. That is what we call as good humour. Forget Rajini, the media reality these days is we, without waiting for him to thank us, carry pics of Kanja Karuppu even when he so much as turns up to cast his vote in elections. Rajini’s political entry news is something we would feature in bold typeface even if it meant leaving out the news of World War III breaking out.

Rajini himself would have been aware of this. But thanking the media, similar to the ‘Like’ button we press in response to the happy news that our friends and relatives share on Facebook, is a heart-felt, sincere bogus act. Politicians and film people have been doing it forever.

Anyway, when Rajini wanted to meet a few journos, practically half of Chennai’s journalists population were at the venue. The rest could not make it probably because they were, well okay, no excuse is going to sound reasonable to miss an occasion with Rajini that would include something they could put it in their CV. Heck, it was bigger. It had something that they could put it on their Facebook page itself: A photo with Rajini.  But we are getting ahead of the story.

The specific time for the meeting wasn’t mentioned, the spokesperson had asked us to make it to the venue in the afternoon. So the media personnel hung around discussing, as befitting the thinking folks they are, the mounting fiscal deficit, the pros and cons of the ‘bridge course’ in medical education and the latest trends in the field of Artificial Intelligence. Just kidding. As ever, we kept ourselves busy gossiping about other journos not around.

And suddenly there was an expectant hush, and what we all were waiting keenly for happened: The tiffin counter was now open.

Soon enough, though, Rajini breezed in without any fanfare. On television, Rajini, unshaven for most days, might look old. But I tell you what, in person, when you see him at close quarters, he looks just as old. Yet, the glint in his big-rimmed glasses was unmistakable. It was probably the light streaking from the big chandeliers above.

We were informed that the meeting would be informal, friendly, off-the-record, which meant there was no television cameras recording it. Which also meant there were plenty of cellphone cameras recording it unofficially.

And Rajini began by saying that he kept himself away from the media, and he was once —  Baasha-like pause — a media person himself.  Yes, Rajnikanth was single-handedly the Woodward and Bernstein duo, who broke the sensational Watergate scandal.

Not really. But you know it. Rajinikanth, after he failed his SSLC exam, felt very low. The only office that could take a person who had not even cleared his 10th standard exam was: A media outlet. He said he worked as a proofreader in a Kannada magazine. Now media houses don’t employ proofreaders. <Cue for the templated Rajini cliche joke: Rajini doesn’t exit any job. The job itself exits the industry>.

And then Rajini referred to Tamil Nadu being the place for political revolutions and said Mahatma Gandhi decided in Chennai that he will stick to khadi attire, a dress that is well known — you history buffs will remember this — as the one worn by Rajini in Thillumullu.

After the speech, the floor was thrown open for journos to take individual pictures with Rajini. Hardy professionals — unlike the emotional fans — many of us journos, of course, did not want to pose formally for pics with Rajini. We wanted casual selfies.

But that request was turned down. So we, one by one, went and stood with Rajini as he casually posed with us journos for pictures. All in all, it was an easy and fun afternoon.  And we left the hall thinking that Rajini may be media shy — these Rajini cliches just write themselves — but the media is not Rajini shy.