Forty years back, two budding actors grew together in the same institution and they call it as KB school. Their passions and dreams are almost the same but both chose different paths to reach their destiny. One always played it to the gallery and the other shifted his path in the mid-way to less travelled route, now both have attained the legendary status. But whose path is better? Who is going to finish it on a high note?
Yes, we are talking about the legendary Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan who are celebrated by the entire nation and remain to be the pride of Tamil cinema…
If we look at Rajinikanth and Kamal’s career, it’s like watching a see-saw game. At one point of time Rajinikanth would have been at the top and sooner or later Kamal would have broken the record and vice-versa, except for the last five years it is Rajinikanth’s Endhiran (2010) that remains at the top.
For example, when Rajinikanth gave a blockbuster Baashah (1995), the very next year Kamal broke Rajini’s record with Indian (1996). When Rajini came up with a high budget Sivaji (2007), Kamal gave a Dasavatharam (2008) with almost same budget; this has continued till the latest Endhiran (2010) and Vishwaroopam (2013). Not just in late 90s and 2000s, if you look at early 80s and 90s Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan individually have set many industry records which includes Murattu Kalai (1980), Sakala Kala Vallavan (1982), Apoorva Sagotharagal (1989), Thalapathi(1991), Thevarmagan(1992).
Both Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan were commercial actors till the early 1980s. Thanks to Nayagan (1987), Kamal slowly shifted to the less travelled path and it equally helped and tested his ambitious super-stardom. Some of his experiment blended with commercial films like Apoorva Sagothargal , Kuruthipunal, Thevarmagan and Indian stood as a tough competition for Rajini.
At the same time his experimental off-beat films like Hey Ram, Anbe Sivam and Alavanthan are considered to be times ahead and ruined his successful film career, at that point of time Rajinikanth was ruling the box office with continuous hits with commercial pot-boilers like Padayappa, Arunachalam and Chandramukhi.
Though Rajini acted in experimental films like Mullum Malarum, Sri Raghavendra and Netrikann and proved his acting prowess, post 90s he projected himself as larger-than-life hero which made him as darling of masses and people gave him the majestic Superstar throne.
Back then, any layman/ intellectual would have said that the path chose by Rajini is the best and Kamal’s experiments are unnecessary but now it looks like Kamal chose a safer path and not Rajini.
Today, Rajini is not in a mood to play roles that suit his age, he doesn't want to give a family dramas like Mullum Malarum anymore and all he wants to do is a big budget commercial extravaganza that requires mammoth investment. If there is a worthy director like Shankar is on board then there is no problem but look at Rajinikanth’s last two films,
Kochadaiiyaan and Lingaa that brought losses to its buyers and raised a lot of questions on his super-stardom. Also Rajinikanth can’t afford to choose a promising upcoming director or music director for his films, he definitely needs an AR Rahman, and his films definitely need a top shot cinematographer and expensive technicians.
On the other hand, look at Kamal Haasan now, he is happily making films with talented newcomers and he is not having pressure to give box office hits with every given film, he could remake Drishyam or A Wednesday with less than 10 cr budget (excluding salary), reap maximum profit and invest in his big budget dream films.
Kamal could direct his own films even when in his late 60's and 70's just like Clint Eastwood. Major advantage is that today Kamal Haasan is having a massive respect and fan following among young audience who are raving about his Anbe Sivam and Hey Ram, they want more such films from him and he can do it till the end of his life but Rajini’s case is different.
Rajini is mounted by a large pressure of delivering a bigger hit than Endhiran and make sure that he satisfies his fans and distributors but is it possible? Should Rajini go back to his Mullum Malarum days and act in films just like his senior Amitabh Bachchan who is giving us gem of films like Paa and Cheeni Kum or Rajini could still keep us entertained with template commercial films which are getting trashed by today’s audience and prove the critics wrong?
Now let’s go back to the basic question, among Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan, whose path is better? Who is going to finish it on a high note? Well the coming months will hopefully answer that question.