Tuesday, July 27, 2010

On the Star's Gesture...

A youtube clip of Rajnikanth's iconic cigarette toss/move (Hindi film viewers probably know this only in its elaborate form from Giraftaar (begin watching at the 1:43 mark here); followed by Satyam's comment in the context of what Shankar has made/is making of Rajni, led to the following musings:

"…and the scene illustrates the nature, and hence the limits, of gesture. That is, the gesture — which, unlike the pose, is purely itself; that is, it expresses personality, unlike the pose, which seeks to express someone else’s personality and is merely a kind of imitation — operates at the level of “as if.” We are charmed by the gesture inasmuch as it is able to be enacted as if no one were watching. This is of course not true — on film, by definition someone is watching — but for the spell onscreen to be compelling the performer must be able to enact it as if it were true. (The becomes less and less true as the gesture is transformed into the star's stock move, and, as in the scene from Giraftaar, filmmakers will often try to disguise the staleness by rendering it ever more elaborate.) This scene from Ninaithaale Inikkum (a film I haven’t seen, by the way) demonstrates that even the most gestural of stars, Rajnikanth (in the sense that no other star seems so conflatable with his gestures), is undone if the illusion is undone. The “as if” element cannot be present, because, in this scene, people are literally watching him. Also, the purity of the gesture is explicitly compromised, because, instead of existing in and of itself as it does at the beginning of the scene, the cigarette trick is impressed into the service of a goal: winning the car. The gesture, in short, is undone, and all pleasure and delight drained from it, when it is transformed into a task."


Anonymous said...

I grew up watching Rajnikant movies, Andha Kanoon, Giraftar, Chaalbaaz and Chandramukhi too many to list.But I loved every one of them.After all, Rajinikanth was the only star who used to flip a cigarette in the air and then catch it between his lips. He also used to whirl a red scarf before putting around it his own neck while fighting with goons. This scene actually had a big impact on me at that time. I had never been a huge fan of Rajni before this, but that scene was so unexpected and amongst the coolest things I'd ever seen that he soon became a token of utter coolness to me.

Much later, as I've grown older (and wiser?) I've come to realize that the trick more likely was staged, rehearsed and possibly even gimmicked in some way. Perhaps needed 100 retakes for him to succeed.who knows?

My uncle once confessed to me that he tried for a looong, long time to do the same trick, but he could never really do it.He never got the hang of catching CIGARETTE with his lips.

Though these tricks wouldn't quite qualify as an illusion, per se. They surely involve preparation to achieve the right effect, but that's what actors do, right? I mean illusionists .

Ravages/CC said...

That particular piece is inspired from a Roald Dahl story.
I think a similar setup is in the movie Kazhugu, but am not sure of that.

kannagi said...

What is the point? I see only a desparate attempt by Propogandists of the Bachchan Church to reduce the Rajnikanth phenomenon just to satisfy themselves that their illusion of Bachchn being the foremost superstar and actor in the country is true.
Whatever you say, Rajni is a better actor than Bachchan and is far more succesful as a super star. At 61, Bachchan had already had two troughs and had only Hum to show for in years and was actually humiliating himself in vapid, senseless movies with Manisha, Shilpa and Tabu. Apart from the crudeness, these were epic fails. Whatever you say of Sivaji etc, they are money spinners to the tune of Bachchan's peak and this at 60+ years of age for Rajini.
Please stop peddling the notion that AB is the most succesful superstar phenomenon in India ever. In your dreams, may be.

Every which way you spin it, Bachchan pales in comparison.
I know this piece speaks only of Rajini but we all know the agenda Bachchan Propoganda Machinery has through Satyam's blog so we can fit in the pieces.

If Rajni can be reduced to gestures in your reading, Bachchan can be reduced to montonous dialogue delivery. The worst actor among superstars across the country across languages across generations = Amitabh Bachchan.