When Robot/Endhiran was released, fans in Matunga even did a palabhishekam (bathing an idol with milk) for your cutout. How does that feel?
(Humbly) Come on. It’s their love and affection.
Why have you become the reluctant interviewee?
No, it is the same Rajni. Now since I’m not giving interviews, everybody wants an exclusive. If I give one person, the others feel bad. Better to say ‘no’ to everybody. Otherwise, the media is too powerful today.
With over Rs 130 crore riding on your name, relieved that Robot/Endhiran did so well?
Oh yes, very relieved. It was very tense, naturally, first time so much money being invested in a regional language film. It’s not a joke. Hats off to Kalanithi Maran’s guts, he had complete faith, he believed that yes, these people won’t make a mistake, it’s a responsibility. By God’s grace (it worked).
It’s said that you didn’t take a rupee during the making of the film?
(Dismissively) I told them, and you give it to me later. Of course, I took it later (laughs). I told them, I don’t need money now. If I need money, I’ll definitely ask for it. Otherwise why take unnecessarily when so much money is already being spent? I know Maran well, he’s a good friend.
You didn’t take a rupee during the making but took a part of the profit?
Which makes you the highest paid star in India?
(Laughs) Is that correct? I don’t know how much the others take. (Laughs again)
You once told me that if you hadn’t become an actor you’d have become a smuggler because you wanted to make money.
(Unabashedly) Yes, that is correct, an underworld don. That phase is over, I’ve made enough money!
And Endhiran was released, you went to the Himalayas?
I go to the Himalayas after every film. I go alone without anybody.
You have two daughters. Ever miss having a son?
No, no. I’m very happy, by God’s grace. We’re in the 21st century, gender doesn’t make a difference. Look at my two grandsons, Yatra and Linga.
You do something other stars wouldn’t. You go out as you are, in a kurta, balding hair as it is without dyeing. And your fans are all right with it?
No. It is important to them how you look on celluloid. They’re paying for that. There they feel that my hero should look like a hero. Outside, it doesn’t matter. People are intelligent, they know everything. Why unnecessarily give yourself discomfort?
They probably appreciate you for being the way you are…
Naturally. I told you. On celluloid if you come like that they will hate it. Reality, okay. On celluloid, no, they want the hero.
And this hero gives the audience what they desire an action man who romances, fights and looks invincible. Incredibly, he is also very fit.
I do yoga, I exercise. I have to be fit. That is my investment. An artiste can only invest his body. For the mind, good writers and good directors are there.
Do you feel the pressure, as you’re growing older? In Robot you did everything, including dance, action and romance.
(Laughs heartily) Sometimes, when I do action scenes, I do feel the age… or when I dance. Age is age. But technicians, directors, they know and they manage. When doing a romantic scene now, I feel awkward. Even if I say it’s just acting, I do feel a little embarrassed.
Are you careful that it has to be dignified now?
You have to be very, very choosy.
After Robot, what?
An animation film called Hara. Partly live action, partly animation like Avatar. But a straight out-and-out Rajnikant film has not been decided yet.
There were rumours that Yash Chopra has approached you for Dhoom 3?
“They’re all rumours. No, (I have) not been approached. Anyway, after Hara, I will need a six-month break. If I get a good character, a suitable role, a good producer-director, only then will I do a film. Otherwise, bahut ho gaya. I’m 61 years old, yaar.
Amitabh is still going strong…
He’s my inspiration. Actually Dilipji (Dilip Kumar) is the centre for all of us. Amitji, me, Shah Rukh, Aamir… for all of us Dilipji has been the inspiration.
Do you miss the Mumbai air?
I was lucky to interact so closely with a person like Amitji, how many get an opportunity like that? We did three films, all super duper hits. Andhaa Kanoon, Giraftaar and Hum. Sometimes, I feel like going to Mumbai and meeting my friends. I had a good circle of friends: Subhashji, Guddu, Rishi, Jeetendra.
Why did you give up Hindi films?
I have cut down a lot. In the South itself, I do hardly one film in two years. To ride two horses at the same time is difficult. The way of working in Hindi films and South ones is different. I’ve done enough work. I did nearly 25 to 27 films there; I was there for almost 10 years. I enjoyed it.
You didn’t feel that you are God in Chennai and you’re doing only multi-star cast films in Mumbai?
Oh, no, no, no. Actually, I was so relaxed. Here I had to carry the whole show on my shoulders. There we shared it, did so many multi-starrers. And with what persons! Dharmendra, Vinod Khanna, Amitji. Multi-starrers, nice fun, big films, multi-crore projects, going to good locales, good friends. It was good fun and I enjoyed it. Mumbai, mayanagiri. Really cosmopolitan.
You met Balasaheb Thackeray this time in Mumbai?
Yes, I met him.
You said he’s like God?
Yes, yes. He loves me like his first son. I have met him before too.