The 69-year old makes his television debut as he treks, wades and climbs through a jaunty day with survival expert Grylls, and still finds time to subtly push his ideologies
Here we are then with Rajinikanth’s television debut, four decades and 165 films since an unassuming Shivaji Rao Gaekwad was introduced by K Balachander to the world of filmdom.
“All of us have that one person who completely changes your life, when you don’t even realise it. That was KB for me,” says the 69-year-old, paying tribute to his mentor — and with good measure — as the former director’s production house Kavithalayaa was instrumental in making this collaboration with Discovery Channel happen.
Into The Wild with Rajinikanth, the latest installment in the British adventurer’s many range of survival shows, follows heavily in the footsteps of Grylls’ previous Man vs Wild exploits with Narendra Modi in (“His sense of humour surprised me,” Grylls tells Rajinikanth about the Indian Prime Minister), an image-building exercise devised to highlight the Tamil superstar’s political aspirations, while also catering to his bevy of fans who worship the ‘person’ behind the icon.
Rajinikanth gearing up for the day at Bandipur Tiger Reserve
Themed around the idea of water conservation — Rajinikanth has spoken earlier about his erstwhile ‘vision’ to link the rivers across India — the 40-odd minute episode tracks the duo spend a day at the Bandipur Tiger Reserve in Karnataka, navigating through a set of seemingly simple tasks, interspersed with some moments of bromance/ candid conversations between the unlikely pairing.
“I wish I could travel on a bus now, the last time I did so was by putting on a disguise in Bangalore,” laughs Rajinikanth, as he gives Grylls a crash course into his journey towards becoming a celebrated actor. This, and a few more heartfelt revelations keep the episode from becoming too much of an extended fan vehicle: though he does get a proper movie-style intro, complete with pulsating background score and the ‘Super Star Rajni’ animation.
Onto to the actual adventures then: cross a rusty bridge that has a 50-ft drop with just a rope for support and no ‘mattress’ underneath; trek down a ravine to gather water from a stream that can be sent to the lab for pollutant-testing; and finally, retrieve a camera that has been taping animals for three days by wading across a water body that could potentially house a croc (naaah, of course it doesn’t)
Rajinikanth and Grylls’ repartee make for decent camaraderie — even if a lot of the former’s answers are mostly in Tamil to an enthusiastically-nodding Grylls — and even the most begrudging of watchers will find some novelty to watching a man whose larger-than-life on-screen persona always take precedence, delve into his personal life, albeit fleetingly.
“My whole life is a miracle to me,” he says, while Grylls marvels at his energy levels, tempting us to do so as well.
Kamal Haasan, Madhavan and Akshay Kumar make guest appearances to wish their ‘friend’ luck, Rajinikanth changes a flat tyre for the first time in his life, teaches Grylls how to do his signature flick with the sunglasses, and even lets us in on his favourite quote in life: “This too shall pass.”
Rajinikanth and Grylls share a surprisingly effective camaraderie
Towards the end of the episode, the actor-politician says that his hope for the country is to remove poverty and unemployment, and India shouldn’t be just culturally rich, but economically too. “Our greatest virtue is that four religions —Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism and Islam — are all accepted in here and we live as brothers. I’m proudest of that,” he beams to Grylls.
Ultimately, the collaboration does succeed in its intention to present a hitherto unseen side of Rajinikanth, one that he shall seek to endear more to the public, as his political aspirations take centre-stage in the coming months.
Favourite moment: Bear Grylls telling Rajini that he wished he had the latter’s looks, and the Annaatthe star bemusedly responding, “Really, my looks?! You’re better-looking than me, Bear!”
‘Into The Wild With Bear Grylls and Rajinikanth’ is streaming on Discovery Plus and premieres on March 23 at 8 PM, only on Discovery