Rajinikanth was born on December 12, 1950, as Shivaji Rao Gaekwad in Bangalore in the then Mysores State. His family was Maharashtrian, staying in Bangalore for many years. Shivaji Rao Gaekwad became Rajinikanth when he made his film debut in Tamil cinema. In his early days, he began working as a coolie, then a carpenter and finally a bus conductor, when his relative made him appear for an exam for bus conductors with the Bangalore transport corporation. Rajinikanth was a hit among the passengers, as he used style in even issuing tickets and tendering change. He began doing theatre in his spare time, and that is when his acting dream blossomed. MUST READ: Rajinikanth: 10 reasons why men hate the Superstar!

Rajinikanth was urged by a friend to join the Madras Film Institute and he completed his diploma in acting. Renowned director K Balachander launched him in the Tamil movie Apoorva Raagangal in 1975, and the rest, as they say, is history. Rajinikanth today is one of the biggest stars of Indian cinema, with a huge fan-following not just in India but also in Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and the US, among other countries.

Rajinikanth, fondly known as Thalaiva or Rajini Sir, has appeared in south Indian and Bollywood films and has been highly appreciated for his roles, whether in a commercial masala entertainer or a story-based movie. But not many know that he has also done a Hollywood film called Bloodstone in 1988, directed by Dwight H Little. Rajinikanth played the role of taxi driver Shyam Sabu, an important role in the film's story.

Rajinikanth has been honoured with the Padma Bhushan in 2000 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2016 for his contributions to art, by the Government of India. He was also honoured with the Centenary Award for Indian Film Personality of the Year at the 45th International Film Festival of India, the Government of India's annual fim festival in Goa. According to information on the superstar, Rajinikanth has won six Tamil Nadu State Film Awards, four Best Actor Awards, two Special Awards for Best Actor and a Filmfare Award for Best Actor (Tamil). 

Rajinikanth is one of the highest paid actors in Asia. He earned ₹26 crore (US$8.5 million) for his film Sivaji: The Boss in 2007, making him the highest paid actor in Asia after Chinese superstar Jackie Chan. In spite of that, Rajinikanth remains humble. Beyond the arclights, he leads a simple life with his wife Lata and is deeply spiritual. The couple has two daughters, Aishwarya (married to National Award-winning actor Dhanush) and Soundarya (recently filed for divorce from her husband of six years, R Ashwin. Both his daughters are movie directors.

Rajinikanth recently provided ample hints at him wanting to join Indian politics soon. His forthcoming film is 2.0 (aka Robot 2.0), the sequel to Robot or Enthiran. 

By Shweta Parande.

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