Hiroyoshi takeda is not a typical Japanese man. Instead of a suit and tie, the 39-year-old Tokyoite wears T-shirts with technicolour caricatures of a moustachioed south Indian movie star. Rather than bowing, he dances. He doesn’t ride the metro, but travels the streets in a gaudily adorned auto rickshaw imported from Tamil Nadu.
Not for him the hushed tones and constricted body language that are the Japanese standard. Takeda talks loudly, waggling his index finger at the sky. And the smoothness with which he can toss his hair back while simultaneously removing his sunglasses is wolf-whistle worthy. In fact, in almost everything he does, Takeda channels the spirit of his shirt-hurling, cigarette-flipping, lungi-dancing hero, Tamil superstar Rajinikanth.
In the international imagination, Indian movies are synonymous with Bollywood, the Mumbai-based, Hindi-language film industry dominated by clean-shaven, fair-skinned actors like Aamir Khan, the star of the international hit Dangal. In fact, India is home to more than 20 regional-language movie centres.
The south Indian Tamil and Telegu film industries rival Bollywood in the number of films made and box office receipts. Of the 1,827 films certified in India in 2015, Bollywood movies accounted for 297, exactly the same number as the Tamil film industry. This year’s Tamil-Telegu bilingual historical epic, Baahubali-2, is on track for becoming India’s highest-grossing film, having netted Rs1,675 crore (US$260 million) worldwide by early June.
The man who bestrides the Tamil film industry like a colossus is superstar Rajinikanth, revered so highly by his fans that they bathe his cutouts in milk, a practice usually reserved for the idols of Hindu gods.
There is currently intense speculation that the 66-year-old actor might be readying for a political debut. India’s ruling party, the BJP, is believed to be wooing Rajinikanth to…