December 12: Superstar Rajini’s 71st birthday Stargazers, fans and critics stood lost right outside his Poes Garden home in Chennai. Media persons held vigil since 7 am, even as gathered fans raised slogans:‘Iraiva, Thanga Thalaivaa, Yesuvee’!…a crowd that could not be fathomed as friendly or angry. For years, Rajini or Thalaiva always met fans, handed out Rs 100 each as a birthday take away but the dole stopped by mid-2000. Still restive crowds waited, hours on end before the brief appearance, almost a Hitchcockian glimpse lapping it up. More change followed. Rajini left for known/unknown destinations. Rumours of a Himalayan sojourn sometimes or, his farmhouse and, even in Bengaluru at times. When his imminent political foray was known, carefully scripted and crafted, crowds went ballistic. But an anti-climax followed. A December 2020 announcement – “No (more) politics, my health is fragile. Sorry if I led you on, fans.” Rajini’s popularity as an entertainer is unabated. But, some equations are mutating. Wife Lata is emerging as the driving force, a shadow alter ego with strong political aspirations. A superstar’s wife has limits but a superstar’s political heir has endless possibilities. The birthday crowd’s clamor now turns into a crescendo, demands for her appearance. Analysts are trying to decode as to why fans were cheering for Mrs Thalaiva. Hopefully, the cat will be out of the bag soon.