Jason OverdorfJuly 3, 2012 00:00
CHENNAI — When fans see Tamil movie star Rajnikanth on the street, they shout out, “My God!” But not because they're surprised. “It’s not 'My God' in exclamation; it’s an address to his God,” another Tamil movie star, Kamal Haasan, explained. The Tamil film industry has always been about myth making. Hitting their stride during the Tamil separatist movement of the 1950s, film studios tapped the political energy of India's struggle for independence from Britain. And to promote the cause of Tamil nationalism, filmmakers drew on Hindu epics to create an archetypal Tamil hero. Built on that model, even today the Tamil screen legends are arguably more powerful, and more beloved, than the stars of Hollywood, Bollywood, or any other film industry.