Last week the superstar of superstars shamed himself by showing himself in a very poor light as an employer. Rajinikanth, wife Latha and a few other guests drove down to Satyam cinema in Chennai to catch an evening show of the Thalaiva ’s new blockbuster 2.0. The entire theatre had been booked for the occasion. Once in the theatre, Rajini and his family made themselves comfortable. But a young girl, apparently the house help, was seen standing behind the family, watching the entire film in the standing position.
What has incensed both non-supporters and fans of Rajinikanth is that only a few seats are occupied in the entire theatre. Says a young star of Tamil cinema, “She could’ve sat anywhere in the theatre, a little away from family, almost all the seats were empty. I agree, to make her stand was cruel. But not to the people in the video. You must understand that domestic help in Tamil Nadu and probably in the rest of the country, is constantly shown its place. You can’t have your house help sitting with you. The belief is if you treat them as equals unka matha goom jayega (they will get a swollen head). In many star homes of Chennai, Hyderabad and Mumbai, the domestic help is given the shabbiest treatment, made to sleep on a hard surface, given a different food from what the employers eat. See, we are calling them employers. But they behave like the lord and master vis-a-vis their staff. Rajini Sir doesn’t think he ’s doing anything shocking. If he had asked the house help to sit with them and enjoy 2: 0 she ‘d have probably fainted of shock.”
A colleague of Rajinikanth in Mumbai admits there is widespread discrimination against the household staff in the film fraternity. “But why single out film folks for treating their staff shabbily? It happens in every section of Indian society. It is the wife in the family who decides the behaviour to be meted out to the staff. And often times the behaviour is guided by class distinction rather than human compassion.”