Rajinikanth rules

‘Bloodstone’, Rajinikanth’s solo Hollywood misadventure

The Southern superstar plays a crooked cab driver who gets embroiled in the hunt for a cursed ruby.

According to his fan base and internet lore, Tamil superstar and birthday boy Rajinikanth is bigger than Hollywood – which is probably why the only Hollywood movie to feature the actor could barely contain his presence.

Bloodstone, directed by Dwight H Little in 1988, was Rajinikanth’s solo Hollywood misadventure. It was one of several films made over the years that have attempted to merge the worst of the West with the best of the East. Bloodstone is a low-budget adventure about the hunt for “India’s largest ruby.” A thief who has stolen the cursed stone slips it into the luggage of a American couple vacationing in Chennai, who then unknowingly pass it on to Rajinikanth’s crooked taxi driver Shyam. The movie was produced by Ashok Amritraj, from the tennis playing clan, who moved to Hollywood in the 1980s and produced a series of soft-core and action titles.

Bloodstone was made during an insanely busy decade in Rajinikanth’s career, alongside several Tamil releases, remakes of Hindi films, as well as Hindi movies such as Andha Kanoon and Geraftaar. The superstar speaks English in the movie, which apparently had to be re-shot with a dialogue coach.

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Bloodstone was also dubbed in Hindi and released in India. A Romancing the Stone for the Third World, the movie is strictly for Rajinikanth completists. The production values are tacky, the plot makes little sense, and there are Orientalist clichés like snakes, buffaloes, and tigers. The acting is mostly sub-par, especially by Charlie Brill, an American actor who plays a bumbling Clouseau-like inspector named Ramesh, of all things. But Rajinikanth is all there, paying full attention to the scripting contrivances and never stinting on the cocky smile, kinetic hand movements and insouciant air that elevated him to God-like status in the South.

In Rajinikanth The Definitive Biography, Naman Ramachandran writes that the actor was cast on the suggestion of Amritraj, who hails from Chennai. Ramachandran interviewed Little, who said that the actor was “an absolute delight… Funny and always ready and on time. A real pleasure”. The film was shot in Chennai and Bangalore, and the masses followed their hero. “Yes, we had huge crowd problems,” Little told Ramachandran. “People would travel on foot for miles to get a look at him. Buildings were covered with people on rooftops and balconies. When he would step outside, the sound was so loud that we could not film. There was an accident when a building gave way under the weight of all the people. I don’t think anyone was seriously hurt.”

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