Bear Grylls' Into the Wild episode featuring Rajinikanth is actually pretty good entertainment, particularly if you are a fan of the superstar.
If you thought Into The Wild with Bear Grylls and Rajinikanth was ever going to put anything more dangerous than a muddy river and a rickety bridge hanging over a dried river bed in the way of Superstar, you are going to be severely disappointed. But what did you expect? It is Rajini, and as Grylls himself admits if anything were to happen to him, he would be the most infamous man in India.
So he and the producers play it safe. The viewers are constantly told how the location (Karnataka's Bandipur National Park) is teeming with tigers and crocodiles, but Grylls and Rajini do not encounter anything more menacing than a somnolent serpent. Perhaps the huge camera crew scared the tigers off?
We do see shots of a tiger and a couple of crocodiles (which Bear Grylls says are march crocodiles -- the more dangerous ones due to their superior camouflaging abilities). But while the tiger is shown from a camera kept strapped to a tree trunk floating in a river, the crocodiles we see are from pre-recorded clips.
The sequences mentioned above do not make the 44-minute episode any less interesting. It is actually pretty good entertainment, particularly if you are a fan of Rajinikanth. Just remember to take it as something scripted, which I am quite certain it was.
At least the principal message of the special episode - water conservation, is important, though nothing we don't know already. Still, it is nice to see the episode highlighting something other than Rajini's immense stardom. The message is hammered home by the aforementioned dried river bed and how the rivers of India are dwindling a little every year, which is making the Indian water crisis even worse than it already is.
While Bear Grylls speaks throughout in English, Rajinikanth keeps switching between Tamil and English. This creates quite a bit of awkward conversation between the two men. For instance, Rajini tells Grylls at one point how he became the superstar he is right now. Rajini says he was studying at a film institute in Chennai, where he met filmmaker K Balachander. "He selected me and changed my name. Actually, my name is Shivaji Rao Gaekwad. He changed my name and introduced me. It happened in 1975." Grylls asks, "What was your name before?" totally unaware that Rajini told him exactly that a few seconds ago. "Shivaji Rao Gaekwad," replies an indulgent Rajini.
The episode, like Rajinikanth's movies, reinforces the Superstar Rajinikanth myth. Grylls takes great care to appear a man who is as star-struck as any of Rajini's legions of fans.
But Rajinikanth also comes across as a man with humility, a sense of humour and somebody who knows his limits. Whilst the onscreen Rajini stops bullets right in their tracks just by looking sternly at them, the real Rajini thinks twice before wading into a river that may potentially house crocodiles.