Rajini Style

Man on a mission 'Rajini' Devaraj PHOTO S.SIVA SARAVANAN

Man on a mission 'Rajini' Devaraj PHOTO S.SIVA SARAVANAN  

People Devaraj celebrates his love for superstar Rajinikanth by providing free haircuts and shaves to the destitute, writes Akila Kannadasan

W hen Rajinikanth wielded a pair of hair styling shears for his role as a hairdresser in the movie Johnny, ‘Rajini' Devaraj was the happiest man in the world. A hairstylist himself, the movie is one of his all time favourites. His house is not crammed with posters of the superstar as one would expect. Rather, it's his motorcycle's side box that bears a hand-painted picture of the style icon. The Rajini devotee has taken his thalaivar's punch line, En vazhi thani vazhi all too seriously.

As traffic drones on in Uppilipalayam on a Friday afternoon, the lanky 49 year old is seen giving a haircut to a shirtless old man on the pavement. The man sits on his haunches while Devaraj trims his beard and moustache. Well-groomed within minutes, he lifts his trembling hands in salute and walks away with his gunny bag.

Devaraj is a mobile hairstylist on a mission. Most of his clients cannot afford to have a haircut. Beggars, vagrants, the mentally ill and slum dwellers – this slice of our society, that most of us have chosen to ignore, forms his special clientele.

Every Friday morning, he starts from home with his kit of scissors and combs tucked inside his motorcycle's side box. Riding around the city, he seeks a destitute in the streets and gets down to business. Once he's done – hair neatly cut, beard and moustache trimmed down, he sets off to find the next needy one and goes on till sundown. “It was on December 12, 1994, the birthday of Rajini sir that I started offering free haircuts,” recalls Devaraj.

“I did free haircuts for underprivileged children in my shop on the last Friday of every month. Parents on daily wages, who couldn't afford to give their kids a haircut, brought them to me,” he says. “I also visited slums and schools for the visually impaired and offered to do free haircuts,” he adds. It was in 2008 that Devaraj started going around the city in his two-wheeler to give the disadvantaged free haircuts once a week.

Having settled his children comfortably in the metros, the humble hairdresser has nothing but service for the society in mind. But not all of is beneficiaries have been welcoming. “Some try to drive me away. It's only after persuasion that they give in. I gesture to make them understand that it's safe and that I've come to give them a haircut,” he says.

“He comes home with a truckload of experiences to share on Fridays,” beams Shanthi, the proud wife of Devaraj. “Once, after sitting through a haircut, to my utter surprise a beggar prostrated before my vehicle, like it was some kind of a deity,” he says with a smile. “Each person I tend to has a unique way of expressing their gratitude. Some nod their thanks, some hold up their hands in blessing while some disappear before I get the place cleaned up,” he says.

“Rajini sir is a great actor. I look up to him. Most of his movies convey social messages; it's his way of doing his bit for the society. This is my way of doing it. I've been a hairdresser all my life, it's what I do best and I intend to make the best use of it”. Spoken like a true hero.

“It was on December 12, 1994, the birthday of Rajini sir that I started offering free haircuts”

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