Meet actor who worked as coolie and is now one of the highest-paid Asian stars, beating the likes of Salman Khan and Prabhas

This superstar who once suffered in poverty, saw a dream that changed his life forever. The 72-year-old actor is now one of the highest-paid Asian actors. Guess who!

Updated on May 27, 2024  |  07:59 PM IST |  59.4K
Meet the actor who worked as coolie and now charges Rs 200 crore per film
Meet the actor who worked as coolie and now charges Rs 200 crore per film( PC: IMDb)

The legendary actor who debuted in 1975 needs no introduction! Started as coolie and bus conductor, he has become a household name not just in India but around the world. 

Yes, we are talking about none other than our very own superstar Rajinikanth. However, the actor you see now is a result of the great struggle that he went through to become what he is now. How many of you are aware that the superstar once worked as a bus conductor and even a coolie before appearing in films?

In 1992, the Jailer actor spoke about his journey in showbiz and the hurdles he faced before joining the industry. 

Rajinikanth did odd jobs to overcome poverty-stricken life

Born on December 12, 1950, in Bangalore as Shivaji Rao Gaikwad, the superstar worked as a bus conductor, before the legendary Tamil director, the late K Balachander spotted him.

Charmed by Rajinikanth, he gave him his first break in the industry with Aboorva Ragangal in 1975. However, it was with Mullum Malarum (1978) that he gained widespread recognition for his exceptional performance. And what followed that is what we call history.

Thalaivar has experienced bad and difficult times from a very tender age. His immense drive and urge to overcome poverty made him do all sorts of odd jobs. 

According to a report in The Indian Express, Thalaiva was quoted saying, ''Everyone knows I was a bus conductor. But before that, I used to be an office boy, then a coolie, then a carpenter. Only then did I become a conductor. I did all that because I was born into a poor family. I knew poverty not by seeing or hearing about it but by experiencing it. I had an immense drive to become rich.''


From being a mere bus conductor to being one of the highest-paid Asian actors, it has been a tremendously inspirational journey!

But do you know, what gave Rajinikanth the motivation and strength to gather the patience and move through the difficult times? It was a dream. Yes! you read that right.

A dream that changed Rajinikanth's life forever

The Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan recipient spoke about a dream that changed his life forever. Rajinikanth revealed that one day in his youth, he saw people worshipping a painting of a god-man. That same night, he saw the dream that changed him.

During the same throwback interview, the Jailer actor had said, ''I had a dream where the saint appeared with a white beard and he was sitting on the other side of a river. He asked me to come to him and I didn’t swim but ran to him. The next day, when I asked around who was that godman, I was told it was Sri Raghavendra. I found the mutt and prayed that I wanted to become rich and started fasting every Thursday. Then I became a conductor, then joined film institute, was then identified by Balachander sir, and became a star.” 


As a heartfelt tribute to the Hindu godman, Rajinikanth also played the titular role in the film Sri Raghavendra in 1984, which also marked the 100th film of his career. The film turned out to be average, but Rajinikanth calls it one of his personal favorites from his filmography. 

From bus conductor to Asian highest-paid actor

Rajinikanth has now become one of the highest-paid actors not only in India but across Asia. Following the release of Jailer directed by Nelson Dilipkumar, Rajinikanth surpassed all the big stars including Salman Khan, Aamir Khan, and Prabhas. According to a report published by Forbes, Rajinikanth charges Rs 150 to 210 crores approx per film while Shah Rukh Khan charges between Rs 150 crores- 250 crores. 

While SRK holds the first spot, Rajinikanth grabs second on the list of the top 10 highest-paid actors in 2024 in India. Thalapathy Vijay is on the third spot while Prabhas on fourth and Aamir Khan and Salman Khan, are on fifth and sixth respectively.


Disclaimer: The aforementioned salaries of the actors are reported by Forbes. In some cases, celebrities or their teams give their input too, which we incorporate if provided by them. We make all efforts to share possible accurate numbers, however, unless otherwise mentioned they are all approximates. We are open to feedback and suggestions on

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About The Author

Baisakhi Mishra, a Mass Communication and Journalism graduate from Bhubaneswar, Odisha has an insatiable thirst for traveling and movies.



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