Want to know what Rajinikanth told Amit Shah?

For many of us journalists, the biggest thing that happened past week was about something that never happened: Rajinikanth meeting Amit Shah. Two intelligence officers gave three reporters four versions of the meeting — they will meet, won’t meet, may meet, may not meet (the last two can be different for a journalist depending on the tone and the timing of the information).
BJP functionaries and Rajini associates weren’t different. Some BJP men were “positive” about the rendezvous, some others said it was “unlikely”. Someone from the Rajini side said on Friday he was “sure” about it, but changed the probability to “likely” on Saturday. A few from both sides admitted they were as clueless as we journalists were. The suspense continued well into the wee hours of Sunday as the Union home minister, despite his recent battle with Covid-19, held marathon meetings in his hotel room.
Despite a midnight ‘alert’ — the last in a series through the past two days — that the meeting “was on”, this newspaper decided not to report it since our multiple reporters could not confirm the information with multiple, unrelated sources (a gold standard we try to follow in such situations). Finally, Rajini did not meet Amit (psst … or did he?). It would be an important story if the Superstar met the BJP’s prime strategist; it would be an interesting story if we had double confirmation that they were meeting (even if they were to call it off later); but it would be a non-story to say there is speculation over the two meeting.
Think of it. There is no need for Rajini and Amit to have a “secret meeting”. There is a difference between a closed-door meeting and a secret meeting. A ministerial cabinet meeting, for example, doesn’t allow media – or anyone else – but that the meeting is happening is public knowledge. As for politicians’ “secret meetings”, most of them happen in plain sight to avoid suspicion (they “accidentally” bump into each other at airport lounges when they don’t get to greet each other at common friends’ weddings or funerals).
If Rajini and Amit have to have a secret talk, why should they meet at all? Why can’t they have a video call (which they might have done several times). And, if at all the two had to meet — in a physical space, that is — it should be either out of courtesy or for optics. If Rajini, a man of manners, decides to meet Amit, it would be for the former reason. If Amit wants it, it would be for the latter. Now that the edge-of-the seat anti-climax is over, sit back and enjoy this imaginary script: (Interior of a hotel suite where Amit opens the door with folded hands) Amit: “Vanakkam, Rajiniji”
Rajini:“Namaste, Amitji.”
(The two sit on plush chairs, five metres apart. Camera zooms out — and out of the room, still showing, through a glass window, the two men in an animated conversation that is inaudible. Suspenseful music in the background. Cuts between tight close-ups of Rajini’s hand gestures and Amit’s shifting eyes behind the spectacles. Camera zooms in again, and the two are now audible) Amit: “Here’s what I have to offer. Will you take it, Superstar?”
(Rajini stands up, hands on his hips, looks down on the table and smiles) Rajini: “Thanks, Amitji, but no thanks.”
(Dramatic music as Rajini, in slow motion, walks away and past the camera that now zooms into the table to show a plate of cookies)

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