When G Subramaniyan left for Japan 18 years ago, he was penniless. Earlier this month, when he came back to India, he had success written all over him. He runs two successful restaurants in Japan, owns properties worth crores of rupees there and is now planning an Indian foray of his culinary adventure. And believe it or not, Subramaniyan owes his success to Rajnikanth, the Tamil superstar. Born in a lower middle class family in Marakkanam with six siblings, graduating in Maths itself was an ordeal. All he could do then was to join as a bearer in Hotel Savera, Chennai, to support his family. Seeing young Subramaniyan’s enthusiasm, the hotel offered to sponsor him to study catering technology.
An Indian restaurant in Japan offered him a job. However, when he applied for a visa, he was in for a shock. ‘‘They rejected my visa saying that I did not have enough experience to work in Japan.’’ His prospective employers, however, stood by him and offered to sponsor him on a student visa. Subramaniyan also managed to secure admission to a diploma course in mechanical engineering. He could hardly afford to pay even his fare to Japan but his employers offered to foot the bill and he boarded the flight ‘‘without even a penny.’’ Still, life was not all that easy, as his employers sponsored his studies only so that he could stay on. ‘‘It was very difficult, both studying and working. I slept only for six hours a day. I was ready to work. All I wanted was to make some money.’’ His flair in Tamil fetched him a teaching job at Kyoto University. ‘‘That was when everything changed. I started teaching Tamil to the Japanese. I was also able to make some money.’’
The turning point came when Rajni-starrer ‘Muthu’ became a big hit in Japan and many Japanese wanted to learn Tamil. By then, he had also found a job as a chef in Hotel Ashoka. Soon, Subramaniam got close to many Rajnikanth fans and helped many to set up fan clubs. As there were no Tamil restaurants to be seen anywhere, Subramaniyan felt it was high time he himself started one. ‘‘I invested Rs 1.5 crore in two restaurants in Kyoto and Osaka. It was a huge risk as I had invested all my savings.’’ Initially nobody came, but he hit upon an idea to draw the crowds: playing Rajni movies. ‘‘As the crowd flowed in, I sold my dosas and vadas to them.’’ It was a big hit. ‘‘Now vadas and chutney are the favourite food of the Japanese and I make good money. I owe it all to Rajni and his fans.’’ Not just that, he also offers Bharathnatyam and other Indian cultural events every week to draw Japanese crowd to experience Tamil flavour. ‘‘People are crazy about Rajni and enjoy the food too.’’ Now, Subramaniyan earns not less than Rs 12 lakh a day. He is now ready to move ahead in life. Soon, he would be starting three Japanese specialty restaurants in Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore at a cost of Rs 12 crore. Why Japanese cuisine? ‘‘Because there are not many Japanese restaurants here.’’ He might dig gold here too. Looking to venture where nobody else has always been Subramaniyan’s way.