Rajnikanth: The Advent of a New Star-Politician

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Convinced of the need to now play a true-life saviour to the masses in real life rather than in reel-life Rajnikanth, who is yet to name his party believes that ‘Democracy is in a state of distress in the state’. So the way forward is to he says ‘Push for spiritual politics without caste or religious leanings.’  Thus, despite nil political experience riding on his charisma and sincerity if he were to, with a cohesive team in place come up with a cogent plan for clean and decent governance and not the cash for vote variety there is no knowing where it could take him. Politics in Tamilnadu may indeed be in for a Teutonic overhaul, opines Sreelata, exclusively in Different Truths. 

A few weeks ago, on the 31st of December to be precise, while most of us were already in the process of wishing the rather uncomfortable past- year goodbye, an announcement broke. It, as is usual with our electronic channels, went hyper in seconds. Well, what do you know? Rajnikanth had finally put himself – and us may be – out of our dilemma. Yes indeed, he was entering politics. No big deal you might say. Since actors in Tamilnadu politics are dime a dozen. Yet the frenzy that accompanied the announcement was akin to a minor quake and certainly more than a little over the top considering he has been flirting with the idea since 1995.

Could this volcanic reaction be because Tamilnadu fed up with the shenanigans and ideals of the regional parties would like a fresh nationalist makeover – ‘Enthiran’ or ‘Sivaji’ style – or is it that the hitherto untapped young voter base tired of the old is now looking for a new acceptable face and Rajnikanth is ‘it’? Whatever! It seems somehow more than apparent – unless things go radically wrong – that if Rajnikanth wants Tamilnadu – overtures to and by the ruling party notwithstanding – he could be in with a winning chance.

All the same, why would a superstar riding on a high, with the kind of stupendous world- over fan following that he has, want to enter the murky world of politics which could well become his Waterloo? Why would he even want to take that chance however remote?

Evidently, cinema and politics not just in but the world over does seem to go . Actors appear to have this strange fascination for politics especially when a career in cinema is fast fading. From Ronald Reagan to Arnold Schwarzenegger we have seen it happening.

Used to risks-possibilities of tanking at the box office; a large fan base; a hero to the masses. So – with due apologies to Shakespeare – the world being a stage and a larger one too at that, if successful, politics is perhaps equally if not a more heady and fulfilling and yes maybe even a more satisfying calling than acting especially as a fallback profession. So Rajnikanth is not the first and he will probably not be the last either. At the national level at least the list is long indeed. While some have stumbled () we have had many well-respected actors from Nargis and Sunil Dutt to Hema Malini and Shatrugun Sinha, to Vinod Khanna and Kiron Kher at the hustings cutting across the nation, doing their bit.

However, nowhere is it more entrenched than in the south of India – in Tamilnadu, in particular, where politics and the film industry are so entwined that one without the other is pretty inconceivable. It has been so ever since 1967 when C.N.Annadurai who wrote screenplays and film scripts founded the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party. Going on to win the elections against the Congress he became the Chief Minister till his death (1967-69) and this party has had the presently ailing M Karunanidhi, a co-founder, at the helm ever since.

Tapping into the Dravidian nationalist fever that was sweeping Tamilnadu then and upholding its cultural values Annadurai and Karunanidhi wooed the masses with their – more than a 100 – screenplays and songs. They wrote film dialogues and theatre scripts that catered to the aspirations of the Tamils who saw in their screen heroes the ability to create a perfect world where the rich and the avaricious invariably received their comeuppance with the poor and the downtrodden emerging victorious.

Embracing the concept of ‘cinema for a cause’ they sought to transform and convert Tamil society into accepting Dravidian ideals. Through the medium of and screen heroes, self –respect, equality, ills of the caste system and even anti-Brahmin/ anti-Congress ideologies (Parasakthi-1952) were constantly propagated by party leaders.

Films that promoted social reforms like cooperative farming and the abolition of the zamindari system of taxation (Nallathambi-1948) were popular as early as the late 1940s. Soon M G Ramachandran (MGR) an actor- a confidant of Annadurai, even as he grew in popularity as a megastar, quickly rose through the party ranks to finally split with Karunanidhi – three years after Annadurai’s death – and form his own party – All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK-1977). He won all subsequent elections remaining Chief Minister – except for a brief six months in between – till his death in 1987. In the meanwhile, Jayalalithaa became his leading lady and apart from producing one celluloid hit after another together, was persuaded to join the AIADMK (1982) and the rest, as they say, is history.

Another heavyweight actor taking his cue from the theatre of politics in play in his neighboring state decided to chance his luck in politics as well. From playing mythological heroes to creating the Telugu Desam (1982) N T Rama Rao (NTR) managed to carve out a larger than life political role for himself in Andhra Politics as a three-term Chief Minister upholding Telugu pride. Striding the national scene at one point he even successfully formed the National Front, a coalition of non-Congress parties which held power in 1989-1990.The Telugu Desam under the auspices of his son-in-law Chandra Babu Naidu – who eventually staged a coup to throw him out- is still going strong even today, though the cinematic element is in abeyance at the moment.

However, Tamilnadu is not done. It continues to spawn films and actors in politics. Used as powerful propaganda tools these films not only do wonders for the actors’ careers but by addressing social causes appeal to the masses hugely as well. Emerging as the voice of the people, these parties (with these stars as their spokespersons) have only grown from strength to strength. At regular intervals a Sivaji Ganesan (DMK/Congress) or a S.S. Rajendran (DMK/AIDMK) -with definite affiliations to political parties – pops up with hits, enthralls and holds sway with others like Vijakanth (Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam-DMDK) an erstwhile leader of the opposition (2011-2016) waiting in the wings. Their enormous fan base- fan clubs providing the necessary impetus. Therefore for every articulately active Khushboo (DMK/ Congress), there is today a Kamal Hassan who would like to jump into the fray.

So justified or not, since politics in Tamilnadu has always been a theatre of the absurd with emotions constantly on a high, this larger than life hero of a zillion films who singlehandedly demolishes villains and demons galore with just a flicker of his eye or a twist of his wrist and the superhero of a billion jokes/memes who could make the impossible happen (with gravity-defying stunts and peppy dialogues) is today –obviously people imagine – Tamilnadu’s answer to Superman. If Rajnikanth cries it is said Chennai floods! Why if it takes ordinary men 80 days to go around the world Rajnikanth could do that in that many seconds. So surely politics and yes filling in for Jayalalithaa (1948-2016) who appears to have left a huge vacuum by her untimely death would be child’s play for someone like him?

Equally convinced of the need to now play a true-life saviour to the masses in real life rather than in reel-life Rajnikanth who is yet to name his party believes that ‘Democracy is in a state of distress in the state’. So the way forward is to he says ‘Push for spiritual politics without caste or religious leanings.’  Thus, despite nil political experience riding on his charisma and sincerity if he were to, with a cohesive team in place come up with a cogent plan for clean and decent governance and not the cash for vote variety there is no knowing where it could take him. Politics in Tamilnadu may indeed be in for a Teutonic overhaul, especially if Kamal Hassan were to join the forces. It comes however with a promise or maybe even a threat whichever way you look at it – ‘If I come to power and am not able to deliver in three years, I’ll resign.’

Well. We shall have to wait and see, shan’t we.

©Sreelata Menon

Photos from the Internet

#Rajnikanth #KamalHasan #ShivajiGaneshan #SouthIndia #IndianActorsAndPolitics #ActingAndPolitics #Charisma #PowerOfPolitics #CoverStory #DifferentTruths

Sreelata Menon

Sreelata Menon

When computers hit the scene, life changed for Sreelata Menon. A Masters in History (Mumbai University) she was with the Onlooker and world Trade Magazines before teaching History to undergraduates and doing a stint in an advertising agency. A web content writer, she wrote blogs on freelance writing, and current happenings for online and print publications. Author of ‘Freelance Writing for the Newbie Writer’ her books also include Guru Nanak and for Penguin-Puffin.
Sreelata Menon
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