Dravidian Parties Give Tinsel Town a Break
While national parties have fielded film stars ranging from Nagma (Congress) to Kirron Kher (BJP) for this general elections, principal Dravidian parties, which had pioneered the trend of making successful politicians out of tinsel town personalities, have shied away from giving tickets to actors in Tamil Nadu.
Since 1957 when actor S S Rajendran (SSR) entered the fray in Theni during the Assembly elections to the then Madras State Legislative Assembly polls, the DMK and its 1972-offshoot AIADMK led by popular hero M G Ramachandran, have in most elections given tickets to stars.
In the post-MGR era, the AIADMK, the DMK and other parties had fielded actors in Parliamentary and Assembly elections since 1998, barring the 2004 Lok Sabha polls.
The outgoing 15th Lok Sabha had two actors MPs, D Napoleon and Ritheesh, of the DMK. Now they have switched loyalties to suspended DMK leader M K Alagiri. Napoleon had earlier represented the Villivakkam Assembly constituency during 2001-06 and lost to comedian S V Shekhar in Mylapore in 2006.
This time, the ruling AIADMK and DMK have trusted lawyers, businessmen, doctors and others than trying actors though initially there were speculations that yesteryear heroines Khushboo and Radhika Sarathkumar could fight it out in a constituency in Chennai.
While the connection between Tamil cinema and politics goes back to the 1940s when DMK founder C N Annadurai and its present chief M Karunanidhi were script writers, SSR known as a ‘Latchiya Nadigar’ (Ambitious Actor), was the first screen star to throw his hat into the electoral ring. He had lost the 1957 election by 6,781 votes to a Congress candidate.
However, in the 1962 Assembly polls he created history by winning from Theni on a DMK ticket thus becoming the first actor in the world to enter an elected legislative body. In later years, he was nominated to the Rajya Sabha and also won from the Andipatti Assembly constituency (MGR’s last represented constituency) in 1980 as an AIADMK candidate.
MGR entered electoral politics only in 1967, winning from St Thomas Mount, while Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa became a Rajya Sabha member in 1984. The same year, the Congress had successfully fielded yesteryear actor Vyjayanthimala from the South Madras Lok Sabha constituency and she sprung a surprise by defeating veteran politician Era Sezhiyan.
But the electors have not always favoured film stars.
For instance, Sivaji Ganesan, one of the greatest actors in the world, had a failed political career though the Congress once made him a Rajya Sabha member. The Thamizhaga Munnetra Munnani, which he launched after MGR’s death, failed to take off and he did not make it big as president of the Janata Dal (Tamil Nadu) unit either.
Again in 1998, for instance, actor Sarathkumar was defeated from the Tirunelveli Parliamentary constituency on a DMK ticket. Subsequently, he entered the Rajya Sabha and is now a MLA. In contrast, another actor Ramarajan, whose popularity was on the wane, got elected to the Lok Sabha from Tiruchendur as an AIADMK candidate in 1998.
Another yesteryear MGR film heroine Latha lost her deposit when she contested from Dindigul in 1998 Lok Sabha polls on a MGRADMK ticket. The following year voters of the constituency rejected DMK candidate actor S Chandrasekar.
Similarly, in Periyakulam, villain Mansoor Ali Khan fielded by Puthiya Tamilagam, came third in 1999 but polled over 87,000 votes.
Some of the actors who made it to the Assembly and Parliament (including Rajya Sabha) are: villain Radharavi (AIADMK), comedian S S Chandran (AIADMK), Vijayakant (DMDK), Arun Pandian (DMDK rebel), versatile film personality T Rajendar (DMK) and comedian Isari Velan (AIADMK).