CHENNAI: What are the politics of actor-turned-politician Rajinikanth? This is the question on many a mind after watching the superstar’s latest film, Kaala, which released worldwide on Thursday. While just last week, Rajini said that continuous protests would turn Tamil Nadu into a graveyard, this week he’s seen on the big screen playing a character who espouses the importance of protests.
From the day he announced his entry into politics, all political parties, barring the BJP and AIADMK, have interpreted his statement that he would follow ‘spiritual politics’ as meaning that he intended to build a votebase for the BJP. This view was reinforced when he, like BJP leaders, said anti-social elements had infilitrated the anti-Sterlite protest and were the reason the police opened fire killing 13 people. The comments were believed to have affected the advance booking for the film.
In this context, Kaala, the first Rajini film to release since he announced his political entry, has raised questions as to what the superstar’s politics are. More so as he had said at the film’s audio release that the film, ‘unlike Kabali’ (the duo’s previous film), would be (director) Pa Ranjith’s as well as Rajini’s film.
In Kaala, Rajini plays the title character Karikalan in Mumbai’s Dharavi slum, a don and saviour of poor Tamils. However, the dialogues he mouths are at odds with his off-screen speeches. In the film, Rajini’s character frequently says, “ Land is our right.” This is a slogan of Neduvasal, Kathiramangalam and Koodankulam protesters. Rajini has never backed these protests.
In the film, the villain played by Nana Patekar wants to evict the slum to construct housing units under a “Pure Mumbai” scheme. He also speaks of a “Digital Mumbai”. These seem to be digs at BJP’s Swacch Bharat and Digital India campaigns. When the villain tells the slum’s residents that some of them should be sacrificed for the welfare of the city, it recalls what L Ganeshan, BJP Rajya Sabha MP said when Neduvasal and Kathiramangalam villagers were protesting the methane and hydro-carbon projects: “Some must be sacrificed for the welfare of the country”. In several scenes, Kaala’s supporters, attack police. However, their actions are never condemned by the hero. Rajini condemned Cauvery protesters who attacked police during the recent IPL match at Chennai.
As such the film speaks of how people can tackle oppression. It suggests they resort to protests and stay away from work. This too is at odds with Rajini’s speeches: The actor has spoken against protests in general and striking work in particular. “Rajini declared his political entry after the shooting of the film was over. Hence, I think the film is entirely Ranjith’s film. It will work out as Rajini’s mass and Ranjith’s politics have mixed well” opined writer Stalin Rajangam.
Protesters bar screenings at Karnataka theatres
Kaala could not be screened at most theatres across Karnataka on Thursday as protesters dissuaded screenings. It was, however, screened in Ballari. The film released under tight security.