In Tamil Nadu, silver screens and political theatres look mysteriously similar. After fighting out and thrashing the bad cop and the nasty politician on the screen for years, the superstars face an urge to step down into the middle of the sloganeering crowds. It is a celluloid-transmitted epidemic with a locally-grown virus. It holds them hostage to the illusion that a transition from reel life to real life is a cake walk.
Politics is the last resort for superstars in Tamil Nadu. Their run-ins with the ruling dispensation are nothing unusual, and they switch sides brazenly. A simple movie tagline like ‘Time to Lead’ can steer you into trouble. That is not exactly the reason why Vijay made a mass entry into the political ‘vadivasal’ now. He has promised to take on corruption and the politics that divide people in the name of caste and religion.
No rocket science here to understand who he wants to take on, though his current political anchorage is completely under wraps. Like most of his predecessors, Vijay wants to usher in a political change longed for by the people of the state. No guesses on whether Tamilaga Vettri Kazhagam (Vettri standing for victory or Vijay) can trump over the established political parties in the state. Or his impact on the political landscape in TN. Nobody has a clue.
One thing is for sure: the move has let out butterflies in the fat bellies of established political parties. There is a lot of suspense, akin to the days ahead of his big-budget blockbuster releases. His cadre, young and animated, may yearn for quick action that yields the desired result. But after watching many of his predecessors, will they still ditch the organised players like DMK, AIADMK, or BJP?
Thalaivar’s abortive foray into politics stands as a mute testimony to the fallen dreams of reel heroes. “My dad is not a Sanghi,” is how his daughter Aishwarya Rajinikanth responded recently about his political moorings, adding that he wouldn’t have done a film like ‘Lal Salaam’ if he indeed were one. Its timing — just ahead of the release of her movie with her dad playing a cameo in it — is a tad dubious, but it has made a statement: that the Tamil voter does not fall for all ideologies decreed by their revered megastars. His political dream was short-lived. BJP’s hopes were dashed too. The social media backlash when Rajinikanth touched UP Chief Minister Adityanath’s feet during a visit to Lucknow last year is largely forgotten.
There are many who tried their hand at politics and burned more than their fingers. A few, like Vijayakant, tasted success, though briefly, before walking into the sunset after an alliance he forged with the BJP in 2014. Standing at the peak of his popularity, Sivaji Ganesan cut a sorry figure too. His party, Thamizhaga Munnetra Munnani, which came across as pro-LTTE and opposed IPKF in Sri Lanka during Rajiv Gandhi’s era, was trounced in the 1989 elections and lost every seat it contested. “It is true that I was defeated...When we take wrong decisions, we have to face disappointments,” is how he regretted it later. Kamal Hasaan’s foray into politics created a lot of fireworks initially but ended a dud eventually.
The long lineup of Tamil celebrities who dived into politics has sent out a false impression across the country that a Tamil voter is fickle-minded and receptive to swing politically as per the whims of his favourite stars on the silver screen. But that is a mirage. You can’t blame TN voters for the voracity of superstars and their heroics in local politics.
MGR is rarish and inimitable. Truly, one swallow does not a summer make.
Anto T Joseph
Resident Editor, Tamil Nadu