Cine stars may fade away from TN politics forever
Close to eight decades, ever since the first wave of ‘political’ potboilers began getting released in Tamil Nadu theatres, the intertwining of the reel and the real has been a constant in the State
Close to eight decades, ever since the first wave of 'political' potboilers began getting released in Tamil Nadu theatres, the intertwining of the reel and the real has been a constant in the State. For long, this was seen as a fascinating case study by researchers in the socio-political domain in many parts of the world. It was not just the trendsetting era it initiated that appealed to them, but the outcome of the rule of cine stars turned netas was enough for many scholars to delve deeper into this phenomenon, for years on end.
As the saying goes, the wheel has turned full circle. More than four years after the last representative of tinsel town, Jayalalithaa, departed from the political scene, the scene in Tamil Nadu is thoroughly political once again. This is not just because the eternal challenger, Rajinikanth, has hung up his gloves and declared that he has retired officially from the game, without playing it in the first place. It is also because the other icon, Kamal Haasan, left in the race has already been bloodied in the battle during the 2019 elections and is not seen to be a serious challenger to the existing Dravidian parties.
If one looks around, with elections in the neighbouring State a few months away, there is none else there who is keen to get into the heat and dust of modern politics, grapple with known and unknown adversaries, campaign and canvass for his ideology aggressively and await the benediction of the voting public, as the race comes to an end.
Having been the first in the world to be a cinema star to head a government as an elected leader, M G Ramachandran's decade of rule from 1977 to 1987 was noticed for its achievements and startling failures. His benevolent dictator kind of an approach, (similar to the one he adopted after he overtook his screen rival Sivaji Ganesan in the 1960s) was typical of a man who had combated rivals everywhere and beat them back almost every time with his guile and opportunistic generosity.
Historians draw relevant references from the path he traversed and conclude that his reign was not that of a retired hero wanting to enter into a second innings under the spotlight. On the other hand, he played the understudy, kept his ambitions under check, manipulated the power structure of Dravidian politics and ensured he strikes out on a path which is at best a bare reference to that of his predecessors. His successor and legatee in a way, Jayalalithaa, upped the aggression quotient in her style of governance, kept the challengers on their toes and successfully cultivated the image of being an iron lady who can deliver what she promises, during her career between 1991 and 2016.
During the same time, the current demi-gods were riding the wave of their first phase highs, carving out the Tamil film industry between themselves, creating 'friendly' camps, gallivanting with gals half their age and staying clear from local politics. In the 1990s, Rajinikanth, as Tamil media points out, piqued at being asked to get down from his car and having it frisked by the cops carried the grudge against the then CM, Jayalalithaa and went on to turn into a political sniper fire.
If this was his basis for making a grand entry into the local political scenario, it had to collapse under its light-weight durability for sure. Keeping the balance of power at a manageable level between the two leaders, Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa, Rajinikanth managed to get his releases out, without much trouble unlike Kamal Haasan ( Vishwa Roopam case) and his juniors like Vijay who fell out of favour with both the leaders, time and time again.
To decide on a solid political path, come up with issues which would have resonance among the expecting fan clubs and also the Tamil public awaiting a real transformation from the Dravidian types, both Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth had to promise a total overturn of the system. Instead, with weak, ambivalent statements and confusing flip-flops on contentious issues – Cauvery water sharing, Sri Lankan Tamil issue- etc, the leaders-to-be disappointed the knowledgeable followers of theirs in no time. The star-struck were to also be jilted in a matter of time. It has happened with Rajinikanth, it may happen with Kamal Haasan after the poll results are out.
For the present, fence sitters may still want to give Kamal Haasan a chance of making a splash in the forthcoming elections. There are reports that the disillusioned fans of Rajinikanth are making a beeline to join the 'World Hero' as he is called and actualise their dream of seeing one of their favourites become the next chief minister.
Already, the social media has enough memes on the 66-year-old hero currently winding up his last projects. He is being featured as a muddle-headed speaker, whose language is convoluted and with a message delivery mode, highly enigmatic.
Fortunate to be still being wooed by production houses for being featured in them, despite a not-so-impressive track record at the BO, Kamal Haasan can enjoy a glorious ride under the spotlights till the summer of 2021. Whether he will beat the odds and emerge victorious is shrouded in severe doubt.
This may be a silver lining for a State which has kept its development indicators impressive, racing ahead on many parameters and competing for the larger pie of progress in India, irrespective of its leaders governing it.