Volume 22 Issue 6, June 2018


The world knows them, the south of India adores them and south Asia acknowledges them as the region’s finest actors. Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan, veteran and seasoned actors and highly-acclaimed showbiz stars of India have entered politics. While they have established their prowess on the big screen and have won hearts of millions, they are testing their luck in the political arena of Tamil Nadu. It is expected that the two stars will fight a war for the position of Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. Although many stars from Bollywood have tested their luck in politics and despite having a fan following in millions, most have returned home empty-handed. However, the case of Rajnikanth and Kamal Hassan is a bit different.

While the former actor, Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao, served as the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh for seven years, during three terms, from 1983 to 1995, Marudur Gopalan Ramachandran, also an actor, served as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu for two terms from 1977 to 1987. Jayaram Jayalalithaa, also a former actor, who passed away in December 2016, served as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu during six terms from 1991 to 2016. These three actors, who were in the prime of their showbiz career, later became successful politicians. Rajinikanth and Kamal Hassan, however, each consider themselves to be the fourth such actor who enters politics and becomes a success. And here, success means becoming the Chief Minister.

An advantage which both Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan enjoy is that Tamil Nadu always has had a close connection with cinema. During the 1950s, the Dravidian Movement through the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam Party gained momentum through the films that were shown to create a realistic appeal to what was happening in society. Moreover, during this time, politicians Conjeevaram Natarajan Annadurai and Muthuvel Karunanidhi wrote scripts for films with social messages.

However, years of legacy in the politics of Tamil Nadu slowly faded. The last known politician of this region, Jayaram Jayalalithaa, when she passed away, left a vacuum since no true leader is left in Tamil Nadu. Rajinikanth and Kamal Hassan are aiming to fill this vacuum. They will face a major problem in this regard. While their name is a household entity and they can amass a gathering anytime, they do not have any political background as none of the two actors have either contested in any elections or, obviously, held any political office.

They have their political affiliations as Rajinikanth supported the Congress Party in 1995. When the Congress Party decided to support the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam to contest for assembly election in Tamil Nadu, Rajinikanth switched sides and became a loyal supporter of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)-Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC) alliance. Time will tell if Rajinikanth switches his loyalties again. In 2017, when he officially decided to enter politics, his decision was greeted by his fans. Recently, he delayed the launch of his own political party but commented that his party would contest from all 234 assembly seats in Tamil Nadu during the next general elections.

Kamal Hassan formally launched his political party in February 2018. Called "Makkal Needhi Mayyam" which translates to Center for People's Justice, he envisions to become the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and "right the wrongs of corruption and communalism" in the state. There are reasons to believe that both Rajinikanth and Kamal Hassan would face problems in jump-starting their respective political careers. Tamil Nadu has been facing political instability following the death of Jayalalithaa and Rajinikanth and Kamal Hassan may not be able to deliver at such a delicate time in the state's politics as they lack the administrative acumen to become political leaders.

Whether Rajinikanth becomes the next face of Tamil Nadu's politics or whether it is Kamal Hassan, both will need to show their capability as politicians and their will to make things right. Moreover, their vision for the state encompassing such sectors as education, health, justice, economy and others will make them a success and not their looks nor their popularity in showbiz.

While Kamal Hassan has played the card of spiritual politics, he is an atheist and the people of Tamil Nadu may not like this aspect about him. On the other hand, Rajinikanth is considered to be next to God in cinema and has a higher reverence that Kamal Hassan while Rajinikanth has also never made any comment that is religiously or morally incorrect. Even though both Rajinikanth and Kamal Hassan have performed many roles as actors in the same film industry, their paths as politicians are now different as they have become political adversaries. They will do their best to thwart each other’s attack and maintain their hegemony in the world of politics. When the tides favour anyone of them, it will be seen how these two actors steer their ship in politics as both have never faced such a course before

The writer is a columnist and author. His areas of interest include political and social issues.


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