By Madhulika Gupta
With the locus of Indian politics expressly shifting down south of the Indian subcontinent, a sizeable number of veteran South Indian actors are steadily venturing into politics. Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan happen to be colossal names in Tollywood but their venture in state politics is what is making their roars heard in Delhi. However, this is not the first time politics and cinema are seen joining hands in South India. With MGR and Jayalalithaa in the past, this interesting relationship between cinema and politics has been well celebrated by the populace. Although Kamal Haasan announced his foray into politics later this year, Rajinikanth has become media’s favourite child in the past few weeks and how.
A charismatic poster boy for change
Termed a charismatic speaker and influencer by experts and fans alike, Rajinikanth holds frequent fan meets. At one such fan meet, he hinted towards announcing something concrete in relation to his political endeavours on December 31st, 2017. What’s interesting to notice is the heavy fan following that Rajinikanth enjoys. People worship him like they worship God; hordes of people would flock temples to pray for his health when he falls ill; people stand in queues for hours whenever a Rajinikanth movie releases. Consequently, it wouldn’t be a surprise to connect these dots and realise what influence a person like Rajinikanth holds on the gargantuan population of Tamil Nadu. Not to mention, the year 2016 has been a year of uprisings in the South. Be it Jayalalitha’s demise and the rumours of foul play around it, the Jallikattu uproar, or Sasikala going behind bars. There was the Pannerselvam-Palaniswami combat too. 2016 has seen Tamil Nadu at the heart of Indian politics. If Rajinikanth does intend to join politics, he has chosen an opportune time to announce his decision.
Challenging the political status quo
It is also interesting to note the political scenario of Tamil Nadu after the death of late Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa. A void for a strong leader has been created after Jayalalithaa’s demise. Dravidian ideology has been at the heart of the politics in Tamil Nadu. However, the political ruckus between the DMK and AIADMK has ended up leaving a vacuum for a ruling party with a substantial command which can be fruitfully used as an opportunity to make an entry into politics. Meanwhile, two things make it a ‘cry for war’ in the state, as Rajinikanth likes to call it. One, the internal politics within AIADMK makes it impossible to see stability in the party’s institution. Secondly, DMK’s M. Karunanidhi has not been keeping well due to his age. There appears to be no other strong leader in the DMK that can emerge to maintain the party’s hold.
Rajinikanth’s debut in politics can, perhaps, be attributed to this.
Obsession with box office has driven politics
After M.G. Ramachandran, Jayalalithaa carried the baton and became one of the most successful actresses to have an even successful political career. It would be safe to say that South India seems to have an obsession with its cinema and politics—both of which often fall in together. Following the trend, actors Chiranjeevi, Vijaykanth and Pawan Kalyan have long been at the centre of South India’s politics. When big shots like Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth start being the talk of the town with politics on their mind, their sway on the masses is beyond imagination.
Safe to say, South Indians like mixing their cinema with politics which gives Tollywood superstars the space to become politically influential. With agendas like working for the people and getting the Assemblies rid of dirty politics, actors rely on their massive fan following to bring a wind of change. South India has always connoted Box Office hits as hits in the Assembly election too. If Rajinikanth emerges as a political leader, there could be a hefty chance of him being a superstar in real life too.
If Thalaiva says yes, what’s next?
“I am not saying I will come into politics. I said I will announce my decision on 31st,” is what the superstar said at a recent fan meet. This connotes to the fact that he is yet undecided about his political future. However, if he decides for it, chances are he would be up against fellow actor Kamal Haasan. Haasan seems to have taken a sabbatical shortly after announcing his entry into politics to complete shooting for a film. However, the spotlight is focussed on Rajinikanth. There is no question that if he stands up for it, Rajinikanth is bound to receive all the love and support from his followers as voters. An emerging question is how Rajinikanth will bring a whiff of freshness to South Indian politics. Sure, the state needs a political change and although influential political candidates who were previously actors offer that change, how successful can they be as leaders? The onus, at the end of the day, lies on the electorate that decides the fates of the biggest of superstars.
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