Rajinikanth's hint of joining politics is enough to shake Tamil Nadu
'Thalaiva' is in a league of his own.
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For a state such as Tamil Nadu where film stars and cinema have been intertwined with the region’s politics, the speculation of Rajinikanth entering public is akin to letting the cat amongst the pigeons.
Ever since the death of J Jayalalithaa in December 2016 and the realisation that former chief minister M Karunanidhi will turn 93 in a few weeks, the state’s political arena has been rife with expectations of an overhauling.
Perhaps for the first time in decades, the state’s electorate may not have had a major player from cinema, but Rajinikanth’s recent statements where he has hinted he could foray into politics if “god decides” has changed everything. What is it about the stars, both behind and in front of the camera, in Tamil cinema that makes them an integral part of the state’s politics?
Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that Tamil cinema has mostly centred on linguistic and cultural identity, and for what it is worth, politics in India for the longest time has also operated on the same principles.
To say that Rajinikanth or any political outfit is unaware of the sway he wields would be an understatement.
Unlike film stars of the past who have entered politics, Rajinikanth is in a league of his own when it comes to most things including identity. Here is a Maharashtrian by birth, Rajinikanth’s real name is Shivaji Rao Gaekwad and he hails from Karnataka, became a superstar in Tamil Nadu and whose aura transcends most boundaries and all imagination.
Unlike an Amitabh Bachchan who entered politics at the peak of his popularity only to leave office midway, or a Govinda who was unleashed by the Congress to defeat a five-term BJP Member of Parliament from North Mumbai, Ram Naik, Rajinikanth has never made his stance official.
But to say that Rajinikanth or any political outfit is unaware of the sway he wields would be an understatement.
The one time when he made a political statement he changed the course of the electorate. His denouncement of Jayalalithaa during the 1996 Assembly elections ensured the AIADMK’s rout with a single statement - “If Jayalalithaa is voted back to power, even God cannot save Tamil Nadu.”
21 years later, Rajinikanth has still not said anything concrete, but as long as Rajinikanth does not decide one way or the other about joining politics, he would continue to be a major entity in the state’s political landscape.
Few social commentators and political rivals have gone to the extent of saying that Rajinikanth would be (mis)used by political parties if and when he decides to become a full-time politician. Some believe that the actor is incapable of taking a clear-cut stand but to this writer, Rajinikanth seems to be cut from the same fabric as a Dev Anand.
During the Emergency, Dev sahab was so infuriated with the high-handedness of the then Congress party that he decided to launch a political party. Between a Dilip Kumar or a Raj Kapoor or even later stars such as Rajesh Khanna or Manoj Kumar, the idea of Dev Anand being politically aware or competent never struck people.
In his autobiography, Romancing With Life, Dev Anand mentions how when he refused to sing paeans of praise for Sanjay Gandhi’s youthful leadership he found that his films were blacklisted from Doordarshan, the songs of his films not given airtime on All India Radio and later hounded by the Income Tax authorities.
Dev sahab decided to take a stand and held public rallies that were attended by thousands supporting him and this came as a surprise to many.
Later he withdrew from running for office because he didn’t want to shortchange the people once the Emergency was lifted and terminated the party he had floated. Similarly, Rajinikanth perhaps never wanted to do things half-heartedly and being aware of the influence he holds, might have chosen to maintain a distance.
When Rajinikanth joins politics he would undoubtedly be nothing less than a game-changer.
But when it came to taking a stand on certain issues, such as not voting for the AIADMK in 1996 or supporting Tamil Nadu during the Cauvery water crisis because it was his "karambhoomi" over Karnataka, his "janambhoomi", Rajinikanth has been very unequivocal.
If and when Rajinikanth joins politics he would undoubtedly be nothing less than a game-changer and amongst all things, it was a Rajini joke on Twitter that best sums up the situation:
I wonder which party will politics join, if it enters Rajinikanth..— Keh Ke Peheno (@coolfunnytshirt) May 17, 2017
(Courtesy of Mail Today.)