Why Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan are keeping Tamil Nadu on its toes about joining politics

The two Tamil superstars in the absence of movie hits have been keeping themselves relevant with their to-be-or-not-to-be-in-politics question.

 |  4-minute read |   27-12-2017
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Much like the government, which tends to divert people's attention from India's most pressing problems with the help of a Padmavati or beef ban, the two Tamil superstars, Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan have in the absence of movie hits, been – I feel – keeping themselves in the news with their to-be-or-not-to-be-in-politics question. Probably very Hamlet, very Shakespearean, and with the political climate in Tamil Nadu in a tizzy (the recent win of Jayalalithaa supporter TTV Dinakaran in a Chennai by-poll adding to the confusion), the drama being staged by Rajinikanth and Haasan seems to fit like a T.

In his latest salvo, Rajinikanth has said that he will make an announcement on his political ambitions on the last day of 2017. This comes after several such declarations over a long period. Why, he was even supposed to make one such pronouncement on his birthday, December 12. But the day passed without any bombshell being dropped.

In the course of his current meetings with fans, Rajinikanth quipped in reply to a question: “I did not say I will announce my political entry on December 31. I only said I will convey whether I will enter politics or not”.

Rajinikanth – once a great actor shaped by directors like Mahendran and Balachander – has now sadly reduced himself to being a mere showman, relying on sheer gimmicks to keep himself in the limelight, to hold on to his fans. But, then, how long can one stay afloat with this kind of tactics. Sooner or later, the greasepaint will peel off and the magic will wear out – unless and until the actor can think of something novel, something fresh, the way Amitabh Bachchan has been inventing and reinventing himself to stay in business. Personally, I think Big B has become far bigger than what he was in his Coolie and Zanjeer days. He has honed his acting skills to a fine level of perfection.

Anyway, returning to the Roaring R, whose roar now appears to be getting weaker, I feel that the Tamil superstar has nothing to show – education or political expertise or acumen – to convey that he can be a politician. Forget good or bad, able or not!

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I have written in my earlier columns that success under the arc lamps and even big box office bonanzas cannot be a yardstick to determine whether an actor will be a great administrator. Let us not forget that men like MG Ramachandran and MK Karunanidhi took control of Tamil Nadu politics after years of toiling to create a brand new political ideology. And they succeeded by intelligently using cinema to prop themselves up. Rajinikanth has no ideology to talk about, let alone political ideas. Does he hope to lead a party, a people, and a province by promising a clean government? How is he going to achieve this? Does he have a plan of action before he appears in front of the masses?

The case is not different with Kamal Haasan either, who mercifully can still be a wonderful actor – that is when he chooses to be. But his qualification to sit on the gaddi is as much a zilch as that of Rajinikanth's. While Rajinikanth plans a grand announcement on the eve of New Year, Haasan's deadline happens to be the very next day, January 1.

On September 22, Haasan told the national media that he would enter the political arena within 100 days – a number that was reminiscent of an era when a film made history by running for 100 days. And Haasan's 100 days end on January 1, and with just four days to go (not counting today), he remains mum.

Obviously, both the superstars know that jumping into the political fray and winning over voters are not as easy as entertaining men and women and children in darkened auditoriums. Not at all. Here people come with very little expectation; they are happy to be transported into an unreal, dreamlike existence that has to do with the reality outside. At least, Rajinikanth's works for many years have all bordered on fantasy, Kamal's less so.

Outside the cinemas, men and women have to struggle hard coping with the harsh challenges of life, and administrators are meant to redress these. Can men with painted faces and donning superman suits hope to do this? Come on, despite what Shakespeare wrote, this world is not a stage, Tamil Nadu certainly not! And a Rajinikanth or a Kamal cannot hope to call lights, camera, action to set the shot of governance rolling.

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Gautaman Bhaskaran Gautaman Bhaskaran @gautamanb

The author is a writer, commentator and movie critic.

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