Acting comes naturally to him. From 6-63 (now), he has been acting all his life. Film actor, director, screenwriter, playback singer, lyricist, choreographer, the Bigg Boss…. Any number of avataars and awards unambiguously support Padma Bhushan Kamal Hassan’s versatile credentials. We have known Kamal for his sparkle in movies but we are yet to find out whether he lives up to the image of “Nayakan” he massively engrossed once. Now, the “Ulaganayakan” (Hero of the world) is figuring to transform himself to uncharted political “sets”, knowing well that politics is not “Vishwaroopam-2.”
Is Kamal a serious factor in TN politics?
Tamil Nadu sustains a profound history of film personalities becoming political biggies. Charismatic leaders like Annadurai, M Karunanidhi, M G Ramachandran (MGR), Jayalalithaa all have shaped the political stimulus through their mass-appealing ideologies and personalities. MGR triumphantly converted his on-screen eminence of a man of the masses off-screen as well, winning three successful terms as Chief Minister.
However, if the experience of Chiranjeevi (AP) or Vijayakanth (TN) is anything to go by, the script can miserably flop. Lakhs attended their meetings, only thousands voted. The biggest takeaway is that one-man show does not translate fans and Facebook likes into electoral votes. For that matter, Sivaji Ganesan was popular and the most talented actor, yet an utter failure in politics, though he shared the same timeline with MGR.
As long as Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi were shielding the CM’s chair, no rival stood a chance. But now, the political weather is greatly altered, with TN politics undergoing continued roiling.
A different syllabus
Though a film celebrity, electoral success can be sighted only if you weave a socio-economic alliance, which goes beyond popularity and fame.
Since Kamal’s support-base appears confined to the upper and upper-middle class, it will be tough for him to go anywhere near his chief ministerial ambitions. Kamal has to do much better than anyone else in the fray – including Edappadi Palaniswami and DMK’s MK Stalin. Failure to do so would be similar to “commercial breaks” between the warring AIADMK’s factions, and the DMK political opposition.
Interestingly, he earned the wrath of several ministers and the state BJP for his comments about corruption in every department of the state government. TN Finance Minister D Jayakumar had challenged him to join politics and walk the talk.
Need clarity in communication
The hero-to-become-politician may have an open mind and a clean slate, but he needs to communicate in a language that common man understand and appreciate. His penchant for using metaphors to explain his position can possibly be mistaken for linguistic loftiness, and could widen the existing gap with the common man.
Kamal should convince that politics is about the people, not politicians. Politics in our country relies on mass hysteria, caste, religion, money, fame and popularity. We are swamped in corruption, delays and poor delivery. Can he produce a “Swachh government”? In a caste-obsessed TN, it could be disadvantage for a start, though Kamal dons his rationalistic approach to life on his sleeve.
Right from the “Vishwaroopam” days, the thespian has been pushing boundaries. His style of using sarcasm to a good effect to pull down the politicos through his messages and statements have been stronger, asking people of the state to rise above and stand up against corruption.
Probably, Kamal sees that in the post-Jayalalitha scenario, the AIADMK has disappointed the people of TN, and enabled space to a new candidate like him. Perhaps, he would like to exploit the bitterness mood against the status-quo, particularly the corruption factor. He recently led from the front firm opposition to the TN BJP leaders’ sterile attempt to whip up passion against the movie, Mersal, which criticised GST and demonetisation.
Given the meeting the film star had with the Kerala CM and CPM leader P Vijayan in Tiruvananthapuram, where he made clear that he won’t align with BJP, DMK, AIADMK or Congress, it appears, even if he forms his own party, he will be under the mantle of left front, as he asserted that his role models are from Left wing.
The plus point, when you are a novice, there is no baggage. Honest citizen, tax-compliant, a progressive mortal, known for his creativity. The “Big Boss” is said to have converted his fan clubs into welfare organisations and is involved in social service activities. Politically speaking, is that enough?
Kamal enters politics to bring about a change in the system of governance. He knows it is a crown of thorns. How is he going to handle politicians, and vice-versa? When it comes to politics it takes very different kind of person. Let’s see, if he replicates a Chiranjeevi, or make an MGR?
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)