There is no short cut to politics and the Tamil Nadu politics is rather tricky. Madam Jayalalithaa was having a magical hand to have sway over Southern politics and BJP was also giving her the undue respect for holding a maximum number of MP seats after Congress in the Parliament. Now the entry of cine star Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan may not change the political equation much in Tamil Nadu but may favour BJP as the split in voter count may help the Saffron party to come to the fore. Kamal Haasan does not have a constant mind and look for name and fame rather than doing good for the people. Like Shivaji Ganesan of 1970s, Rajinikanth once entered the political scene in 1996 but failed to utilise that opportunity.
The recent announcements of Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan, about their foray into politics, are only seen as an eventuality in a state that has had a long line of leaders and politicians who came from the cradle of Tamil cinema. A look at some of those who made that seamless switch, with varying levels of success. There is no star turn in politics. Both MGR and J Jayalalithaa have succeeded with their positive way of pocketing people’s sympathy through various welfare measures. MGR came out of Karunanidhi’s DMK party and made an early dent as the AIADMK party swept to power in TN again; Jayalalithaa was the main propaganda person under MGR and she made her presence felt from her early days. And pushing her off the gun carriage carrying MGR’s soul gave her the big break.
Karunanidhi’s films would often incorporate contemporary ideas of the Dravidian ideology and anti-brahminism, Tamil nationalism, celebration of Tamil culture, literature and rationalist ideas – into films in an enjoyable, easy manner. He is a veteran politician now.
In the history of Tamil cinema, M G Ramachandran, who commanded the respect and loyalty of millions of fans, will go down as one of most successful actors and politicians of Tamil Nadu. Popularly known as Puratchi Thalaivar, the actor’s smash hit Nadodi Mannan cemented his place as an undisputed star and constructed his image as the helper of the poor.
The most famed political career was enjoyed by J Jayalalithaa. Despite severe opposition to her rise from some of the senior members of the party, Jayalalithaa’s onscreen image of being MGR’s co-star and her charisma cemented her place among party supporters as the face of the AIADMK after the demise of MGR. She also surpassed MGR by winning 37 out of the 39 seats in 2014 Lok Sabha elections, and 135 out of the 234 seats in the State Assembly elections in 2016 without any alliance partners. She died in 2016.
Unlike MGR, Sivaji Ganesan failed to use cinema for his political career. When his opponent, G K Moopanar was made the TNCC (I) president, following MGR’s death, he quit the Congress and founded the Thamizhaga Munnetra Munnani in 1988, which aligned with the AIADMK (Janaki) faction. After losing the election, Sivaji Ganesan’s political career effectively came to an end.
Both Vijayakanth and Vadivelu did evince much confidence in the mind of the TN people. In 2005, actor Vijayakanth, who boasted a considerable fan following, started his own political party called the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam and positioned himself as an alternative to both the DMK and the AIADMK but failed miserably in the political front. Sarathkumar was just one more pushover in politics. Now, Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth are trying their luck in political scene. Only after a year, we can estimate their prospects in the political scene. As of now the political climate in TN is in turmoil and everybody is trying a hand to come out trumps.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)