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Film and politics go hand in hand in Tamil Nadu

Press Trust of India, Chennai, Dec 31 2017, 19:50 IST
Tamil actor Rajinikanth gestures while announcing his political entry, on the final day of a six-day-long photo session with fans, in Chennai on Sunday. The announcement ended years of speculation about his joining of politics. PTI Photo

Tamil actor Rajinikanth gestures while announcing his political entry, on the final day of a six-day-long photo session with fans, in Chennai on Sunday. The announcement ended years of speculation about his joining of politics. PTI Photo

Top film stars launching their own political party is nothing new to Tamil Nadu, a state which has been ruled for decades by icons connected with the tinsel world.

The 67-year old superstar Rajinikanth is the latest to foray into politics as he today announced his decision to launch a party before the next assembly elections.

It was the charismatic hero M G Ramachandran who first stormed to power in the state in the 1970s after forming the AIADMK. His arch-rival and former chief minister M Karunanidhi, a former chief minister, was also connected with the film world having penned scripts.

Karunanidhi succeeded DMK founder C N Annadurai in 1969 as chief minister after the demise of the latter, who led his party to a historic win over the Congress two years earlier.

MGR, as Ramachandran was popularly known, had been featured from the word go as a messiah of the poor in his films unlike Rajinikanth who began as a dashing personality, best known for his style and stunt.

Ramachandran broke away from DMK following differences with Karunanidhi and formed his own party. Protege of MGR, J Jayalalithaa, who had paired with him in several super hit films in the 1960s-70s, claimed his legacy after his death.

The party had then split and later merged in late 1980s with Jayalalithaa taking control and going on to guide the AIADMK as its supreme leader till her demise in December, 2016. She held the Chief Minister's post thrice, including after winning back-to-back elections in 2011 and 2016. Her mentor MGR remained Chief Minister undefeated till his death in December, 1987 unlike Jayalalithaa who also lost polls.

The enormous clout these cinestar-turned-politicians wielded among their fans was evident by the demi-God status accorded to them and their ability to convert it into electoral wins. However, some stars also failed to taste success at the theatre of politics. MGR's contemporary and thespian Sivaji Ganesan, though remained active while in Congress party, could not continue his run after forming his own outfit in 1988.

In the assembly elections that followed, Ganesan's party came a cropper with the actor himself losing in his native Thanjavur district. Popular actor Vijaykanth formed his political party DMDK ahead of the 2006 assembly polls and forged a tie-up with Jayalalithaa's AIADMK in 2011.

Though the alliance came to power, Vijayakanth fell apart after he started questioning decisions of her government. In the 2016 elections, his party, contesting alone, drew a blank. Another popular Tamil star Sarath Kumar also formed his own political party and was an MLA from 2011-16.

The film stars' success in Tamil Nadu politics also extended to neighbouring Andhra Pradesh where veteran actor N T Ramarao formed his Telugu Desam party and captured power in the 1980s.

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