DH ANALYSIS | TN: The stage that is politics

Latest in the long list of aspirants for the top post from Kollywood is actor Vijay

There may be a vacuum in Tamil Nadu’s political landscape with the exit of two stalwarts J Jayalalithaa and M Karunanidhi within 20 months. But in a state where politics and film industry are entwined, many claimants to fill the “great void” are from the tinsel town with almost every top actor nursing chief ministerial ambitions.

Latest in the long list of aspirants for the top post from Kollywood, as the Tamil film industry calls itself, seems to be popular actor Vijay, whose films depict him as the saviour of Tamils and the champion of their cause.

And, of course, their inspiration is the legendary M G Ramachandran, better known as MGR, whose popularity not just catapulted him to the seat of power, but his wife Janaki and his protégé Jayalalithaa after his demise in 1987 – not to count Karunanidhi, a celebrated scriptwriter.

Much before Vijay, who during the audio launch of his upcoming flick ‘Sarkar’ on Tuesday spoke about his version of how a leader should set an example for his cadre, Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan – the legends of the Tamil film world – have thrown their hat in the political ring.

The response to the transition of these legends, who together dominated the multi-crore film industry for over four decades, from reel to real has been underwhelming, to say the least. For the first time, an ordinary Tamil citizen is questioning film stars’ entry into politics, especially in the evening of their career.

Every actor wants to recreate the MGR magic, which is impossible in this era of social media where even an innocuous statement of public figures – including actors – are dissected, but the larger question is do actors, who have every right to take political plunge, think that their stardom is an instant visa for a career in politics.

Like Tamil movies where the hero emerges saviour of the masses overnight, all actors who intend to take political plunge use the same template – fight corruption, nepotism and deliver good governance.

And, like Tamil movies where the hero emerges saviour of the masses overnight, all actors who intend to take political plunge use the same template – fight corruption, nepotism and deliver good governance.

“They are going by past examples where MGR and Jayalalithaa had occupied high posts. The actors think that would (stardom) give them a head start, but I don’t think stardom is just enough. In the end, one has to work and prove his mettle,” says political commentator Sumanth C Raman.

Obviously, it looks like, Raman says, in Tamil Nadu, one cannot serve society before becoming chief minister. “None of them speak of making a more capable or experienced person as CM. If you are a popular actor, you will be a good CM is the assumption,” he says.

Even as his seniors face much public scrutiny and are found wanting to get their political act together, the affable and soft-spoken Vijay, known for his humility, sprang a surprise on Tuesday night by delivering a fiery speech punctuated with politics.

“I am not donning the role of a chief minister in 'Sarkar' (the upcoming film), but I will not act (if I become) chief minister…I mean to say I will be honest (If I become a chief minister),” the 44-year-old actor said, sending the audience into a rapture.

The event was the audio launch of his forthcoming film and was Vijay’s speech made with an eye on the movie? – his body language did not seem so. The actor was at ease on the stage and was measured in his words even when he delivered what looked like a political sermon to those administering Tamil Nadu – cadre will follow the leader and the onus is on the latter to lead the former.

And not to be left behind the hugely successful trio is Vishal, three years junior to Vijay in age, who has already tried his luck at the hustings – his nomination papers as an Independent candidate in Dr R K Nagar by-polls last year was rejected for not being in the prescribed format. He now wants to test the waters yet again.

Writer-politician D Ravikumar says actor consider politics a stage and electorate their audience. “For them (actors), they think the chief minister is a role and start acting from the word go. When film heroes take the plunge in politics, they bring the cinema culture. The politician becomes a star and the electorate his fans,” he says.

ALSO READ: Kamal Haasan launches party, names it 'Makkal Needhi Mayyam'

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DH ANALYSIS | TN: The stage that is politics

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