The fan clubs are going into hysterical cartwheels over their demi-god’s new release. But do you know anyone who has really liked the garbled politics of Rajinikanth in his latest film Kaala? Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan, the two pillars of the Tamil film industry, so to speak, are at the crossroads. Should they be dabbling in politics rather than submerging in the process of making movies?
Fans and even colleagues seem to think otherwise. Many of the actors Rajni and Kamal have worked with feel they are making a mistake by going into politics. A leading actress who has worked with both the stalwarts feels it is a mistake for them to cross over., “You can’t be an abhineta and a neta at the same time. There is bound to be a clash of interest. Rajini’s Kaala looks like a propaganda piece rather than full-on masala product. You can’t mix the sheer pleasure of the movie experience with the business of politics. Mr Bachchan tried. He entered politics and made political films like Inquilaab and Main Azaad Hoon, and failed.”
The problem with Kaala, and I am sure the same will happen when Kamal’s Vishwaroopam 2 releases in August, is that the film is a thinly veiled attempt to pitch the iconic star as a political entity. Rajini plays a slum-god, a messiah of the masses fighting relentlessly for the land and property of the poor.
It is the image that he sees himself projecting in real life. Whether this image gets mass acceptance or not is a moot point. With Kamal Haasan it will be even trickier to project his political ideology into cinema. He doesn’t have the broad fan-base of Rajini. To get audiences to subscribe to his politics in cinema would be tough. In any case why are Rajini and Kamal shifting into an arena that is not their domain? Can an actor be a committed politician? It’s like expecting a chef to moonlight as an astronaut. Vishal Krishna who is vocal on many political issues in Tamil Nadu plays the double role of actor-politician very successfully. Says Vishal, “I think it is highly imperative that actors with a fan base use that base to make a difference in politics. As far as Kamal Sir and Rajini Sir are concerned I am waiting like all the others to understand their political plans. The sooner they come out with it the better."
Shatrughan Sinha who is a close friend of Rajinikanth and is an active politician –actor himself has serious misgivings about Rajini and Kamal’s political plans. “I hope they have worked out their political screenplays in some detail before taking the plunge. Mujhe aisa lagta toh nahin hai.I hope I am wrong. Because politics is no bed of roses. Actors come from a world of glamour. They are addicted to glamour. In politics there is a lot of power. And power is extremely glamorous. Actors come to politics in the hope of building on their glamour and fame.” But the truth, says Shatruji, is somewhat removed from expectations. “Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan should be very clear on why they came want to come into politics. Why just Rajinikanth ? Even Kamal Haasan is a very good friend of mine. They never sought my advice before plunging into politics. If they had, I’d have warned them about the pitfalls of politics. Look at the way I’ve been treated by my parent party. I was given to understand that I’d be given cabinet rank. Instead a television actress was given cabinet position. I was only subjected to humiliation and indifference. We actors are brought into political parties to draw in the crowds. But when we do draw in the crowds the party gets insecure about our popularity. It’s really a very tricky situation.”
In the absence of a cogent clearly-elucidated political ideology Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth will lean more and more on their cinema to project their political views. But I am afraid that won’t work. Audiences know the lines in a film are pre-written for the actors. They want to see these superstars mouth what comes naturally spontaneously from their hearts.
Are the two Tamil titans prepared for some serious frankspeech?