Hava Nagila!

Everything does pass, and we can endure and we can survive!! – Rahul Dravid

Kottayum Kodambakkamum

It is a common belief that films and politics can barely be told apart in Tamilnadu. It is alleged that if you are there in one, you are very often there in the other. Some ask, how we can accept a heroine/ hero for a CM. Few even say that if you are a popular actor, you can become CM in Tamilnadu? What is the connection between the seat of power and cinema in Tamilnadu?

There is a huge list of names (big ones at that) which can be supplied for that argument. Annadurai, M Karunanidhi, MGR, Jayalalitha and now Vijaykanth…. Apart from this, no one can deny the influence that Rajnikanth and Cho Ramaswamy have on politics and the voter in Tamilnadu. Talks of Ajith Kumar supporting the AIADMK led him to dissolve his fan clubs! Vijay faced a 5 year torture period because of his alleged links with the Congress and likelihood of floating a party. With Simran, Khushboo, Vadivelu, et al joining the bandwagon as campaigners for the parties, one can hardly deny that the lines between kottai and kodambakkam are blurred beyond a separation point.

I differ. Popularity is not the only thing for which the Tamil audience will vote. They have other expectations as well and those matter more than stardom.  

Annadurai and Karunanidhi started their political careers a decade ahead of their film careers. They were first politicians and then only film writers. MGR was a member of the Congress Party very early in his film career and then shifted to the DMK. He was the star campaigner for the DMK for 2 decades before he formed his own party. Jayalalitha held the spokesperson and other posts in the AIADMK for a decade before she took over from MGR. Vijaykanth worked to form his party for 10 years before he contested his first election.

It is very obvious from these facts that these stars from Kollywood did not walk straight from films into politics. Those who did have failed. It is in startling contrast to what happened in Andhra Pradesh. NTR was an actor with no political footing or opinion. He formed a party, contested the elections and won it in a matter of 6 months. It is the same case with Roja, Jaya Pradha, Niteesh Bharadwaj, Shatrughan Sinha, Navjot Sidhu (from cricket, not films) – they all just walked into politics from films. That has never been the case in Tamilnadu.

The Tamil voter has rejected many equally popular stars – Sivaji Ganesan, Manorama, SS Rajendran, KR Ramaswamy, Karthik, Bhagyaraj (despite footages of MGR blessing him), T Rajendran and many others. Sivakumar was an ardent congressman in his hey days. Why, what did Khushboo’s and Vadivelu’s campaigning do to the DMK in 2011? No one considers Kamal Hasan for a political leader. Vijay has understood that he has to do a lot of ground work before he can jump in to politics.

To quote Cho from an interview he gave to Vir Sanghvi, “An actor who is a mere actor is not accepted as a political leader by the people of Tamilnadu. They need to show social concern and good understanding of politics and issues before they can jump in.” The social work and help that MGR has done is too well known for me to take up its propaganda. Jayalalitha has also followed up on the same lines. Her knowledge and speaking capacities have been appreciated by the opposition parties in the Indian parliament. The social concern and support that Rajnikanth has provided is enormous. The prime minister of Japan contacted Rajnikanth to provide motivation and moral support to the quake stricken Japanese people. Note: He did not call the then CM of TN – MK or the PM of India – Dr.Manmohan Singh for the same.

Despite the fact that actors do pull in crowds, they are never serious contenders for the post of CM or even party membership in Tamilnadu. They are just used as crowd pullers during campaigning. Neither the voter nor the party takes them seriously unless they join the party and do their homework.

The voters of Tamilnadu attach an element of public concern from those who they want as their representatives/ leaders. The people of Tamilnadu also expect their political reps to have an artistic mentality. One needs leaders who, after all, are human. This is a very characteristic Tamil trait. Our kings and bards of yore have been writers, poets and artists!!

The people of Tamilnadu do not blindly vote for actors and can distinguish very well between kottai and kodambakkam. They are very clear in their minds on who they want to support. They are cognizant of the similarities as well as the differences and are very much capable of weighing their options. Not anyone who dons the greasepaint can become leaders here.

May people of India be blessed with this mindset!!


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