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Politics or films? Rajini, Kamal may have to make a choice | Chennai News


Stardom, no doubt, gives film heroes an edge in political race. But by riding the two horses of movies and politics, Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan may be performing the toughest stunt of their lives.

Nothing could be a better example than the recent controversy where pro-Kannada groups demanded a ban on Rajinikanth’s film ‘Kaala’ in Karnataka over his statement urging the state to release water to Tamil Nadu, after the Karnataka polls. Moral of the story: Being an actor-politician isn’t easy, especially if you are in TN.

Observers say when actors with political aspirations straddle the two fields, they are vulnerable to be hit, sometimes below the belt. And their films become sitting ducks in the face of engineered protests. If Rajini experienced only a mild problem with ‘Kaala’ in Karnataka, Kamal had a much bitter taste of the game, during the launch of ‘Virumandi’ in 2004 and ‘Vishwaroopam’ in 2013. And those were much before he entered politics.

Makkal Needhi Maiam leader and actor Kamal Haasan, says, politician or not, he has never shied away from voicing his opinion and has lived with the consequences. “Picking a soft target like a film is political ‘dadagiri’. Besides, the high profile that cinema offers is too tempting for the less popular politician who cannot even afford his own podium,” said Kamal Haasan.

The difficult part of the twin job is to stay decent amidst political mudslinging. Once the actor-politician participates in the slugfest, his political statements appear to lack conviction, his promise to be the harbinger of change hollow. In the 1970s when MGR left DMK to start his own party, it was initially called ‘Nadigar Katchi’ (actor’s party). MGR’s persona was such that he could continue to act after launching ADMK and taking its mantle, but once he became the chief minister in 1977, the actor took a bow.

Many see Rajini associating his name with another movie after 2.0 and not yet naming his party as a sign of indecisiveness. “Rajinikanth has promised to give TN an MGR-type rule if he comes to power. But one has to work towards being an MGR,” says senior journalist Sudhangan.

MGR’s biographer R Kannan says not much has changed from MGR’s time. “Political opponents continue to target movies (of actors who are also politicians). Earlier, Rajinikanth was criticised for keeping silent over critical issues. Now, see what happens when he started speaking.” “MGR kept his ‘Ulagam Sutrum Valiban’s release a secret, fearing that the administration would upend his plans, but that worked to his advantage and the movie went places.”

Sudhangan notes that actors those days needed political backing. “It was all rosy for MGR in the DMK until he asked the party’s financial balance sheet. The next moment he was shown the door and his movie faced release issues. But MGR fought all odds and attained political peak. Kamal and Rajini, on the contrary, are not deft decision-makers. They haven’t completely committed themselves to politics,” he says.

All India Samathuva Makkal Katchi leader R Sarathkumar believes if opinions are articulated the right way, without any hidden agenda, one will not face trouble. “I don’t consider Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan as fulltime politicians,” said the actor who started his political career in 1996 and condemned the then J Jayalalithaa government over corruption. “When I raised contentious issues, people extended their support. To earn such a reputation, one has to strive hard,” he said.

Congress spokesperson Khubhu says an actor can’t give up his profession completely and that movies are attacked by parties and not by the people. “Actors get into politics not to make money. Yes, it is a difficult task to be in both the professions, but we also have to pay our bills,” she says.

But what about politicians using actors for their campaign and later foulmouthing them when they say something against their parties? Kamal has the last word: “Using an actor for a campaign and threatening someone else’s business are two different things. One is hiring or appointing a spokesperson while the other closely resembles blackmail. One is legitimate while the other borders on criminality.”



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