Monday, September 19, 2005

Lights! Camera! Politics!

As you all probably know, Kollywood’s self-appointed captain Vijayakanth finally took the plunge into politics last week. He launched his new party in Madurai on September 14 with the unfurling of its flag and returned to Chennai yesterday to a rousing reception.Following the usual algorithm for party-naming in TN politics, he threw together unavoidable buzzwords like Dravida and Kazhagam to come up with the rather generic but familiar-sounding name of Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam(DMDK) for his party.

Politics and cinema have been inseparable bedfellows in TamilNadu ever since Anna, Karunanidhi and MGR realized the power of cinema and decided to exploit it to further their political careers. The biggest crossover success was ofcourse MGR. His carefully-cultivated do-gooder image in cinema made him the darling of the masses and helped transform him into an unbeatable politician. Even before Iruvar’s thinly-veiled take on his life, I was aware of the myth of MGR through stories my dad narrated about him. His questioning of party accounts that led to the DMK split; his leading a procession to the governor’s office; his election victory while in the hospital (quite possibly the only instance where a candidate won an election without campaigning in person) – truly stuff that legends are made of.

The man might be dead but his name isn't. To date, any politician worth his salt tries to associate himself with MGR. Even Vijayakanth apparently entered the Madurai arena in the same van that MGR himself campaigned in during the 70s and 80s. Our current CM Jayalalitha too made it by latching herself tightly onto MGR’s wagon both literally and figuratively (remember her on his hearse?). I always wonder how many of the voters still simply vote for the irattai ilai rather than for her. She could probably be called a legend too since she has her share of stories. But unlike the stories about MGR, the ones about her usually invoke irritation rather than awe or admiration.

But the list of failures is much longer – Sivaji, Bagyaraj, Ramarajan, T.Rajendar. All made much-publicised attempts at politics and failed. There have also been the occasional S.V.Sekhar or Revathi contesting the election as independents. But the list of political aspirants from the cine-field only seems to be growing longer. Every election we see news about actors joining all political parties. And any popular actor is immediately asked about his "interest in politics" in every interview.

What is it that has made actors, automatic politicians-in-waiting? In many cases, it looks like a case of simply following the career path laid down by MGR, naively hoping for the same kind of success. Politics has now turned into the default next step for actors who are approaching the twilight of their careers. There is also the unwillingness to let go of the limelight that cinema provides them. These are people used to being fawned over, written about and mobbed when in public. So anonymity and isolation are not concepts they will be comfortable with. Being successful in politics will keep them in the public eye and unlike cinema, they could be politicians right until they take their last breath. There is always the hope that some actors enter politics out of a a genuine intent to do good; to leave their mark on history in a more permanent way than what is afforded by cinema.

Whatever the reason, Vijayakanth has proved to be a man of his word. It will be interesting to see if he manages to find the success that has eluded other actor-turned-politicians of recent times.

PS: While on the topic of actor-turned-politicians, Arnold Schwarzenegger has announced that he is gonna run for the second term as Governor of California. So he IS gonna be back!


At 2:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Balaji. I have also started a political party. Desiya poramboakku dimikki kazhagam :-)

Anyone can start a party :-D

At 3:09 AM, Blogger Munimma said...

I thought you would post the pic with the crown ;-)

At 7:39 AM, Blogger Kumari said...

But whatever good may have come off MGR, his anger is equally infamous. And MGR was a really bright one when compared to Captain whom i feel is just like a moth flying towards the fire...yet for our sake, hope some good comes out of it -- atleast a few laughs :)

At 7:52 AM, Blogger mitr_bayarea said...

It is indeed true that people all over the world have some sort of charisma towards seeing their movie stars on political fronts and TamilNadu is all the more renowned for this. I'm sure that Vijayakanth with his actor cum Nadigar Sangam Thalaivar title would be a success especially in down South like Madurai, Theni etc......vaazhga "James Bondu".....thatz how he talks!!!

At 9:12 AM, Blogger bl@her said...

Vijaykanth was one of our neighbors. We used to collect donations (you get a medal if you collect the maximum funds) for orphanage et al at school, and the first person we would approach would be him. He would give us each Rs.10 and if he is in too good a mood, some chocolates too. He was so nice to us, that when I was very young, and my dad commented that his movies are crappy, I burst into tears. (Now I would wail if someone asks me to watch his movies!) He is a very good person at heart blah blah blah. Agreed. But I have a feeling he is going to become "another of those" if he is elected. I guess these guys can't help it, they cannot become one-man-armies as shown in movies... I think common people have totally lost trust in politics, and are generally voting for all the movie stars to make corruption, bribery and black money look more colorful and glamorous.

At 10:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ferrari, unge kakshiyode podhucheyalaallar-aa enna aakidunge...please! "orutharukkum post-e kudukkakoodaathu!" (amaidhi padai)

anu's comment reminds me of the saying, "power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely!"

actors shifting to politics isnt a new thing...but i hope they ignore the MGR route and try to do something novel or radical...they err in thinking that their popularity thro' their cinematic roles would automatically translate to votes...but Tamil Nadu's public is so entrenched in its own prejudices (mainly thanks to illiteracy) that its going to be hard for any of the cine stars --even the ones who "captain" kodambakkam-- to get past that...poruthirundhu paarpom!

At 10:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once the initial honeymoon period is over, a candidate will have to start the transition over to being a political player. It is here that most people fail (where Schwarzenegger has faltered as well). So let us wait and see.

At 10:55 AM, Blogger Munimma said...

He says he is going to visit all his constituencies and campaign in each of them. TN has lacked a figurehead since MGR's demise. He has the potential to do it. Will he or not? Provided he keeps away from the other seasoned politicians, he has some glimmer of hope. No koottanis or avial anis please! To me, of the 3, he is actually a better option :-) I can't believe I said that!!!

At 12:54 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

ferrari, adhaan theriyume. un mission statements and letters daily pidichitu irukene :-)

kumari, true. i mentioned just a few but there r so many stories about MGR.

chennaipages, but seeing our current crop of politicians, i have my own doubts if they know something about governance either. i think key to our acceptance of vijayakanth would be the kind of people he keeps around himself. if he assembles a set of knowledgeable, non-power-hungry, good-hearted people around him, that would be great. so he provides the charisma and they provide whats needed to run the party and maybe the government.

anu, i dont think i've read any bad reports about him so far either. i always used to think that filmstars already had enuf money and so would be better politicians since they don't need to be corrupt and hoard wealth. but JJ has proved that that need not be the case. lets hope it is in his case...

gopi, true. thats why we rarely see incumbents come back into power during elections. and why KK and JJ have alternated as CM the last few times in TN :-)

munimma, know exactly what u mean by that last line. this is definitely "grasping at straws"!!

At 1:00 PM, Blogger Me too said...

Atleast this gives the people a new face / a new choice now. Otherwise, people are forced to juggle between JJ and MK.

Anyway, reminds me of Cho's 'Muhammadbin Thuglak' :)

At 1:14 PM, Blogger Ganesh said...

good luck captain whatelse can we say.

At 2:08 PM, Blogger jack said...

In a democracy everybody can aspire to be a chief minister.If udhayamurthy or ms swaminathan starts a party it is not considered as an alternative choice, but if captain does, he becomes an alternative choice.

At 4:03 PM, Blogger Ram C said...

I am pessimistic about his coming up on the ladder, in this political game.. anyhow, everybody has a chance.. let us wait and see.

At 6:18 PM, Blogger tt_giant said...

hmm. lets see. i read that he would contest only in 50 thogudhis. rest gandhi kanakku..

At 8:46 PM, Blogger Arvind Srinivasan said...


You missed out one important person, when you mentioned everyone wants to associate themselves with MGR.

None other than, KK himself (courtesy:Thuglak). In the same election that MGR ended up winning while away in hospital - first KK apparently claimed "MGR ennudaya arumai thambi - neengal enakku vote podungal, avar gunam adaindhu thirumbiya udan, naan avaridame padhaviyai thandhuvidugiren" and when MGR refused and discouraged such ideas(via JJ) "attai kathi karan, komali" were some of the names used at MGR.

(disclaimer, all of it are from Thuglak - not my opinion)


Enna gabtonne kku oru vote guarantee pola ? :-O

At 9:47 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

naanum oru katchi aarambikka poren.

akila india tamizh murpokku anna MGR aadhi dravida paatali munnetra kazhagam !

i hope i have covered all the keywords.

At 11:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

General opinions yelaam vidunga. How many of you here would vote for him if he stands in the next TN assembly elections?

Yes/No answers wanted!!! I think I might vote for him to give a chance the first time.

At 12:08 AM, Blogger Balaji said...

arvind, but they were already arch enemies when mgr was in the hospital right? real surprise that KK spoke like that at that time!

sundar, soooooper name. i think u got all key words covered.

mav, i think many would have your line of thot. one, give him a chance to c what he does. two, vote for someone different from JJ and KK. so he might get many 'alternate' votes.

At 3:47 AM, Blogger Munimma said...

balaji, why are you surprised? ivanuga ellam kaaryam aanum na evan kaallayum vizhuravanga thaaney!

At 5:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Munimma said...

"balaji, why are you surprised? ivanuga ellam kaaryam aanum na evan kaallayum vizhuravanga thaaney!"

These guys could also end up on the floor due to a heart attack or stroke. Anyone seen the latest pictures of Vijayakanth's Sudesi? I don't know what Sudesi means but the pictures of "Captain" are not very flattering. This guy's been gaining weight steadily for the past 15 years. I still remember him from that movie with Radha when he was all trim and robust.


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