Mumbai: Tamil film superstar Rajinikanth today said fame and clout earned in the world of cinema were not enough to help one make a mark in politics, and stressed there was something beyond these attributes that ensured success in public affairs.
Rajinikanth said his contemporary Kamal Haasan possibly knew what that something was, but might not want to share the secret with him.
The two stars were among a host of dignitaries at the inauguration of a memorial constructed by the Tamil Nadu government for the iconic actor Sivaji Ganesan.
To press his case, Rajinikanth cited the instance of the late thespian, saying that he could not succeed in politics despite being immensely popular.
"Sivaji (Ganesan) has left a lesson not just in cinema but also in politics. He started his own political party, fought and lost (elections) from his own constituency. This was not an insult to him, but the people of that constituency," he said at the function, attended by Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam and Haasan, among others.
"So, the message is, to succeed in politics, it's not enough to just have fame and clout (earned in cinema). There is something beyond that... I don't know what it is," he said, adding that Kamal Haasan possibly knew what this was.
"But even if he knows it, he won't share it with me," he said, as the gathering laughed.
Tamil Nadu has had a rich history of cinema marrying politics. Ganesan's contemporary, M G Ramachandran, not only floated the AIADMK after walking out of the M Karunanidhi-led DMK, but also went on to become the state chief minister.
Of late, both Haasan and Rajinikanth have been indicating that they may join politics, with Haasan taking repeated potshots at the ruling AIADMK over issues such as corruption and the spread of dengue.
AAP supremo and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had met Haasan here recently but while their meeting triggered speculation about a political alignment, the two did not make any announcements.
At the event today, Rajinikanth said Haasan might have shared with him the secret to success in politics "if I had asked for it two months ago".
"He might have shared it. When I say you (Haasan) are senior to me in cinema, and are like an elder brother and ask him to share that with me, he says come with me I will tell," he said.
Haasan had recently reportedly said he had held talks with Rajinikanth amid rumours that the two would join hands politically.
Heaping praise on Ganesan, Rajinikanth said the memorial, and an earlier statue put up in his honour by Karunanidhi when he was chief minister, were not installed only because he was an actor.
Such honours were in recognition of the fact that Ganesan brought to life freedom fighters and kings with his onscreen performance and took them to the masses, he said.
Rajinikanth recalled that Ganesan had vibuthi (sacred ash) on his forehead "at a time when atheism was at its peak".
"He touched great heights only due to his performances," he said.
The actor of mega hits such as Kabaali thanked late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa for the memorial and Karunanidhi for the earlier installation.
Rajinikanth also said Panneerselvam was "fortunate" to have been able to inaugurate the memorial.
"Panneerselvam is very fortunate, it has been proved many times," he said in an obvious reference to the leader being made chief minister thrice-- twice when Jayalalithaa was convicted in different court cases, and later after her death in December 2016.
Haasan, who is at loggerheads with the ruling AIADMK, said Ganesan was an actor who had "transcended" all kinds of boundaries -- political, regional and national.
"If I had not been in cinema, I would have been a fan and even if I was not allowed entry here, I would have been waiting (outside). None could have stopped me," he said.
Any government has to respect "this great artiste and they will respect him... No need to compel or plead with anyone...It will happen by itself," he said in an apparent reference to the controversy surrounding today's function.
Earlier, many sections including Ganesan's actor son Prabhu, opposition DMK and fans of the late star had demanded that top leaders of the government including Chief Minister K Palaniswami inaugurate the building though originally Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar and his cabinet colleague Kadambur Raju (Information Minister) were supposed to have led the event.
Palaniswami had later clarified that he could not attend the function because of prior commitments, even as he expressed his respect and admiration for Ganesan.
He, however, deputed Panneerselvam to inaugurate the building, constructed at an estimated Rs 2.80 crore. Haasan thanked the "film world, government and politics for allowing" him to felicitate Ganesan today.