Tamil Nadu has been going through interesting times for a while now. That, mercifully, is an improvement on the tumultuous times the state went through after Jaya’s hospitalisation and her subsequent death in the last quarter of 2016 and the turmoil of the jallikattu agitation which came later and the top court ruling on graft that changed the direction of politics in Tamil Nadu forever and a day.
Having gone through the wringer nationally in all those months, the state is at least breathing somewhat more easily now except, of course, for more storms whipped up by another Raja.
How sadly mistaken anyone would have been if he had so much as believed 2017 was going to be a unique year for keeping the state in the focus of national news. To expect the unexpected has been the norm for well over a year and a half now and this continues, however in a more pleasant way as the stars of cinema made their dramatic entry into the arena of politics, if not quite like the brave Jallikattu bulls rushing through the vaadivasal, at least in a fashion made for television. But then would you not expect that of the stars of the silver screen.
Obnoxious as comparisons can be, the will to do away with it weakens because everything in life is 50:50 as a wise Editor once taught me. So to compare the entries of Kamal and Rajinikanth was temptation enough not to resist. A sense of déja Vu tells me that this is the MGR and Sivaji Ganesan all over again. While Kamal is the great thespian coming into politics as is the fashion with all major cinema stars of the state, Rajini might well be the new MGR, what with his mass appeal and his penchant for touching the heart as he did with his opening words in politics in a speech that held all the nuances of drama.
Since Rajini was invited to unveil a statue of MGR, he could not but have used the occasion to claim the old leader’s legacy. Jaya did it in more trying circumstances after being toppled off the cortege of her mentor and she had to fight in the manner of a tiger to establish herself. A political entry into the same sphere in the MGR trail or footsteps came with far greater ease for the Superstar. It may be upto the AIADMK cadres to assess how valid this claim is. There are huge parallels to be drawd from cinema as in the rise of the common man that both MGR and Rajini did over and over again.
The day and age was not such that MGR had to do the role of Mafia boss. The age of glamour of the Godfather had not yet come upon us until Kamal did Nayakan under the direction of Mani Ratnam with such panache as to be the Indian version of Marlon Brando. Rajini gave all such roles an earthy twist in the likes of Basha, Kabali etc. What may stick in the public mind so far as politics goes is the triumph of the common man as Rajini portrayed in Arunachalam. That was what Rajini replicated in his speech beside the statue of MGR that evening when he announced to the world that he is now a Neta. He made a direct appeal to the hearts of people.
Kamal had sounded very practical in introducing himself as a Neta who has come to lean the system, much like Barack Obama. He had a simple and elegant appeal to the masses that they could make a difference to this effort to change a system that has gone on for too long without being challenged. He is encouraging the youth to take to politics or at least become political, which is in sharp contrast to what Rajini feels on the same subject. But then not for a moment did we believe that these two won't be on divergent paths so far as politics is concerned.
Their civility to each other is a saving grace for the personality-oriented hate politics of Tamil Nadu. Will it last in the world of realpolitik is a question only time can answer.
The votebanks they are addressing - Kamal aiming at the traditional DMK voter who likes to think he is a fellow Periyarist and Rajini appealing to the traditional AIADMK voter and MGR fan - was predictable given their predilections and their personal beliefs in the ‘God’ or ‘No God’ streams of philosophy.
The one thought that keeps recurring is if, somehow, they come together with the primary aim of cleansing politics of corruption they will be a force to be reckoned with and both the AIADMK and the DMK would have to fear them. That we know may be like hoping clashing ideologies could somehow find a common platform in the bewildering electoral politics of Tamil Nadu where the national parties are insignificant players.
(R. Mohan is the Resident Editor of the Chennai and Tamil Nadu editions of Deccan Chronicle)...