Superstar Rajinikanth is probably scouting desperately for a scriptwriter – to ‘essay’ his way into politics. Having spent decades in cinema as a top actor, he seems unable to sign the call sheet for a role in politics – without the help of a script, screenplay or for that matter, direction.
Over the weekend, Rajini, who had earlier stated he was not getting into politics for health reasons, appeared to have changed his mind. He fixed an appointment, a muhurat of sorts, with his fan association and followers where the clapboard was to be sounded about a ‘Kaala-type’ entry into politics.
Instead, it turned out to be a ‘bit’ role like in his debut 1975 Tamil film, K. Balachandar’s ‘Apoorva Ragangal’ (Rare melodies). After all the song and dance he said, rather profoundly, that his fans would stand by him. And, the signature ending, “Wait for my announcement.” The screen came down once again on what should be rated as the biggest anti-climax – that can beat hollow the finale of any of his box-office hits. Or, if one wants to be uncharitable, the meeting was akin to a flop like his much-hyped flick ‘Baba.’
As the writer Oscar Wilde said, ‘life imitates art’ and it cannot be apt for anyone more than Rajini and his ‘friendly’ rival, Kamal Hassan. Similar to his role in the film ‘Apoorva Ragangal,’ Rajini has chosen to play second fiddle to the ‘hero’ Kamal, who, in real life, is up and running with his political party Makkal Needi Maiam (People’s Centre for Justice).
Try hard as he might, the ‘reel’ star is unable to cross the Rubicon in real life and to ultimate stardom – in politics.
The gigabytes of ‘Rajini jokes’ that clog the Internet’s superways cannot match the ageing and ailing actor’s dilemma. A typical jibe would be that ‘the Tamil Nadu chief minister’s post is waiting to go to Rajini,’ not the other way round.
Rajini’s real life serial could be titled ‘Will he, or Won’t he?’ It is a story similar to legendary Kannada film star Dr. Rajkumar. In the 1980s, after he successfully motored the Gokak movement for primacy for the Kannada language, there was speculation for the next few years that he would enter politics. Much was written, discussed and speculated on when he would take the ‘plunge.’
After Rajkumar found himself neck-deep in speculative politics, he decided to come clean and confessed he was actually not interested. The climax was immediate and abrupt. Curtains came down on these stories. His bewildered fans were left with broken hopes and empty fantasies – what if he had joined politics, how would it have impacted Karnataka politics, why was he not interested etc, etc.
In the Tamil movie-goer’s psyche, there’s not much of a difference between an actor (armed with the accoutrements of the craft and mouthing borrowed lines) and the individual underneath. To be fair, such a perception has been validated by stars like M.G. Ramachandran and Jayalalithaa – who managed to do well both under the lights in an artificial setting and in real life under the hot blazing sun on the rough steaming roads in front of massive crowds.
Still, what cannot be overlooked is the fact that someone like MGR did a double role throughout his life – in politics and in acting. So did Jayalalithaa. Rajini may have ‘acted’ as a do-gooder, brushing aside bullets fired from guns of street corner villains (a la ‘Kabali’ or ‘Kaala’) and always thinking of the welfare of his family, friends, and society. But all this well within the confines of celluloid.
Sadly, in the adrenaline rush of a three-hour engagement with him in a dark, unreal world of the cinema hall, his fans and admirers miss the point that Rajini, the individual, is very different. He is as mortal and vulnerable as any of them, is capable of foibles and has a family that can be terribly worried about his health as a 69-year-old, especially in these COVID times.
Rajini’s fans surely remember his famous movie line – “that if he says something once, it is like stating it a 100 times.” Ironically, in real life, the fans understand exactly the opposite – “even if he says politics is not for him a 100 times in 100 different ways, it is not equivalent to having said it even once.”
And, the pressure to perform is enormous. Rajini comes across as a professional who under the arc lights will go out of his way to become something he is not. From dark-skinned to being ‘fair and lovely’ white, from the ageing, balding individual to a dashing youngster romancing with a woman, younger than his grand-daughter perhaps, and the superhuman fighter who can crack the skull of any top-of-the-line commando – all in the space of a few minutes.
Mind you, the metamorphosis is not simple. As any cinema technician will tell you, the effort required is energy-sapping and not everyone can do it. For the fan, the transformation is natural. That is why Rajini is a superstar. A sleight of hand transposition is all it takes to do great stuff, and the belief that Rajini will do it in politics.
With a wave of his hand, he can eliminate poverty; the streets of Tamil Nadu will gleam in smooth, shiny tar and students can go through their books like Rajini does in ‘Enthiran’ (Robot). All it requires is a flick of the fingers and the ‘entire’ knowledge is imprinted in his mind within seconds.
But Rajini, the man behind the mask, is under no such illusion. He knows very well that politics is one effort that requires energy several times more than in a studio setting. There won’t be tea breaks, siestas and a relaxed chat with the crew.
Moreover, it is alright to go with someone else’s script in a film but when that is expected in real life, Rajini does have something to think about. In this case, the BJP which expects Rajini to act according to its script. For someone who is used to being treated as a demigod inside and outside the film set, Rajini is probably calculating whether it is worth the trouble to be a puppet in real life. And, the indecision deepens.