Finally, superstar Rajinikanth isnt acting anymore...about politics 

Finally, superstar Rajinikanth isn't acting anymore...about politics 

One may not know Rajinikanth personally, but if he were to be judged by his actions there is one sterling quality about him that seems to stand out — he is an honest man. He also seems courageous and straightforward. These epithets for a person who is running away from a battlefield may seem odious, but he is sensible enough to realise that discretion is a better part of valour. He...

One may not know Rajinikanth personally, but if he were to be judged by his actions there is one sterling quality about him that seems to stand out — he is an honest man. He also seems courageous and straightforward. These epithets for a person who is running away from a battlefield may seem odious, but he is sensible enough to realise that discretion is a better part of valour.

He is honest because he, in all likelihood, realised that he is not cut out for the task he is being pitched into. He is courageous because instead of getting carried away by a false sense of perception built around him, he could come clean and state his position bluntly. It requires a lot of conviction to speak truth and listen to one’s ‘inner voice’ when there is so much cacophony surrounding them, especially a superstar.

Rajinikanth is undoubtedly a superstar. He is blessed with millions of followers. Even though the magic of his cinema is on the wane, he continues to mesmerise his fans. People still look forward to his movies. His fans love him for his impossible stunts and ‘punch dialogues’. But it would be foolish to think that he could seamlessly carry these traits straight into the world of real politics.

Reel and real

Politics in Tamil Nadu intertwined with cinema has always been colourful, complex and unique, but as unpredictable as anywhere else. Rajinikanth’s legion of followers continue to egg him on to join politics. Used to seeing their hero fighting the bad and the ugly on the silver screen, they expected him to fight in flesh and blood the real life day-to-day battles on their behalf.

Rajinikanth (centre) with Kamal Haasan (left) and M Karunanidhi. The actor has always been friendly with all major political outfits and personalities. Photo: PTI file

So, it’s easy to get carried away. But instead Rajini has decided to stay clear.

It would be a folly to assume that actors from the celluloid world who preceded him had a cakewalk in politics. MG Ramachandran, popularly called MGR, broke away from the DMK to form the AIADMK after a fall out with M Karunanidhi. They both were followers of CN Annadurai, founder of the Dravidian Party. Anna scripted and acted in several plays and was a journalist and a writer. While Karunanidhi took to script writing and penned several powerful movies, MGR excelled in acting. Meanwhile, both were politically active and regulars in various movements.

J Jayalalithaa was seen as the heir apparent of MGR, but she could wrest control of AIADMK only after a bitter fall out with Janaki, MGR’s widow. DMDK chief, A Vijayakanth, had a relatively easy, lateral entry into politics. But after a brief sparkle he is now a shadow of his own self.

Kamal Haasan, a contemporary of Rajinikanth, has expressed himself on many recent politically contentious issues. He is able to articulate his political beliefs in a convincing manner. In 2018, he launched his party, the Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM), which made its electoral debut a year later in the Lok Sabha elections. His party could not win a single seat but gathered 3.7 per cent vote share in the state and his candidates got a 10 per cent vote share in urban constituencies such as Madurai and Chennai.

As opposed to Kamal Haasan, Rajinikanth has refrained from speaking out on any contentious issue so far. He has not commented on his political rivals. He also maintained a cordial relationship with the late Karunanidhi. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his Chennai visit called on Rajinikanth at his residence, it was described as a visit by a “friend”. In short, he has always been friendly with all major political outfits and personalities.

Unlike Rajinikanth, both MGR and Karunanidhi, apart from their film career, were politically active. His contemporary Kamal Haasan too has expressed himself on many recent politically contentious issues. Photo: File

But then why politics?

There is an interesting, if not trifling, story behind Rajinikanth’s ‘association’ with politics. Former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa was a neighbour of the superstar and the two had a bit of a strained relationship. The fallout happened over a petty issue. It was Jaya’s first term as the chief minister (1991-96) and she was at her imperious best. Citing security reasons, the police had cordoned off all the neighbouring streets of Poes Garden, where the two lived. So when all vehicles were stopped at a distance, Rajinikanth, like all other neighbours of Jayalalithaa, was made to get out of his car and walk home.

It is said he was so peeved that his anger came out in the form of an outburst at a public function in 1996 — that became his first and major political statement. He went on to say that if Jayalalithaa were to return to power, even “God can’t save Tamil Nadu”. He was referring to the alleged poor governance and law and order situation in the state. She subsequently lost the elections to the DMK and legendary tales attributed the defeat to Rajini’s statement.

Ever since Rajinikanth has been on and off making statements suggesting his entry into politics. The deaths of Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa and the subsequent vacuum in state politics gave a fillip to his possible political entry. The BJP, which has been struggling to find a foothold in the state, has been egging him on to take the plunge. They needed a face and Rajinikanth fitted the bill.

The plunge that never was

In December 2017, even though Rajini formally announced that he would float his party, there were no signs of an actual plunge. Meanwhile, the whispers about a possible debut continued to rise and ebb away, especially during every election season.

In 1996, Rajinikanth had said ‘even God can’t save Tamil Nadu if Jayalalithaa returns to power’. 20 years later, at her condolence meet, he regretted that he was one of the main reasons why she lost in the 1996 polls. Photo: File

In October this year, a letter, purportedly written by Rajini, was ‘leaked’ and doing rounds on social media. In that letter, the superstar allegedly cited the coronavirus, his age and frail health as reasons behind his decision to quit politics. Even though Rajinikanth disowned the letter, he said the information about his health and doctors’ advice “is true”. He said he had a kidney transplant in 2016 and doctors have advised extreme caution .

This was a clear signal that he was reluctant to enter politics. He even toyed with the idea of nominating someone as a chief ministerial candidate and playing the role of a mentor.

So, if he was reluctant, what was forcing him to make contradictory public statements?

Speculations of Rajini launching a party reached a crescendo just before Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s Chennai visit in November. It was speculated that he could ally with the BJP. Shah left Chennai without meeting Rajini. A few days later Rajini announced that he would be announcing his political outfit by the end of December and it would be launched in January. Again, it was not clear as to why he was making another announcement instead of actually launching a party.

Rajinikanth went off to Hyderabad for the shoot of Annathi and it was expected that he would wrap up the upcoming movie before the promised announcement. Although the shooting happened in a protective bubble, four members of the crew tested positive for coronavirus. The shooting was stalled and the actor ‘survived’ narrowly. The near-miss perhaps rattled the actor so much that his blood pressure shot up and he had to be admitted to Apollo Hospitals.

On December 26, Apollo Hospitals issued a press release describing the superstar’s health condition. The release was a giveaway that the actor was not joining politics. The hospital’s medical bulletin, besides recommending bed rest for a week, added a sentence — that he should protect himself from getting infected by coronavirus.

A long wait

After 48 hours, he made an announcement calling off his political entry. Being a decent man, he apologised to all his fans and supporters for disappointing them. With that Rajinikanth made his fans wait for 24 long years before saying a final ‘no’ to them.

But to be fair to him, Rajinikanth never appeared to be a person who was made out to be a politician: He honestly declared his illness — which most astute politicians prefer to hide — just like he never bothered to dye his hair or hide his bald patch. Those who meet him in person are struck by his simplicity.

To the uninitiated, Tamil Nadu electorate may seem star struck and gullible. But this is far from true. The state has seen the longest surviving social movement in the form of Dravidian politics that fought for social justice and equality. It has its own ‘forms’ of nationalism, spiritualism and secularism. Tamil Nadu has persistently fought for its unique identity, language and autonomy and yet has embraced all kinds of diversity.

In comparison, Rajini — at the fag end of his film career — tried to parachute into politics with little experience. With the demise of towering leaders both in the DMK and the AIADMK, the state and its people have been waiting for a strong leader who could stand up to the Centre, fight corruption, improve governance, safeguard social rights, ensure religious harmony and re-establish Tamil pride.

Rajini had three years to prepare for the upcoming Assembly elections. Politics being different from cinema, he needed more than a script to perform. Rajini believes in destiny and had claimed that he was jumping into politics as that was the need of the hour. Perhaps he misread the call. The superstar was expected to stand on his legs and fight without props to score a win in politics which he once described as war. Instead, he has chosen to turn his back on it.

Despite these inconsistencies, let’s give him what every actor deserves for an honest performance — a huge round of applause.

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