Can Kamal-Rajini repeat their on-screen magic in a political theatre?

Rajinikanth, who is considered close to the BJP, is more into spiritual politics, while Kamal Haasan is inclined towards rationalists and has Leftist political views | Photo: PTI
During the 1970s, the Kamal Haasan-Rajinikanth combination was seen as a successful one in Tamil films. But at the beginning of the 1980s, they stopped acting together and agreed not to release their movies at the same time. Now, after many years, they have hinted at joining hands, not in films but politics.

The question is: Will they succeed, considering that they are perceived to be vastly different, in films and otherwise.
In Tamil Nadu, celebrities joining politics and ruling the state has been a way of life for nearly 60 years. Four chief ministers — MGR, Janaki, Karunanidhi, and J Jayalalithaa — were from Kollywood. 

Rajini-Kamal

The alliance goes back 40 years. Apoorva Raagangal (Rare Melodies) 44 years ago was a big success. While Rajinikanth was credited for his style, speed, and punch dialogues, Kamal’s forte was acting, screenplay, singing, direction, and producing movies.

Kamal, in an interview, said: “We have acted before. But how many people can afford us? If we are paid our remunerations, where’s the money to make the film a viable project?” The last movie in which they acted together was in 1981. 

Although they have been professional rivals, they respected each other. 

“In the interests of the people, should circumstances prove conducive, Kamal and I will definitely unite (politically),” Rajinkanth said. He was responding to Kamal’s statement that he and Rajinikanth could work together for the betterment of the state. “We have been friends for about 44 years. We will come together for the betterment of Tamil Nadu if the need arises,” Haasan had said. 

Rajinikanth, who has been wading through many political views, announced his intention to enter politics on December 31, 2017, by announcing the Rajini Makkal Mandram, which will be turned into a political party, stating that his party will strive for “spiritual politics” and contest in the next legislative Assembly election. He will announce the name and all other details close to the elections in 2021. Haasan has stayed one jump ahead of Rajini. He floated his Makkal Needhi Maiam in February last year and contested the Lok Sabha elections and by-polls for the Assembly in May 2019. 

Will the combination work? 

The real question is whether Rajini could be the next MGR and Kamal Haasan, a Brahmin atheist who is a follower of Periar, could be the next Karunanidhi. And how serious is Rajini in his political venture, considering the fact that he has been making political comments around the time of his movie release? His next movie, Darbar, is expected to hit the theatres in January. 

Kamal is inclined towards rationalists and has Leftist political views, while Rajini, who is considered close to the BJP, is more into spiritual politics. He described Narendra Modi and Amit Shah as Krishna-Arjuna. “PM Modi and Amit Shah are master strategists... One gives the plan, another executes,” he said, while lauding the Centre’s decision to scrap Article 370, which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir. 

“Kamal and Rajini are on opposite sides on so many issues. For instance, during the closure of the Sterlite Copper smelter plant in Thoothukudi, Rajinikanth said too much agitation would not be good for the country, whereas Kamal went ahead and supported the agitation,” notes political analyst Sumanth Raman.

First of all, he says, it is not that these actors will come together. Just because there is a statement here or there, it is difficult to come to a conclusion. Both of them at this point need to draw attention to their political plan. There is almost one and a half years to the next Assembly election and that is enough time for many political changes to happen.  

A factor behind a possible alliance is that the AIADMK has stabilised. The earlier anticipation was that the AIADMK would disintegrate and various new players could snap up its constituencies. But now Chief Minister K Palaniswami has established as a reasonably capable leader. The votes Haasan’s party got in the last election were protest votes against the ruling party.

Last week Rajini hit out at Palaniswami, sarcastically describing him as a “wonder and marvel”. The chief minister hit back at him. He said “actors who enter politics will face the plight of actor Shivaji Ganesan (who failed in his political career)”. 

R Manivannan, professor and head, department of politics and public administration, University of Madras, said while Kamal had formed the party and is proposing to contest election, he addressed certain strata in society, and did not have the mass appeal. Rajini is no MGR. Nor is Kamal Haasan a Karunanidhi. There are players old and new. Stalin is now leading the DMK. There is TTV Dinakaran (nephew of Jayalalithaa’s aide Sasikala, who is in jail) laying claim to the MGR-Jayalalithaa legacy, and won a stunning victory as an independent candidate in the recent RK Nagar by-poll. These leaders are steeped in Dravidian politics, speak the language of the masses, and can mobilise party cadres. 

Manivannan says: “It is not that people are craving for a film star to be a politician and their leader. Politicians are forcing themselves through these cinema stars. Rajini and Kamal cannot survive mass politics. They are trained to be in power, not to be in opposition. They think that when a transition happens, I will be chief minister. They don’t think that you have to work through the transition, right at the ground. Unless you work with the people for some time and articulate political issues, you cannot claim the political space”.



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