After the tangle into which the film Nirmala got into plunging into a heavy loss efforts to set up a full-fledged studio in Alleppey was intensified. T.V. Thomas and Alleppey Vincent were at the head of a handful of people who initiated efforts to get the studio project going.
Even as this was going on both Thomas and Vincent were also deeply involved in the politics of the land. Alleppey was then the commercial hub of the erstwhile state of Travancore. Thomas was a front row leader of the Communist movement, while Vincent had his affiliations with the Congress party. Despite their political differences both of them remained fast friends. They even dressed alike in the white jubba or kurta and white dhoti.
In February 1948, election to the Travancore legislative council was declared. The Congress decided to field Vincent as their candidate from Alleppey. The party had their reasons for choosing him. Vincent belonged to the Latin Catholic community that held sway in this area and the other reason was the party thought to cash in on Vincent’s popularity as a film actor.
Months before the election the Congress kicked off their campaign. They used posters from Vincent’s films that had his face. A clever move by Thomas saw to it that the Communist party did not field a candidate against Vincent. The other person in the fray was one Mr. Iyer, who contested as an independent candidate.
Alleppey Vincent was perhaps the first film actor in the country to file his nomination papers for an election.
This was the last leg of Sir C. P. Ramaswamy Iyer’s rule as Diwan of Travancore. Those days only the tax payers were allowed to vote. The state was politically turbulent. The Congress was opposed to the Diwan’s rule, while the Communists were banned. Sir CP was also waiting for a chance to take revenge against those who were thorns in his flesh. Thomas and Vincent were among those included by Sir CP in his ‘hit list.’
Even before the filing of nomination there were rumours that the Diwan would issue directions to reject Vincent’s nomination. The Congress party devised alternate strategies. They decided to change the initials of Vincent’s name to S.P. instead of X.P. He followed his party’s direction and changed this in his nomination papers. The idea was to protect Vincent from being identified by the Diwan. However, the Diwan smelled a rat and directed his officers to reject Vincent’s nomination. And this happened. Vincent’s nomination was rejected on the ground that he had changed his initials. The independent candidate was declared winner. Thereby Vincent lost out on being the first ever actor to participate and perhaps even win an election.
(Saju Chelangad is a film columnist)