For Khushbu, the glamour girl of the early 1990s, the entry into politics was a baptism of fire. The remarks of the outspoken actress on pre-marital sex evoked strong reaction from political parties, and she was forced to face 22 cases in various courts.

She joined the DMK in May 2010, after the Supreme Court cleared all the cases and slowly emerged a prominent face of the party, often prompting speculation on her getting ticket for Assembly or Lok Sabha elections. She was chosen to play the role of Maniammai, wife of Dravidar Kazhagam founder Periyar E.V. Ramasamy, in the eponymous film. But her political career, like that of many other film personalities, has been cut short.

Explaining why Ms. Khushbu could not continue in the DMK, Subagunarajan, editor of Kaatchipizhai, a film magazine, said the case of the actress exemplified irritants caused by lateral entrants into a political party.

“The party cannot provide the space for her pre-eminence as a film personality beyond a point. It has happened to T. Rajendar, R. Sarathkumar and K. Bhagyaraj, though the DMK sought to utilise Mr. Sarathkumar’s popularity as an actor and his caste background,” Mr. Subagunarajan argued.

The actors, he said, had always tried to bite more than what they could chew, and Mr. Sarathkumar’s failure to make a breakthrough after launching his own party had proved his limitations. “Only actors like Vagai Chandrasekar and Kumari Muthu, who never seek any extra favour on account of their background and are content with the role offered by the party, alone can survive,” Mr. Subagunarajan said.

According to Rajan Kurai Krishnan, who teaches film studies at Dr. Ambedkar University in Delhi, the confusion in evaluating the role of a film personality in Tamil Nadu politics arose when a comparison was made with the late Chief Minister M.G. Ramachandran.

“MGR was part of the historical process necessitated by the legitimate aspirations of the subaltern in Tamil Nadu politics. His case cannot be replicated by everyone,” said Mr. Rajan, who is also the author of Kathanayakanin Maranam (The death of a hero), a book on actor Rajinikant.

He said electoral politics across the world always required known faces to draw the attention of voters, and Khushbu was to DMK what Hemamalini was to the BJP and Jayaprada to the SP.

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