Tamil Nadu

Rajini entry: Replicating MGR’s legacy not possible without political work

In a State where cinema and politics are intricately woven, actor Rajinikanth’s politcial entry inevitably gets compared to the success of AIADMK founder and former Chief Minister M.G. Ramachandran, and his successor Jayalalithaa. But comparisons have proved odious, in the past, when actors who launched political parties met with limited success.

Opinions differ if Mr. Rajinikanth can catapult himself into the big league.

“Not at all. He is a person with no background in political work and has not engaged with the people. At best, he is running a fan club. I do not undermine him by saying he is an actor. He has been inconsistent, but sees configurations of the BJP’s stratagem in Tamil Nadu and is willing to roll with them,” said Ramu Manivannan, professor, Department of Politics and Public Administration, University of Madras. Though there is no dispute about Mr. Rajinikanth’s appeal as a film hero, his lack of grounding in politics is a fact to reckon with. While actor Vijayakant achieved reasonable success in politics, thespian Sivaji Ganesan, representing the Congress and the Janata Dal, T. Raajendhar and Bhagyaraj have failed miserably.

“What is significant about the phenomenon of MGR is that he was not merely a political personality, but was a film star and a politician at once,” wrote M.S.S. Pandian in the preface to his book, The Image Trap: M.G. Ramachandran in Film and Politics. MGR and DMK benefited from each other.

“Given the DMK’s overt allegiance to cinema as a vehicle for political communication, it skilfully transferred MGR’s cinematic image to the domain of politics and invested it with certain life-like authenticity,” wrote Pandian.

When he was expelled, MGR walked away with his politically-oriented fans, a chunk of DMK cadre and leaders.

Though Mr. Rajinikanth has strong fan clubs, he will not be able to convert them into a political organisation like MGR, because the latter had done political work before launching his party, said Mr. Manivannan.

“MGR has been part of the Dravidian movement and the struggles launched by it. What political work has Rajinikanth done to claim the legacy of MGR? At best, he is a pawn in the BJP’s moves in Tamil Nadu. The BJP does not want him to come to power, but wants a deterrent to someone coming to power. He is a negative instrument,” he argued.

DMK deputy general secretary A. Raja pointed out that even MGR’s was an incidental growth as a politician, as he travelled with the DMK and propagated the ideology. “He could not have emerged externally by depending only on his film personality. He launched and sustained the AIADMK, and Jayalalithaa came and took over the leadership. It was like a CEO assuming charge in a well-established company. On her own, she would not have achieved much in politics,” he said.

TNCC president K.S. Alagiri said after MGR, it was Mr. Rajinikanth who was accorded a great status by Tamils in the film world. “The attempt to project him as a non-Tamil failed to cut ice with the Tamil people. But he has betrayed Tamils by allowing the BJP to handle him,” he said.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2021 4:33:43 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/replicating-mgrs-legacy-not-possible-without-political-work/article33244604.ece

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