Should politicians script for actors
It was a memorable scene from Dasavathaaram, Kamalhasan’s tour de force of ten roles.
Telugu speaking intelligence officer Balram Naidu asks the scientist from the united states (both roles played by Kamalhasan), ‘I am a Telugu but I speak in Tamil after learning it. Your mother tongue is Tamil but you speak in English. If you ignore your mother tongue like this how will the Tamil language grow’.
And the scientist shrugs off this remark saying, ‘‘Perhaps somebody like you whose mother tongue is not Tamil will learn Tamil and enrich it…. Vidunga Saar…’’
Perhaps it was the character speaking, but you could also hear the apolitical actors voice behind the remark. Kamalhasan has kept off politics like from the plague, and sometimes paid for it too. Not that he is not interested in Tamil…how could a Tamil actor not be…he is just not interested in making language a political issue.
When Kamalhasan was making his film Virumandi – such films do have overtones of the caste glory of the Thevars – he fell foul of a Dalit party which sought to make political capital by making him the butt of its protests.
As the actor did not have the support or even the active protection of the political dispensation of the day, he found himself in a majority of one while fighting the cause of his film.
It was perhaps as the expression of such helplessness in the face of the political tamasha that goes on in Tamil Nadu in the name of this caste or that, or this party or that, that actor Ajith made his rather fervent and outspoken appeal to Chief Minister Karunanidhi against dragging actors into political issues and just let them be.
He got a thumbs up from the senior star Rajinikanth, who once jumped into the political bandwagon to support Karunanidhi and the Congress, thus upsetting Jayalalitha’s applecart. Rajinikanth has however kept the will he won’t he (jump into active politics) factor alive, just to add some pep to his own filmi career without having any intention of risking his neck in active politics.
But it was rather ironic that Ajith was making the plea to chief minister Karunanidhi. For despite himself being a film writer and producer, Karunanidhi is nothing if he is not a politician. Not only every film of his, every word and perhaps every gesture of his is rife with politics and serves nothing but his political interests. He is known to go to literary meetings and use them for his own political ends. It is one of the curses of Tamil Nadu that both politics and caste factors can pervade into every sphere of life.
The politician-actor link runs back to the roots of the DMK. Actor K. R. Ramasami was a close friend of the DMK’s mother spirit C.N.Annadurai. Anna wrote plays for Ramasami, who pumped money into the fledgling party from his earnings. Karunanidhi was of course Annadurai’s organization man and a script writer. He was also a film producer. MGR made a tactical shift from being a Congress sympathizer during the freedom struggle to the DMK in the early fifties, and you know the rest of his career as Tamil Nadu’s invincible chief minister. Actor SSR was the first hero to become a legislator in the Tamil Nadu assembly. Sivaji Ganesan who owned his launch pad ‘Parasakthi’ to Dravidian forces (the producer Perumal was a diehard DK man) and of course the script was by Karunanidhi), switched over to Kamaraj and the Congress.
Some stars and creative people in the film world have however wanted to keep clear of political affiliations. But with language and caste identities whipped up by interested parties, it is not easy. Piquant situations can arise when an actor has got a film about to be released and there is a crowd out there not to see his film but waiting to sabotage it!. There are any number of unforeseen factors that can ruin a film’s prospects and some inimical political group could be the last straw. See SRK…despite having the first family of Delhi behind him (doesn’t he?) and both state and central support, he has to soften his line against the Sena (while keeping up the heroics).
Actually, power centres, whether in politics or government are like mafias that promote artistes and actors who bow to them or wear their flags on their sleeves. Or they can be a destructive influence on those whom they choose to target for whatever reason. Both politicians and showmen are wooing the support of the public. When showman-politician interests begin to clash the showmen must prepare for the showdown, or make behind the scene compromises that will pacify the political gods.
Meanwhile, it was a show that the aged Karunanidhi thoroughly enjoyed. He was the cynosure of all eyes…and along with the stars and starlets of Tamil Nadu this time there was Amitabh Bachan too standing tall as the chief guest. The entire celluloid world at the politician’s feet, with actor after actor and actor after actor of tinseltown genuflecting to ‘the lord and liege leader of all Tamils’. It’s sort of darbari khaas (special court) that the badshah of present-day re-enacts to indulge his taste for the bygone days of monarchy. It serves as a sort of pep act that an aged leader, sentimental about a career that has reached a plateau at the peak, direly needs. A throwback perhaps to the good old Sangam days when penurious poets praised their kingly patrons for some presents. Only this time, in place of poets clad in rags you have tinsel heroes draped in the spools of celluloid!
Of course government has to do with every aspect of life, and the film business (the artistes especially like to call it an ‘industry’, especially the girls who are but pawns in this slushy game) is dependent on government machinery whether it is about curbing piracy, rates of taxation and exhibition and quite a few things to do with the conduct of any business.
The function which started at 4 in the afternoon extended till midnight on Feb. 6 at the jampacked Nehru indoor stadium. The chief minister too agreed that artistes should not be forced to take part in political agitations. ‘’Let them come on their own. We will welcome them’’, he said. You know what that means. As long as they come voluntarily there will not be any force! Ultimately, he is the script writer in real life too. Ajith has spoken his mind. But when there is the political need, others will try to write his lines.