In a State where tinsel world and politics are inexorably linked to each other, Kamal Haasan is a new star on its political horizon. A consummate and method actor with a penchant for experimentation with content and form, Kamal is expected to bring a fresh approach to Tamil Nadu politics that has descended into vitriol and acrimony over the years. The political vacuum created by the death of Jayalalithaa who strode the State politics like a colossus, eroding public image of the faction-ridden AIADMK and the generational change in the DMK have prompted the two popular stars — Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth — with contrasting styles to take the political plunge. Comparisons are bound to be made between the two veterans, who have been personal friends and onscreen rivals for nearly four decades and represent contrasting backgrounds and ideological leanings. Rajini, the demi-God of Tamil cinema, spoke about heralding ‘spiritual politics’ while Kamal has already declared that his political colour is ‘definitely not saffron’ and even courted a controversy by his outburst against ‘Hindu terror’. A self-professed atheist, the 63-year-old who acted in over 200 movies in a career spanning five decades, has positioned himself as a staunch follower of Dravidian ideology. A blend of Tamil identity, social justice and Left-leaning agenda could define his brand of politics. On the other hand, Rajini is deeply religious, which makes him the natural choice of the BJP seeking to find a foothold in the State. Given their divergent worldviews, the two superstars are unlikely to join hands in politics.
Kamal began his political journey with a well-calculated symbolic gesture by visiting the memorial and residence of former President Abdul Kalam at Rameswaram and meeting representatives of the fishermen community before unveiling his party flag and agenda at a public meeting in Madurai. He had earlier called on Rajinikanth and DMK patriarch Karunanidhi to seek their blessings. This is a welcome trend of infusing cordiality and civility into the political eco-system. After months of speculation, the actor finally announced his political foray on November 7 last year, his birthday, with a mobile app. The app is meant to keep him in touch with his fan base and ensure that a transparent account can be maintained for all funding for his political party. Corruption and inclusive politics have been the main themes in his public appearances. The actor has been openly critical of the functioning of the AIADMK government while maintaining a strategic silence on the DMK. His meeting with Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and his appreciation of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal gave indications of the direction his political journey might take. The celebrated Rajini-Kamal onscreen rivalry may well be replicated on the political stage soon.