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8 July, 2018 10:23:16 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 8 July, 2018 03:09:25 PM


The good boys and the bad

Rajinikanth is more a man of the masses while Kamal Haasan’s story lines are off-beat and often away from convention
Kumkum Chadha
The good boys and the bad

Cinema stars Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan are making news for their political sojourns. The actors took the plunge after a successful and charismatic career in films.

Both are kind of demi gods in the south and their fans swoon over them. Their films make big bucks and drawing awe-inspiring crowds. Rajnikanth is more an action hero, his films having generous doses of drama and fast beat dance numbers. He is more a man of the masses while Kamal Haasan’s story lines are off-beat and often far removed from convention.
Both are super stars. Rajnikanth’s success in commercial cinema elevated him to the status equal to M.G.Ramachandran or MGR, a larger than life figure in Tamil Nadu. An actor, film maker turned politician MGR served as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and was an icon in the south. Popular as Makkal Thilagam, or People’s King. Like Rajnikanth, he was popular with the masses. Rajnikanth is Thalaiva, or leader and boss to his fans.
Both he and Kamal Haasan are contemporaries. They have acted together in many films and have struck a chord. Apart from being friends both are towering figures of Tamil cinema without a parallel. It is therefore somewhat strange that the two are not in unison in their political journey declaring that they will go separate ways. Rajnikanth has made it quite clear that their styles are different in movies and also in life and political careers. For instance Rajnikanth made direct calls to his fans on the ground and called them soldiers who would create a political revolution in Tamil Nadu. Kamal Haasan, on the other hand, took to twitter substantiating that he, unlike Rajnikanth, is a man for the classes and the elite.

Even though they are five years apart, Rajnikanth elder, their careers have run parallel. The two together and even on their own have given a string of hits. The actors have over 100 films to their credit individually and as solo actors each has the ability to carry a film on his shoulders successfully. Equally both announced their plans to join politics almost around the same time.

Rajinikanth gave the first indication of his intentions when he told his fans on May 2017 to prepare 'for war'. By the end of the year, he launched his own political party. The politics in the country, he said, has gone very wrong. “We are going to change the system, be transparent, spiritual-politics” he said as he appealed for cooperation and support from his fans.

In February 2018, Kamal Haasan declared that there will be “no more films” for him as he took the plunge into politics. “That part is done”, he announced as he unveiled his plans, worries and reason to quit films and embark on a political career. His concern he said is about Hindu extremism being a threat and he felt he needed to do more than just complaining about it. It is in this context that he hoped that Rajnikanth does not take to saffron: “I hope his hue is not saffron’, he said. He also claimed that young people have come out to support him in the welfare movement and are willing to work as volunteers.

Even while there was enough space in the film world to accommodate both of these super stars, the political arena is going to be somewhat a challenge given that they are vying for the same space. The bigger challenge is whether they will be able to convert the fan following into votes and succeed in garnering political support. As of now the going seems to be smooth and both have their tasks and work cut out but then politics is not rehearsing lines scripted by someone else but real talk that needs to touch a chord and converted into work on the ground. It is not about costumes and make up but customizing oneself to suit the needs of the common man. Ironically both are eyeing the vote bank of late J.Jayalalitha and the AIADMK on the assumption that the fragmented party would not be able to withstand another election. There is ofcourse the DMK too which is a past master in electoral politics and far ahead of the two super stars who may be ill equipped to match the DMK’s prowess.

Even while South is welcoming their demigods turned politicians with open arms, in the north another star is grabbing headlines. Sanjay Dutt who had served a jail sentence for possessing arms in violation of the law had his biopic, Sanju, released recently and has generated controversy. There is clearly a divide like there is between Rajinikan th and Kamal Haasan of the masses and classes: the former going along with the glorification of the criminal bit and the latter questioning the very premise that the film is based on.

 In a nutshell, the attempt is to paint Sanjay Dutt, played by Ranbir Kapoor as a good kid gone wrong; an innocent guy who was a victim of circumstances because of emotional challenges that he faced in life be it the death of his mother or the fact that his father was a larger than life figure who the world in one sense revered. What the film intentionally skipped was that the younger Dutt was neither innocent nor one who had any respect for the law. He was in the company of those involved in the Mumbai bomb blasts and had not only kept weapons but destroyed them when the heat was on him. The film while touching on these facts give a subjective view of how Sanjay Dutt, who was tried under the Terrorist Act or TADA had only committed a “minor offence” of keeping AK-47s for his protection because he feared that in the mayhem his family would be targeted. That there was much more than this is completely ignored by the scriptwriters and filmmakers because they decided to use the platform of cinema and storytelling to wash off the taint that will hound the Dutts for the rest of their lives. The film also pushes another glaring fact under the carpet that being that Sanjay Dutt’s father, Sunil Dutt was a man of influence and an MP and minister and did what it took to have the major offence reduced to a minor one: that is from being declared guilty under TADA, Sanjay was let off lightly by serving a sentence under the Arms Act.   

The film commits another blasphemy: it defiles the institution of the press and blames and mocks the media for being sensational and making Dutt the good boy into a bad one. It insults the intelligence of journalists and newspapers painting them as demons out to destroy reputations and lives. This only reaffirms that the world of cinema is far removed from reality and lacks understanding of the way things work and those in the business of news fiercely guard the sanctity of the printed word, as it were. So dancing around a collage of broadsheets, the protagonists do as the subjective and unconvincing and absolutely false side of Sanjay Dutt winds up, is nothing short of being absurd and its attempts to show up the bad boy as a good one has gaping holes.

The writer is a senior Indian journalist, political commentator and columnist of The Independent. She can be reached at: (


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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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