Film and electioneering have generally been entwined in case of Tamil Nadu. Yet, this time around such a marriage of convenience is not working as much as in the past. Strange though this may sound, Vijay Grover finds that the Kollywood class is somehow turning cold to politics alongside other factors
The State level politics in Tamil Nadu and the Tamil film industry share a close bond. It has been an association which has seen many larger-than-life silver screen stars hop onto the political bandwagon. It was the popularity of MG Ramachandran, which helped Karunanidhi craft scripts to project him as a messiah and launch in politics. Since then many Tamil stars, including present Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, have used their filmy charisma to carve out political careers. Many others like Vijayakanth, Sarath Kumar, Khushbu and Manorama have used their on-reel popularity to get leverage in politics. But not everybody jumped out of the screen into political fray; many limited themselves using their mass appeal to campaign for others.
The presence of Kollywood stars has always added the glam and dazzle factors to electioneering in Tamil Nadu with the stars being roped in, either as candidate or campaigner to sway fortunes of political parties. The dramatic vote appeal of superstar Rajnikanth in 1996 gave DMK-TMC (Tamil Maanila Congress) of GK Moopanar a blockbuster win. Similarly several stars like Vikram, Vadivel and others have made their presence felt in Tamil Nadu’s political arena at regular intervals. But time and tide has changed. The new age stars seem not too keen to join politics either as contender or campaigner. Most have been maintaining distance from the political parties to avoid controversies.
Tamil Nadu Election 2016 is unlike the past years. The Election Commission of India (ECI) has come down heavily on exorbitantly spendthrift campaigns. So the electioneering this time has been more real than reel. No candidate can spend more than Rs 28 lakhs, the ECI has notified. This of course has deprived the voters of colourful, musical campaign meetings.
Chennai has over 50 orchestras that would travel across the State to entertain and woo voters ahead of the polls. The tightened norms have hit the musical bands hard. Gulaab Band, one of the oldest and earlier a favourite for campaign rallies in Chennai among all parties has not received a single request from political parties to lead the campaign rallies this time around. Munna Khan, the owner of the Gulaab Band told Policy Pulse, “Business during elections has plummeted. Parties are not willing to spend as they have to detail every expense. We have not received any order this time.”
Even the small-time musical bands whom political parties usually hired to play for a couple of hours to attract crowds to public meetings are missing on the campaign trail. Jabaraj Jaba of JJ Events says, “We have artists who compose special songs for parties; it will be sad if they don’t get a chance to perform this season.” These orchestras are known to adapt to the requirements of the party that hire them very quickly and have compositions ready to suit the candidate and the party manifesto.
DMK is missing the services of its long-time, legendary singer EM Nagoor Haneefa. A singer, politician and leading propagandist Haneefa has been associated with DMK for past about half-a-century or so until the death of the maestro last year. Nagoor Haneefa was a permanent part of every Karunanidhi rallies and most of the songs that Haneefa sang in his golden voice were penned by the DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi. Thus, the death of Haneefa has dealt a big blow to the party.
In the season of not-so-glam electioneering, actor and DMDK (Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam) chief Vijayakanth is attracting crowds in his public meetings as it’s an opportunity for many villagers to see Vijaykanth the film star and not Vijayaraj the man who had once promised to be an alternative to DMK and AIADMK. The Congress party is also relying on the star power of its National Spokesperson Khushbu Sundar. She ensures that her updates on Twitter about her day to day itinerary brings in the crowds as her fans throng the meetings braving the unforgiving summer heat to catch a glimpse of their heroine.
In this scenario, the Election Commission, realising the power that the film industry wields over the Tamil people, has roped in larger-than-life star Surya. Actor Surya will use his charm to promote clean election and appeal to people not to accept freebies and cash in exchange for their precious votes. The commission hopes that the non-political image of Surya will work on the masses and also help it achieve higher voter turn out and improved percentage of polling.