Moon Moon Sen will organise folk theater in her constituency to spread the Trinamool message while her daughters, Riya and Raima, pep up the glam quotient.
This star appeal is particularly apparent in Tamil Nadu. If a temple was built for actress Kushboo, giant wooden cutouts of Tamil superstars are anointed with milk and honey and garlanded with fresh flowers on the day their films open in theatres.
Sometimes, fan clubs organise processions, replete with bands playing the favourite numbers from the stars’ movies.
It was this craze for cinema actors that got men like CN Annadurai, MK Karunanidhi and MG Ramachandran (all former Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu) to use the medium as a platform for their political parties – Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). While Annadurai and Karunanidhi wrote film stories and scripts, cleverly weaving into them their political messages, handsome Ramachandran (popularly called MGR) acted them out.
The present Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa — who was once a popular star having paired with MGR in many, many movies — realising the enormous potential of star power, has roped in a motley group of film and television actors to campaign for the upcoming general elections in April and May.
These men and women will tour the state canvassing for Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK.
Among the 20 men and women that the Chief Minister handpicked for this assignment, most of them come from cinema. Besides actor-turned-politicians R Ramarajan (former MP), and CR Saraswathi (chairperson, Tamil Nadu Social Welfare Board), the list includes comedians Senthil, Gundu Kalyanam and Ponnambalam. Movie director Nanjil P.C. Anbalagan, lyrist Muthulingam, actors Vindhya, Kuyili, and Anandraj among others.
Also figuring in the list of star campaigners is actress Nirmala, who recently joined the AIADMK. Incidentally, both Nirmala and Jayalalithaa debuted in Vennira Aadai in 1965, their first foray into Tamil cinema. It was a popular hit, and Nirmala has since then been known as “Vennira Aadai” Nirmala. Like Sowcar Janaki, whose film, Sowcar, gave her the tag.
West Bengal has also caught on to this cinematic route, though going a step further than Tamil Nadu by asking actors to actually contest the polls.
Sen will organise folk theater in her constituency to spread the Trinamool message. Her daughters, Riya and Raima (both actresses working in Hindi and Bengali cinema), will pep up the glam quotient by electioneering for the party.
The reigning heartthrob of Bengal, actor Dev, will also fight the elections from his home town of Ghatal.
Among the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) candidates, internationally renowned magician PC Sorcar and actor George Baker will represent the Barasat and Howrah constituencies.
In Odisha too, it is going to be show time during the coming elections. From superstars to television celebrities and from comedians to playback singers, members of Odiya cinema have moved into different party folds. The three main political parties — Biju Janata Dal, Congress and BJP — all seem to be in a fierce competition to recruit actors. And not just for canvassing, but contesting.
The 2014 elections will be star spangled all right. But can showmen perform off the screen? Can actors firmly hold the reins of the nation and steer it in fair and foul weather?
Gautaman Bhaskaran is India Editor of FMT, and Chennai-based author, columnist and movie critic. He may be emailed at[email protected]