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Tamil Cinema and Tamil Nadu Politics:Mutual Admiration Societies? or …

We are familiar with the stories of Tamil film actors aspiring to become politicians. Remember the long standing demand of Rajinikant’s fans and the recent pleas by politicians like Chandra Babu Naidu that Rajinikant should enter politics? We have been made familiar with stories of actors-turned-politicians-turned CMs like MGR and Jayalalitha for at least three decades. The starting of DMDK (Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam) by actor Vijaykanth in 2005 only marked yet another progression of Tamil cinema as the staple provider of politically inclined charismatic actors for Tamil Nadu politics. In this never ending deceitful game being played by Tamil cinema stars and Tamil Nadu politics, what has remained constant is the whipping up of the ‘good samaritan’ ‘evil basher’ images of the actor who seeks to transform himself or herself as the politician. Nothing comes to them more handy than wearing the time-tested magical qualities of MGR in the political acts of actors. Every such actor seeks to be ‘chinna MGR’ (Junior MGR). The game plans of Vijaykanth seem to be no different. Believe it or not, this method is working wonders for his party. Vijaykanth’s party, DMDK, had a good percentage of votes for a new party at the last election.

Interestingly, Tamil Nadu is also home to a party which hates to associates itself with Tamil cinema. PMK (Pattali Makkal Katchi), an ally of DMK, seeks to break the nexus of cinema and politics in Tamil Nadu in the name of saving the younger generation from the bad influences of Tamil cinema. Actors like Rajinikanth and Vijaykanth and their films have been at the receiving end of PMK’s campaign against the “socio-cultural threats” posed by their films in particular and Tamil cinema in general. PMK leader,Dr.Ramadoss, had a close ally in Thol.Thirumavalavan, leader of Viduthalai Ciruthaigal (Dalit Panthers) party in his campaigns against Tamil cinema and its “culturally threatening films and stars” for a long time. Remember the plight of Kushboo some time back for what she did/did not speak about pre-marital sex? Remember what Director Shankar’s film Boys encountered for showing the free-wheeling and “culturally unacceptable behaviour” of today’s youngsters?

But what is Thol.Thirumavalavan upto in mid 2007? Believe it or not. He is busy working as an actor in Tamil films! This certainly marks a new trajectory in the traditional relationship between cinema and politics in Tamil Nadu where actors and script writers metamorphosed into politicians and chief ministers. There was never a big ticket politician seeking to become a big ticket actor simultaneously. Here is an ardent critic of Tamil cinema seeking to leverage the potential of Tamil cinema to stay afloat and succeed as a politician, if one goes by what he cited as reasons for becoming an actor. Does this point to the coming of age of Tamil cinema and Tamil Nadu politics as mutual admiration societies? Or does this point to the coming of age of what I would call mutual exploitation societies? I am afraid the logic in either scenarios is a deeply entrenched desire to exploit the audience of Tamil cinema as well as the audience of Tamil politics in one go and making them forget their different roles as film audience and political audience/voters.

It remains to be seen how PMK would view the dramatic transformation of a die-hard Tamil cinema critic like Thol.Thirumavalavan as an actor-politician. It remains to be seen how the gains or losses would show up for both Vijaykanth and Thol.Thirumalavan on their political radars if these games of the mutual admiration societies become more dramatic and unpredictable in the days to come. Pity the Tamil voter or Tamil film fan?

8 comments

1 Kishore Budha { 07.12.07 at 12:28 pm }

Can we actually claim any difference between the spaces of Tamil cinema and society? The continued support of the “active” audience ensures that the space is blurred. This is interesting as this allows us to conceptualize cinema in a way that is different from the “modernist” role inscribed to it.

2 Ravi { 07.12.07 at 9:41 pm }

Thanks Kishore for the opportunity to elaborate.

The spaces of Tamil cinema and society, as in other contexts, seem to be different, if one takes an ephemeral/outsider look. But this difference is not real.Such a difference is sought to be camouflaged or rather made to disappear for the active/avid fans of stars and superstars and their likely political incarnations.

Unless this function of distanciation of the two spaces is performed, we can not experience cases of distanciation involving the spaces of Tamil cinema and society on the one hand and Tamil stars and their fans on the other hand. Because this function is performed with finesse with every passing blockbuster, we have fans pouring milk over the cutouts of their filmic gods, before entering their sanctum sanctorum, the screen.

We must also note that the category active fans is not the same as the conventionally theorised active audience.

3 Pooja { 07.13.07 at 7:56 am }

This is certainly interesting! I don’t think I recall another instance in which a politician (anywhere in the world) decided to go the other way and act in films. But somehow I always thought Laloo Prasad Yadav would be the first to do so.

4 Kishore Budha { 07.14.07 at 1:56 am }

Thus I deliberately placed the term active within quotations. This is to question the agency inscribed in the Tamil film fan by writers such as Sara Dickey.

5 Balaji rao { 08.02.07 at 4:50 pm }

Hello sir,

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And i asked one bank namely “Centurian bank of punjab”. They give a loan for third party fixed deposit. Can you deposit your money in that bank(Centurian bank of punjab). I am sure i will pay money after of my completion for the course. Please help me sir.

My proile:

Name : Balaji rao.P.V.
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6 M. KEERTHIVASAN { 11.14.09 at 1:45 pm }

The actors cannot become politicians, simply because after MGR, nobody, rajini, sivaji ganesan, vijaykanth can become chief ministers and political leaders simply because the people are not fools.

7 MIKE { 05.15.11 at 10:52 am }

@Kishore Budha
Tamil people consider cinema as their life. They cant live without cinema. They may live without food or shelter. They are ready to suicide when an actor dies. Tamilians are people without common sense. They must understand that cinema is only for entertainment.

8 DesiPundit » Archives » Tamil Politics And Cinema { 07.13.07 at 4:52 am }

[…] The Culture And Politics of Tamil Cinema on the ties between Tamil Cinema and Tamil Nadu politics. Interestingly, Tamil Nadu is also home to a party which hates to associates itself with Tamil cinema. PMK (Pattali Makkal Katchi), an ally of DMK, seeks to break the nexus of cinema and politics in Tamil Nadu in the name of saving the younger generation from the bad influences of Tamil cinema. Actors like Rajinikanth and Vijaykanth and their films have been at the receiving end of PMK’s campaign against the “socio-cultural threats” posed by their films in particular and Tamil cinema in general. PMK leader,Dr.Ramadoss, had a close ally in Thol.Thirumavalavan, leader of Viduthalai Ciruthaigal (Dalit Panthers) party in his campaigns against Tamil cinema and its “culturally threatening films and stars” for a long time. […]

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