Cinema

Beyond Sarkar, it’s hard to miss Tamil cinema’s influence on state politics

Written by S Subhakeerthana
| Chennai |

Updated: November 8, 2018 9:02:06 pm





Vijay, at the audio launch of Sarkar, had said if he became the CM, he would want to weed out corruption in Tamil Nadu.

AIADMK cadres on Thursday allegedly tore down posters and banners of Vijay’s Sarkar in Madurai and Coimbatore theaters. While it is believed similar incidents haven’t happened in Chennai, a reliable source said a huge crowd from the ruling party gathered in front of Kamala Theaters, Vadapalani as “Sarkar had dialogues and scenes which hurt their sentiments”. For instance, Varalaxmi Sarathkumar’s character is named ‘Komalavalli’, which was the original name of late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa.

Recent developments suggest that ‘Komalavalli’ will be muted in Sarkar. The scene where director AR Murugadoss appears in a cameo and throws the state-provided freebies into the fire will also be deleted. The makers had also confirmed the same to us on a phone call. Even for Vijay’s Mersal, post-release, the BJP government had sought the removal of dialogues related to demonetisation and Goods and Services Act (GST), which were removed later from the film.

The role of cinema in Tamil Nadu politics has been significant, and the influence of ‘stars’ on the political system is unbelievable. After all, Tamil Nadu has been ruled by three Chief Ministers, who started off their respective careers in movies. A Tamil film historian, who doesn’t want to be identified, told indianexpress.com, “The Tamil audience take cinema and film stars quite seriously. Anything they say or do becomes politics. In 1961, veteran actor Sivaji Ganesan had said ‘artistes should keep away from politics’. That holds true even now.”

Of all, MG Ramachandran was the most powerful. The audience started seeing the Chief Minister as the ‘protector’ of the common man because of his ‘clean-image’ roles in films. They were examples of how an ‘ideal’ man should live and believe. Onscreen, MGR was an ideal son, an ideal husband, an ideal lover boy and an ideal leader. In one of his films, Enga Veetu Pillai, MGR mouthed the lyrics, “If you follow me, the poor will never suffer.” In another film, Nam Naadu, some character artiste refers to MGR as “God”.

At this juncture, we should remember the contribution of M Karunanidhi as well, who had penned the famous Parasakthi that stunned the audience. As a founding member of the DMK, the film was written on the Dravidian self-respect movement. And the former Chief Minister often had emphasised how art should be used for propaganda, for the masses, for the society.

After the passing away of both J Jayalalithaa and M Karunanidhi, it’s being said there’s a huge political vacuum in the state, and there’s a buzz about how it may be filled. Rajinikanth had indicated that he will start a political party, but he is yet to take the much-expected plunge. On the other hand, Kamal Haasan has already floated Makkal Needhi Maiam, which is being looked upon with huge hope. He was one of the very first actors to disband fan clubs and float People Welfare Associations aka Narpani Mandrams.

Now, there’s ‘Thalapathy’ Vijay. From time to time in the recent past, his films have had politically-charged dialogues. And there is massive speculation in Tamil Nadu about Vijay, who appears to have made his electoral ambitions clear. While previously Vijay had spoken up on few issues, he took an active interest in Jallikattu, which put him in the spotlight. He even visited the parents of Anita, who fought against the NEET system in the Supreme Court. The young girl committed suicide over the issue.

But, to everyone’s surprise, Vijay, at the audio launch of Sarkar, had said if he became the CM, he would want to weed out corruption in the state. That was the first ever time Vijay had spoken at length in a public event about his interest in politics. He made another politically-loaded statement: “People will contest in the elections to form Government. But we have already formed our ‘sarkar’ (Government).”

Vijay’s father and filmmaker SA Chandrasekhar in multiple interviews had admitted that Vijay’s planning to enter politics. However, only time will tell.

Another film observer-trade analyst, on the condition of anonymity, said, “It all started with Thalaivaa. The moment Vijay said, ‘It’s time to lead’, things changed, and everyone started seeing him as a leader. It’s extremely unfortunate how the ruling party cadres create havoc at theaters and disturb the film shows. Tamil Nadu is a politically-sensitive state, and here they don’t look at cinema as cinema. Most of Vijay’s films — Puli, Kaavalan, Thuppakki, Kaththi, Thalaivaa have faced issues before getting released in theaters because of the nature of dialogues. Until Mersal, he was ‘Ilayathalapathy’. And post-Mersal, he became the ‘thalapathy’.” He elaborated, “We need to wait and see how the response is going to be. Vijay isn’t Kamal Haasan or Rajinikanth. To understand Vijay better, we need to know his stance on different issues, and only then I can comment.”

But Makkal Needhi Maiam leader Kamal Haasan seems to believe in Vijay. A fan had asked Ulaganayagan if he would welcome and support Vijay if he enters politics. He had said, “I welcome all my brothers to politics. Vijay is my favourite brother. Not just for me, but for others as well. I will definitely welcome him in politics.”

Reacting to the Sarkar controversy on Twitter, Kamal had said, “It’s not new for this state government to put pressure on filmmakers who have obtained the censor certificate before releasing the film. A government that cannot accept criticism will definitely derail. Only people will win.”

Also Read | Vijay’s Sarkar faces backlash from ruling AIADMK, party says film could incite violence

Meanwhile, political leaders in Tamil Nadu including Pon Radhakrishnan, besides AIADMK members continue criticising Vijay over his plans to take to politics. BJP senior member Tamilisai Soundararajan had said, “Vijay is hallucinating and these people think everything is a movie.” Earlier, H Raja had even brought up the actor’s religious identity while targeting him.

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