Tamil Nadu, the state, down south of India has produced many eloquent orators and leaders. Namely, Kamaraj (Former Chief Minister, President – Indian National Congress), Kakkan (Senior Minister in Kamaraj’s Cabinet and Well respected among the Delhi circles), M. Bhaktavatsalam (Former Chief Minister and Lawyer) and others. Then came the advent of Dravidian politics, which predominantly operated on the popularity of drama and cinema. Almost all of the top leaders in the Dravidian Parties hail from the “Arts “background.
Cinema – A key to Politics
If we look back, more than 5 decades ago, the state last saw a national party in the government. The first non-congress Government was formed under the leadership of C. N. Annadurai, who had been a story and dialogue writer for more than 10 movies. The man also spearheaded the Anti-Hindi movement along with his co-workers M. Karunanidhi, V. R. Nedunchezhiyan (Three of them served as Chief Minister of the state). M. Karunanidhi, who held Dravidan ideology dear to him, was a Screenwriter and has a huge list of accolades for his writing skills. Karunanidhi’s association with former Chief Minister and close friend MGR was palpable in the political arena. The duo helped Annadurai to secure a humongous win against the mighty Congress in 1967. However, MGR was widely known for orchestrating the victory through his movies with subtle Dravidian propaganda. Karunanidhi was a prominent writer for both the yesteryear super stars MGR and Sivaji Ganesan films. Both MGR and Sivaji were initially part of DMK at one stage and the former broke away from the faction (After Annadurai’s death in 1969) to form AIADMK to become Chief Minister. He was undefeatable until his death in 1987. MGR was hugely successful in promoting the Dravidian ideology in his films. Movies like Nadodi Mannan, Enga Veetu Pillai, Nam Nadu, Adimai Pen, Mannadhi Mannan and others, were widely popular and thus circuitously benefitted the DMK which was on the verge of defeating the incumbent Congress government.
1960s – 1990s
When the Indian National Congress lost to DMK headed by C.N Annadurai, only few knew that that will be the end of National Politics in Tamil Nadu. TN politics faced topsy-turvy in the years after Annadurai’s death. The Birth of AIADMK and MGR becoming the Chief Minister sent foreshocks to M Karunanidhi who had expelled MGR from DMK for Anti Party activities. MGR – The Superstar who gauged the pulse of people, contested his first election as AIADMK leader in 1977, won from Aruppukottai constituency and thus becoming the undisputed leader of Dravidian politics in Tamil Nadu. He created history by becoming the first actor to be the Chief Minister of a state. He served the state for three terms consecutively (1977-1980, 1980-1984, 1984-1987). Though MGR was instrumental in bringing many reforms in the state, he was criticized by many for being empathetic towards Sri Lanka based Terror outfit, LTTE, centralizing decision making and slipping to 10th in the 25 Most Industrialized states from 2nd during Kamaraj’s tenure. The role of cinema as a propagator of Dravidian ideology and a political recruiter began from here. He officially left no successor to take over. While his time as AIADMK leader, he introduced late J Jayalalithaa to politics. She was a successful actor of her time and had acted in films in multiple languages. She earned MGR’s trust to become the party’s Propaganda Secretary. She was elected to the upper house of Parliament. Jayalalithaa’s political journey started here. Though MGR had introduced my leaders including J Jayalalithaa and Thirunavukarasar (Currently with Tamil Nadu Congress), he never named his successor. After MGR’s death, again the state was gripped by a massive drama. This time, the AIADMK broke away into two factions with Janaki (Wife of MGR) and J Jayalalithaa (Former Chief Minister) emerging as rivals and both having shared the screen with MGR. Defeating Janaki with her indomitable leadership skills, J Jayalalithaa became the chief of AIADMK. The state was all set to witness a two way fight between M Karunanidhi and J Jayalalithaa leaving all the other opposition parties with popcorn in hand.
1990s – Present
After MGR’s death, the duel between Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa took to a new level. Both of them took turns to rule the state until 2016, when J Jayalalithaa broke the record of MGR to be elected as Chief Minister consecutively. 1989 -2011, Karunanidhi served the state for 3 terms, while Jayalalithaa ruled for 4 terms until her death in 2017. It will be interesting to note that between 1991 – present, the state has witnessed numerous actors plunge into politics. Superstar Rajnikant openly endorsed the DMK and its ally in 1996 elections to overthrow Jayalalithaa. The actor later went on mute mode to obviate his active participation in the competition as he considered both Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi as his good friends.
People of Tamil Nadu are fond of actors and on screen dialogues have a special place in their hearts. The state has seen hundreds of actors joining the Dravidian parties to establish their political presence. The list that started with Annadurai, Karunanidhi, MGR, and Jayalalithaa does not stop anywhere to find an alternative from non-cinema background. The fiery dialogues, songs, and orations from cinema events of actors tend to have a big impact on Tamil Nadu politics. Post Jayalalithaa’s demise, cine industry is desperate to send their alumnus to fill the vacuum. The list has enlarged to accommodate Rajnikant, Kamal Haasan, Vijay and now the connoisseurs of dynasty politics have roped in their next generation to lead the youth wing of the Principal Opposition party. Not to be surprised, the new entrant is also an actor who entered the cine industry to produce films and later dominated the industry with his relatives.
Adulation and Beyond
Tamil Nadu is possibly the only state which has its future generation battle on social media over their favorite actor’s movie collection, followers’ strength and banners display mechanism. While there are pressing issues in the state, the youth is mostly concerned over the movie release and celebrations. If we analyze the root cause of this pathological approach, the result comes as a congenital factor. The Generation of cinema stars Rajnikant and Kamal Haasan which was desperate to project their star as a leader of their state is still on the same level, while their wards have now grown up to expect Vijay and Ajith. Youngsters adulate their stars so much that they are always on the verge of expecting a movie star to lead them rather step into the shoes of political predecessors. This lackadaisical approach jeopardizes their career prospect and enacts slavery. To add on, political dialogues in movies have become increasingly prevalent today. For instance, movies like Mersal, Sarkar, Kaala, Aramm, NGK and so on, have a dedicated space for anti-government scenes to peddle their fake narratives. While it’s sacrosanct to uphold the democratic rights of an individual to voice their opinion, the same responsibility should be borne to present factually correct information. Movies are being used as tools to peddle lies and misinform people on the national happenings.
Actors utilize press meet, movies and movie related functions as a space to promote their political agenda to salvage their retrograding image. For example, GST related dialogues in a movie, Mersal, were quite popular among Tamil Youths. The alacrity with which they defended their actor and the movie was stupendous. But, if at all they had invested the time on learning the facts about the subject, they would not be in a state today battling on social media for extraneous issues. In a recent event, Tamil cinema actor Suriya had taken a jibe at the National Educational Policy (NEP). The actor who is half-baked in understanding the policies and reforms had said that “After the advent of NEET exams, his Agaram Foundation could not find even one economically underprivileged Government school student who qualified for medicine which talks volumes on how the entrance exam ruined the dream of many young minds”. The actor has failed to produce a good movie in the recent years has chosen the path to gain publicity like his colleagues. To make matter worse, the entire industry, movie reviewers, fans of course have taken his side to question and agitate against NEET and NEP. The policy drafted by former head of ISRO, Dr. K. Kasturirangan, is being criticized by an indolent actor. The ‘Love for Tamil’ sentiment is conspicuous in the state. Thanks to politicians and Cinema, Tamil Nadu as a state is always being pictured as oppressed by the central government. Festivals like Pongal are hijacked by the pseudo-seculars as “Samathuva Pongal” – Secular Pongal. The folklore of the festival was compromised by Dravidian politics to celebrate it as non-religious.
To put it in a nutshell, the pusillanimous industry is being used as a tool by the infamous Dravidian Parties, only to decimate opponents through proxies. Parents should nurture their children on novel technologies and general awareness on the societal happenings to spread their wings to reach the pinnacle.