Remember Jayalalithaa? A Melkote Iyengar from Karnataka, an acclaimed film star of the Tollywood, rose to power shadowing MGR and re-established AIADMK. She was a prominent face in Tamil Nadu politics and ruled the state for a long time.
As far as present political space is concerned, leaders like Kamal Haasan, Pavan Kalyan, Shatrughan Sinha, Sunny Deol, and many more are garnering both love and votes from the people of their respective states. However, BJP is yet to register its stronghold in the southern region. So, what can actually help the party to mark its place in Southern India? Well, witnessing the rise in popularity of Tollywood stars on the big screen, it can be assumed that it is the star culture that can help BJP dominate other parties in the south.
Let’s dive in to know more.
‘Star culture’ has always worked in politics
The southern region has mostly been ruled by superstars or people belonging to the film industry. If not, the film stars turned politicians have been garnering love from the people. Be it MGR, Jayalalithaa, Pavan Kalyan, or Kamal Haasan, the political corridors of the south have always accepted the stars of the entertainment industry.
Big names including M K Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa have shaped the state’s politics over the past three decades. “The primary drive seems to arise from the pre-existence of a mass base due to the proliferation of actor fan clubs – especially between 1967 and 1990 when actors and scriptwriters were immersed in Dravidian politics,” cultural journalist Sadanand Menon told DW.
Actor Kamal Haasan too joined the ranks of several superstars of the Tamil film fraternity who made a foray into the political arena. Kamal made his political ambitions public quite earlier, and in 2018, he announced the name of his outfit and unveiled its flag. The name of Kamal Haasan’s Party is “Makkal Needhi Maiam (roughly translated to People’s Justice Centre).
Moreover, Rajnikanth though backed off from taking the plunge into politics, has been indirectly involved in Tamil Nadu politics.
Jayalalithaa’s popularity needs no introduction. She single-handedly revived AIADMK and ruled the state. People could worship her or hate her but could never ignore her.
Jana Sena chief and Tollywood actor Pawan Kalyan has been an active politician in Andhra Pradesh. Kalyan is the President of the Jana Sena party, which was founded by him in 2014 to fight for the rights of every common person. Being a very popular figure in the Telugu film industry, he is known for raising the issue of looting Hindu temples under the regime of Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy.
Recently, in a move to start a new political realignment in Andhra Pradesh, he said that he will convince the BJP leadership to an alliance with the TDP for the 2024 elections.
This phenomenon of actors entering into politics has also worked in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, which have seen a similar trend.
A good example in Andhra Pradesh is the actor Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao – or NTR as he was popularly known.
Rise of Tollywood stars and their religious approach
Unlike Bollywood, the South-Indian entertainment industry is not ‘woke’. South Indian movies are being made on archetypal storylines of India. They do not degrade the family system in the name of criticism. Celebration of Childbirth, college life, family-oriented love stories, and marriages; all are depicted the way, how traditional Hindus have done them for thousands of years. Bollywood, on the other hand, has alienated its fan base in order to please woke lobby of the west.
In a day and age where woke liberals and social justice warriors dominate the cinema space and churn out only formulaic and bland movies that have nothing but Hindu hatred at their core – RRR came across as a breath of fresh air.
It plays to its strengths of pure-adrenaline action. Pays homage to the freedom fighters and keeps the Hindu flag flying high. At the centre of the film are the stories of Alluri Sitarama Raju and Komaram Bheem, which have been given a touch of ‘fantasy’ along with Rajamouli’s artistic creativity.
Moreover, movies like Bahubali and RRR have revived the feeling of patriotism and respect for Hinduism. Further, it has led to the popularity of Prabhas, Yash and Allu Arjun. What is respectable about Tollywood stars is that they haven’t forgotten their roots and know how to respect the Hindu culture.
Tollywood stars can help BJP to revive because of the ideology
BJP is trying to end the dominance of Dravidian politics in the state and emerge as a Hindutva alternative, and Rajnikanth’s ideology also reflected the same.
Given the fact that 87.6 per cent of Tamil Nadu’s population is Hindu and the majority of them are very Dharmic people, there is a vast ground for Hindutva politics in the state. Therefore, the party once carried Vel Yatra- on the lines of Rath Yatra taken by L K Advani- in the honour of Bhagwan Murugan. The Yatra was started from Tiruttani temple in the north of Tamil Nadu and culminated at Tiruchendur temple in the south, covering six abodes of Bhagwan Murugan (For those who are not aware- Kartikeya, son of Shiva and Parvathi, is worshipped as Bhagwan Murugan in South India and Southeast Asia).
In 2020, Khusbhu Sundar, one of the most popular actresses in Tamil Cinema, joined BJP. Moreover, the growing Hindutva ideology in south Indian cinema can also help the BJP to mark its place in the south. But what could be the cherry on the cake is when the stars of Tollywood openly begin supporting the ideology of the BJP.
Prabhas is one such actor. If the speculations are to be believed, his upcoming project ‘Adipurush’ will reflect BJP’s ideology.
Witnessing the star culture that prevails in the south and the rise of Hinduism in the region can help the saffron party to win a ticket of dominance.