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Rajapattai to Rajaangam…

With no respite from the searing heat, there was a very small break thanks to the occasional shower. Meanwhile, the biggest play on our national stage – The Lok Sabha elections has just wound down and India’s 15th Prime Minister – Mr. Narendra Modi has assumed office. A lot of talk had been going on about the appointment of a few ministers, especially the HRD Minister Smriti Irani, a former TV actress. This set me thinking about the long standing relation in our country between tinsel town and politics. This is one relationship that has been existent for quite some time. Looking at our Tamil Nadu in particular, we know that there have been a lot of celebrities from tinsel town who have gone on to take the highest seat of political power in the state – the Chief Minister’s seat.

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M.G. Ramachandran, fondly called MGR or Makkal Thilagam, reached demi-god status with his performances in his movies. Building on the cult following that he had, he entered politics and went on to become the Chief Minister of our state – not once or twice, but thrice – that too consecutively. His fan following and the position he held in his followers’ hearts was such that he did not even have to venture out to campaign for one of the elections and won by a margin of double the votes of his closest opponent. Having entered cinema through the 1936 movie Sathi Leelavathi and got his biggest break in the 1950 movie Manthiri Kumari. The interesting thing is that, the story for this movie was written by M. Karunanidhi – initially an ally of MGR and later on his prime rival in politics. MGR was a National Award winner and also a Bharat Ratna was awarded to him posthumously. After gaining a lot of name and fame through his movies, MGR started taking an active part in politics from 1953. After being a staunch supporter of the Congress Party, MGR became a part of the DMK and was the party’s face and an integral clog in the party’s mechanism. He also used to promote the party and it’s ideologies through the songs and some scenes in his movies. However, MGR’s relationship with the DMK party leader M. Karunanidhi started turning sour and following his expulsion from the DMK – MGR floated a new party – the AIADMK. It was as the leader of this party that MGR assumed the office of the CM of Tamil Nadu, and remained in power till his death, at the age of 70.

One of the most popular Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu is C.N. Annadurai, the founder of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. Though he has not acted in any movie, his stories have been made into a number of movies and he is considered to be the first politician to make maximum use of the medium called cinema – to propagate a political party’s ideologies to the masses. Some of his most famous works in cinema are Velaikari and Nallathambi.

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A person who is considered to be a veteran in both cinema and politics is M. Karunanidhi. This veteran started his career as a screenwriter in cinema. His writing skills combined with his social reform ideologies was well received and his biggest break came through legend Sivaji Ganesan’s debut movie Parasakthi. Some of his works have been so radical that they were even banned. Since his entry into politics, he rose from strength to strength till he became the CM. He has held the post of Chief Minister five times and holds a record of winning his seat in every election he has contested across a political career spanning over 60 years.

A very respected and admired politician and a top class actress of her times – Ms. J. Jayalalithaa is the ruling CM of our state. A protégé of the late MGR, Ms. Jayalalithaa started her career in cinema at the very young age of 15 itself. Her mother being an actress helped ease her way into movies and she debuted in Tamil cinema with the 1965 movie Vennira Adai. After bidding adieu to movies in 1980, she became the propaganda secretary for the AIADMK in 1982. After a very successful career in movies, Ms. Jayalalithaa has brought over her success to her Cinema career also and has held the position of the Chief Minister three times prior to assuming the post again in 2011. There are also reports of a movie in the making on the life of Ms. Jayalalithaa.

Somebody who has had a successful cinema career and is having a stop-start political career is Vijayakanth. Having debuted in cinema in Inikkum Ilamai, Vijayakanth came to be known as one of the leading stars of his period and over time started infusing his political ideologies into his movies and slowly establishing his party’s logo and flag into the minds of the masses. After facing a couple of polls, Vijayakanth’s party – the DMDK is currently the opposition party in the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly.

Sarathkumar began his career in cinema as a bad guy in 1986. Following this his career got a huge upheaval and he was being cast as the hero. In 2007, he floated a party called the All India Samathuva Makkal Katchi (AISMK) and is currently the sitting MLA from the Tenkasi constituency.
Other very notable names associated with both cinema and politics are NT Rama Rao who was given demi-god status from Andhra Pradesh. Then came Chiranjeevi and a number of other stars. The stars who contested the recent elections were Divya Spandana from Mandya in Karnataka, Hema Malini, Smriti Irani, Jaya Bachchan, Javed Jaffrey, Rakhi Sawant and quite a few others. Win or lose, these stars have something to fall back on I guess.

Straddling the two wild horses – Politics and Cinema is quite some task and many have achieved a lot in both fields. A big salute to those who have carved a name for themselves and also have done something for the people.

– Vicky

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