This article is written by Riya Kuruvilla
Glamour, power, connect-the-dot-bungalows over the world map, out of whack parties, scandals, bodyguards, nepotism and these are just a few similarities when you compare the life of a politician and an actor. You turn up with a bucket load of things found in both their lives. They might as well be living each other’s lives. This transition has been made by several actors, a leap (or rather step) into the realm of politics. It is quite needless to go on actually listing their names, with all the extra media attention they receive for their little step and the hullabaloo that follows. If you’ve ever noticed this, it’s not likely that you thought- ‘what’s up with this?’ This is probably because we feel it’s quite natural, and truthfully, many a times, (let’s be honest here) a sort of joke. A joke in the way that it’s a given.
A famous actor, who already has mass appeal, a sort of soft power (seductive forces), but not authority simply seems to be taking the next natural step – trying to turn that power into authority by venturing into the realm of national/state level politics. Why do these two careers seem have such strong linkages? Is it really the mass appeal that both need to generate in their careers? Is it the linked concept of charisma, that actors ooze and makes power partly legitimate? Keeping these questions to the side, more importantly, what are the implications of an actor getting involved in politics for society? To get a glimpse of the answer to these questions we’ll look at Jayalalithaa, Shatrugan Sinha, Sunil Dutt and Salman Khan.
Amma has probably had one of the most ‘notorious’ political careers as an actor. Her party, the AIADMK is essential regional support. She became involved with politics early in life, but not as early as she started acting, which was at the tender age of 15. Jayalalithaa, when she rose to political power in 1988 when nominated to the Rajya Sabha, proclaimed herself to be the political heir to MGR. MGR himself was an actor, and the first film actor in all of India to become a chief minister. Tamil Nadu particularly seems to have a taste for the critically acclaimed actor as the chief minister of the state. The ‘actor’ seems to play a very important part in the psyche of the Tamil people, as we can see with other comparatively more modern actors such as Rajnikanth and Kamal Hassan, with the former even having a temple dedicated to him! Jayalalithaa has supporters prostrating at her feet and drawing her portrait with their own blood – such is the charisma of this leader. However there are major allegations of corruption and rumours verging on the bizarre and luxurious about what is found in raids to her house. One would wonder whether any of this was healthy.
Shatrugan Sinha, after a string of successful films in the 70’s and 80’s decided he would do something more for his country and inspired by Jaya Prakash Narayan, a fellow Bihari, became the first actor to join the opposition (BJP) instead of the ruling party, as was the trend. He is by far the most ‘successful’ actor politician alive, merit being the first actor to be a cabinet minister. It is interesting to note that his daughter, Sonakshi Sinha is doing feasibly well in the film industry and even his twin sons have acted in movies. One would wonder if they would continue to walk in their father’s footsteps.
Sunil Dutt has also done great as an actor turned politician, appointed as India’s minister for Youth and Sport and he is the father of the famous Sanjay Dutt and not so famous till date Priya Dutt, who carries her father’s political legacy. The film fraternity sticks closer than glue with Salman Khan voting and campaigning for various congress candidates, including Priya Dutt. However, for a few he seems to be sending mixed signs, in light of recent events, in one of which he flew kites with Narendra Modi in public. However, when questioned about this, Salman said that he did not support Modi as Prime Minister and that he would still support the congress. However, he wondered why people would not give Modi the clean chit, when the judiciary has cleared him. Knowing his judgement has influence over the choice of millions of his fans, he says that he’d rather not dictate their choice by pronouncing something. But actions speak louder than words in this case, with his active campaigning for the congress. According to IBN live, Salman khan would make a great politician someday, with the way he sidestepped answering certain questions, by answering and not answering them at the same time. However, he says that he’s a social activist and that his charity initiative “Being Human” is more important to him, and that politics, a dirty game is not for him.
Time is yet to tell the real course of events, and historical evidence points to more actors joining us on the political front as candidates. They just can’t seem to resist it. Is it yet simply another role to enact, and reap millions from? Or is it a sincere effort at doing their part, and using their abilities for the country? I guess that is for us to decide.
Views presented in the article are those of the author and not of ED.