Kamal Haasan's political debut, like the opening of big films, will be keenly watched for the kind of crowds he attracts

Sreedhar Pillai

Feb,21 2018 12:15:46 IST

It is D-day for Kamal Haasan; he is all set to spell out his political ideology and the name of the party he is setting up today, in Madurai. Kamal Haasan is a huge star and one of the most influential voices in Tamil Nadu, and he has regularly spoke about how he wants to clean up the cesspool of corruption and bad governance in the state.

In a recent tweet, Kamal welcomed people to attend his party launch in Madurai to “create a new era”: “I am going to explain (about my) new party and the gist of our policies. Please come, to create a new era. Our long journey is starting tomorrow. I am going to hoist our party flag at 6 PM at Othakadai grounds in Madurai.” A few political netas like Delhi CM and AAP supremo Arvind Kejirwal is likely to attend the meet.

There is a groundswell of support for Kamal Haasan atleast on social media. He is being compared to Rajinikanth, who has been speculating about his political entry for the last few years without doing anything concrete. Haasan, on the other hand, came late to the scene after Jayalalithaa’s death and is atleast keeping up to his promise of launching a political party in early 2018. Unlike Rajinikanth, who is still toying with the idea of doing one more film after Kaala and 2.O, Kamal is clear that it is curtains for him as far as his acting career is concerned after Viswaroopam 2 and Indian 2.

Kamal Haasan. PTI image.

Kamal Haasan started his political journey at 7:45 on 21 February, from the home of former President APJ Abdul Kalam in Tamil Nadu's Rameswaram, from where he traveled by road to Madurai about 170 km away, and is set to launch his party by evening. After hoisting the party flag he will address the gathering around 8 pm.

But Kamal Haasan's detractors say that he is nothing but a Trojan horse of the opposition (read those against BJP and ruling AIADMK). Kamal Haasan also said, "I am entering politics only because the ruling AIADMK is bad. That is why I am not meeting any of them." The actor-turned-politician is being projected as anti-Hindu.

Meanwhile, in several parts of Madurai and surrounding areas, posters have appeared equating Kamal Haasan with former Indian president Dr Abdul Kalam, rationalist leader Periyar and BR Ambedkar . Some posters proudly say - "Kamal is a second Kalam." There is even a poster of  him walking in Mahatma Gandhi's footsteps, as he has repeatedly mentioned his open admiration of Gandhi's policies. Another significance of Madurai is that it is where Gandhi gave up his western outfits and adopted khadi clothing.

Madurai is the favourite place for Tamil politicians to launch parties or hold huge rallies. It is almost in the middle of the state and is steeped in Tamil culture and literature. When MGR launched his political party it was from Madurai and was able to draw over a lakh people who travelled from all over the state on their own to see him. Now the big question being asked is whether Kamal Haasan will be able to get the crowds? Yesterday when he arrived at the Madurai airport, he drew a huge crowd of curious fans and onlookers.

Being an actor, Kamal knows that like the opening of a big-hero film, his political debut will also be keenly watched for the kind of crowds he attracts. His political managers in charge of crowd control will try to make it look big, because future alliances and combinations are built on it.

The truth is Kamal is not in the same league as Rajinikanth as far as mass star value and box-office appeal. Most of his films found much acceptance among the urban multiplex audiences than in smaller stations or rural areas. In Tamil Nadu politics whether it was MGR or Jayalalithaa, their traditional vote bank was in rural areas.

Kamal Haasan has to rework his image and he is already adapting to it. His clarion call to the chief ministers of southern states to find pride in embracing their Dravidian identities has struck a chord.

This comes at a time when BJP and other North Indian parties are trying to play down the Dravidian movement and parties. What remains to be seen is whether Kamal remains an urban phenomenon, a social media warrior or will he be able to bring the much needed change in Tamil Nadu politics? Everything hinges on the kind of opening he gets when he makes his political debut in the Tamil Nadu heartland of Madurai.

Published Date: Feb 21, 2018 12:15 PM | Updated Date: Feb 21, 2018 12:15 PM