From Jayalalithaa to Vijayakanth: Why filmstar power trumps political power in Tamil Nadu - Firstpost

From Jayalalithaa to Vijayakanth: Why filmstar power trumps political power in Tamil Nadu

Chennai: With five chief ministers in the last five decades from the movie world, the way to the political power in Tamil Nadu is through building up star power.

Five of the state's chief ministers - C.N. Annadurai, M. Karunanidhi, M.G. Ramachandran (MGR), Janaki Ramachandran and J. Jayalalitha - had their roots in films, while several other actors showed an interest in politics.

In the May 2016 assembly elections, there are three chief ministerial candidiates — incumbent J.Jayalalithaa of the AIADMK, DMK president M. Karunanidhi and DMDK founder A.Vijayakanth — all with a background of Tamil film industry.

Apart from these three, the state has seen and is still seeing several actor-turned-politicians like the late Sivaji Ganesan, R. Sarathkumar, T. Rajendar and M. Karthik who have floated their own parties.

There are several other actors like R. Ramarajan, Vagai Chandrasekhar, Napoleon, Kushboo, C.R. Saraswathi, Anantharaaj and others who have joined the AIADMK, DMK and Congress.

While Annadurai and Karunanidhi were involved in writing the story, screenplay and dialogues of movies, it was MGR who became the first actor-turned-chief minister.


Founder of the ADMK that later became the AIADMK, MGR showed the world the route to political power is also through his star power pull.

Movie actor N.T. Rama Rao also proved that in Andhra Pradesh by floating the Telugu Desam Party and capturing the chief minister's post.

Prior to floating the ADMK in 1972, MGR was with the DMK, which used his star power to capture political power. Movies starring MGR subtly promoted the DMK through songs and dialogues.

But then, a power struggle erupted in the DMK after Karunanidhi started projecting his first son MK Muthu in a big way. Expelled from the DMK, MGR fought back by successfully converting his huge fan base and fan clubs into a political party, the AIADMK.

Since then, this is the route being followed by other actor-turned-politicians.

With his carefully cultivated movie image of being poor-friendly and without any vices like drinking or smoking, MGR soon became the darling of the people.

The AIADMK not only ousted the DMK from power in 1977 but also kept it in the wilderness till MGR's demise in 1987.

After MGR's death, his wife Janaki Ramachandran, also an actor, became chief minister for a very brief period before governor's rule was imposed.

A power struggle between Janaki Ramachandran and Jayalalithaa — who was introduced to politics by MGR and also starred in several movies with him — saw the AIADMK breaking into two.

Subsequently the two factions merged under Jayalalithaa's leadership and AIADMK captured back power in 1991. Since then Jayalalithaa remains the undisputed leader of the AIADMK.

In 2005, Vijayakanth, 63, an action hero known to perform stunts in movies without a duplicate, floated his DMDK party as an alternative to the two dominant Dravidian parties — the AIADMK and the DMK.

When he fought the polls alone without aligning with any party, the DMDK notched up an impressive vote share, better than even the established MDMK and PMK.

As the DMDK's vote share can add muscle to any alliance, he is one of the most sought alliance partner by all opposition parties, BJP included.

Called "Karuppu (Black) MGR" or Captain after his movie "Captain Prabhakaran", Vijayakanth has acted in over 150 Tamil movies.

Though he was never the No.1 hero, he charted his own style in the movie world — a fighter vanquishing terrorists and bad guys.

But then, that's what politics is all about — vanquishing your opponents!


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