Rahul Gandhi meets Kaala director Pa Ranjith: An outreach to the Dalit vote bank in Tamil Nadu?

Sreedhar Pillai

July 12, 2018 18:15:18 IST

Rajinikanth’s trusted director Pa.Ranjith, the only man to do back to back movies — Kabali and Kaala — with the superstar, met up with Congress president Rahul Gandhi.

Rahul Gandhi had tweeted - “I met film director P A Ranjith the man behind blockbuster films like Madras, Kabali and Kaala and actor Kalaiyarasan, in Delhi yesterday. We talked about politics, films and society. I enjoyed the interaction and look forward to continuing our dialogue.”

Pa.Ranjith had replied back to his tweet - IMP.meeting with @RahulGandhi abt politics&art. Discussed caste &religious bias threatening d core of our secular constitution. Thks for having me over Sir. Lookin forward for our discussion taking shape.A national leader engaging with ppl from all ideologies is very encouraging!”

This meeting has stirred Tamil Nadu politics, as Pa Ranjith — considered to be very close to Rajinikanth — has espoused the cause of Dalits.

The Rahul-Ranjith meeting is said to have lasted for two hours at his Delhi residence. Rahul Gandhi has not met any Tamil Nadu leaders for such a long time. His party’s alliances with MK Stalin-led DMK is not very strong, and there are rumours that Congress is looking for a strong new regional support. Early this year Gujarat MLA and a big Dalit supporter Jignesh Mevani met Ranjith at his house in Chennai “for a traditional Tamil Nadu lunch”.

Pa.Ranjith has the making of a good leader as he is a strong orator in Tamil and, through his films, he has managed to catch the imagination of the Dalit youth. Ranjith, in contrast to Rajinikanth, is an atheist and a critic of Hindutva, and has very strong views on the politics being played out in the state. Some years ago, he had even attended a beef-eating meeting held by some leftist groups in Kerala.

Also read:  Kaala is not a 'Rajinikanth movie': A Dalit-Bahujan reading of the anti-caste politics in Pa Ranjith's film

In all the four films he has done so far – Attakathi, Madras, Kabali and now Kaala — the central character has always been a Dalit, which no mainstream director would dare to do. There is a strong socio–political commentary in his films. In his earlier films Rajinikanth was subtly portrayed as an upper caste man and he now has undergone an image makeover doing Kabali and Kaala.

The politics of Tamil Nadu is such that the Dalit community makes up for 12 to 15 % of the population in the state. And this vote bank is largely centred around North Arcot, South Arcot, Chengalpet where they are in direct confrontation with Dr. Ramdoss’s PMK, a party made mostly of the single largest community in the state – Vanniyars. Rajinikanth’s films have always performed best in this area, known as NSC in film trade parlance.

Movie stars have always swayed the Dalit vote bank, right from MGR days. When Vijaykanth first came to politics, he could win in a large number of seats where the Dalit vote bank existed. Rahul Gandhi meeting Ranjith is seen more as an outreach to the Dalit vote bank in Tamil Nadu, which is up for grabs.

Ranjith, on his part, knows that he has nothing left to conquer in Kollywood after doing two films with Thalaivar.

In a recent interview Ranjith commented, “ I don’t want to be known as a Dalit filmmaker. I touch upon caste inequalities in my films because I’ve been affected by it. Even if I don’t belong to the oppressed community, I would have continued to speak about inequalities in the society.” At a time when every star or director in Kollywood shows interest in plunging into politics, Ranjith has the right credentials to succeed. No wonder Rahul Gandhi spent two hours with him and has promised to meet him later.

Updated Date: Jul 12, 2018 18:15 PM