Amidst AIADMK crisis and Sasikala-OPS war, a Rajinikanth-sized dilemma emerges
The superstar is in a dilemma. A dilemma over 2.0. And this one is not about Shankar's 2.0, but Rajinikanth 2.0
That is the usual manner in which Rajinikanth is introduced — accompanied by pulsating music — on the big screen. The excited audience reciprocates with loud cheers and whistles. Not a surprise considering most film projects this most-loved actor has touched, have been potboilers of gold.
But cut out the reel because in the real world, the superstar is in a dilemma. A dilemma over 2.0. And this one is not about Shankar's 2.0, but Rajinikanth 2.0.
Reliable sources have revealed that after J Jayalalithaa's demise on 5 December, Rajinikanth has been under considerable pressure to take a plunge into active politics. The first time it was publicly expressed was on 14 January at an event to pay homage to Cho Ramaswamy. S Gurumurthy, the new editor of Thuglak, considered close to the BJP and particularly to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at the function asked Rajinikanth to start his innings in politics.
Rajini put out another teaser at a book release function last week, when he stumped the audience by saying he loves power. But the actor hastened to add he meant spiritual power.
According to sources close to the superstar, the BJP is keen to rope in Rajinikanth. It wants Rajini to join the party and be its chief ministerial face in the elections that it believes could happen anytime in 2017 or 2018. It feels a Rajini-led BJP would be a case of his Sivaji punchline "Pera kettale chumma adhirudhullai (doesn't everything quake at the mere mention of my name)?"
Quite a bit of the pressure, one learns, is coming from the leadership in Delhi. That is where Rajinikanth has developed cold feet.
The reason for Rajini's reluctance is that joining the BJP will not take him anywhere in Tamil Nadu. The BJP tag, goes the thinking of his friends, will be a negative factor. The Dravidian culture of Tamil Nadu and its anti-Hindi mindset will find it difficult to accept the BJP overwhelmingly, as it is seen essentially as a Hindi heartland party. The BJP can make some gains in a Lok Sabha election with a Modi-Rajini combo pack but at the Assembly level, the BJP will be a liability. The saffron party has no representation in the Tamil Nadu Assembly now.
But what makes it awkward is Rajini's personal friendship with Modi. In fact, the tale goes that when Shatrughan Sinha's ticket from Patna Sahib in the 2014 General Election was not being cleared, he requested Rajini to put in a word for him. Rajinikanth spoke to Modi and told him Sinha is like his guru in the field of acting and that he learnt many of his trademark gimmicks that he showcased on the big screen from the Bihari Babu. It was then that Shotgun was given the B form.
Subsequently when Modi visited Chennai to campaign, he dropped in at Rajini's home also located in Poes Garden, dressed in a veshti. But Rajini is now apprehensive about getting caught in a bind by the BJP's pressure. So much so that he is in two minds about attending an event in Coimbatore later this month to which he is invited, because Modi is the chief guest.
Rajinikanth is also believed to have told close friends that he wants to complete a film for daughter Soundarya before plunging into politics. He is also due to travel to the US this summer for a health check-up. In between, he has also expressed a desire to spend time meditating in the Himalayas. But his friends have told him that the time is now or never and that he cannot afford to procrastinate.
With Tamil Nadu in political turmoil, Rajinikanth in the past few days, his friends say, is seriously considering an entry into politics by floating his own party. But while he believes in "en vazhi thanee vazhi (my path is my own)", his well-wishers are also perturbed at his vacillation.
The belief is that with the AIADMK splintering, a political vacuum has been created in Tamil Nadu. It is felt that despite O Panneerselvam being hailed as a hero, he does not have the charisma to last long. Given Tamil Nadu's symbiotic relationship with Kollywood, it is only to be expected that the next big political face has to be a film star.
The recent Marina uprising is also cited as a desire for change, that the youth want to look beyond the AIADMK and DMK. And who better than style king Rajinikanth to tap into this sentiment, to do an MGR or an NTR.
But does Rajinikanth have the political acumen? Playacting to a written script with punch dialogues written specially for Rajini is one thing and stepping into the cutthroat world of Tamil Nadu politics is quite another. In Rajinikanth's defence, it is pointed out that his one-liner that 'if Jayalalithaa returns to power, even God cannot save Tamil Nadu' led to her humiliating defeat in 1996. And that with negativity against yet another politician building up, Rajini can do a "naan late aa vanthalum latest aah varuven (Even if I come late, I will be the latest)".
What put doubts in Rajinikanth's mind is what happened to his friends in tinsel town — Chiranjeevi and Amitabh Bachchan. Chiranjeevi came a cropper in the 2009 elections in Andhra Pradesh, finally merging his Praja Rajyam party with the Congress. Amitabh is reported to have strongly advised Rajini against stepping into the cesspool of politics.
In the film Muthu, Rajini's character said "Naan eppo varuven epdi varuven yaarukkum theriyadhu (No one knows when or how I will arrive)".
That perhaps sums up the Rajini dilemma.
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