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Tamil Nadu govt's Kamal Haasan obsession reaches fever pitch: State would do well to set own house in order

It seems that Tamil Nadu law minister CV Shanmugam does not understand movies. Well, at the very least, he doesn't understand Kamal Haasan's movies.

Kamal Hassan in a file photo. AFP

File image of Kamal Haasan. AFP

Because only someone spectacularly ignorant would describe Kamal, of all people, as a "third-rate actor."

Someone, do me a favour: Send Shanmugam some of  Kamal's best movies: Nayagan, Apoorva Sagodharargal, Moondram Pirai, Mahanadi, Indian, Swathi Muthyam, Avvai Shanmughi and more. Shanmugam has also said that Kamal has no right to speak about the AIADMK regime. So make him sit through Pushpak as well.

The last three days have seen the Tamil Nadu government's Kamal obsession reach a fever pitch. No, not that kamal (the one that belongs to the BJP. The saffronisation of the AIADMK is a done deal and Chennai's worst-kept secret). Tamil Nadu ministers are upset with the actor for having said that there is "corruption in every department." So they have decided to take Kamal to the cleaners.

Municipal administration minister SP Velumani wants Kamal to provide evidence to back up his claims. "If you have evidence then prove it. Let us audit the tax you've paid for the movies you have produced," he said, issuing a veiled threat to use the power of the government against the actor.

But charity should begin at home. Velumani first needs to explain how his name reportedly figured in the list seized from health minister C Vijayabaskar's residence during the income tax raid before the RK Nagar by-election, which was subsequently called off.

The document allegedly showed that five senior ministers, including Chief Minister E Palaniswami and Velumani, were tasked with distributing Rs 89 crore at the rate of Rs 4,000 per voter to ensure victory for their candidate TTV Dinakaran. The municipal administration minister had allegedly been allocated Rs 14 crore to bribe 37,291 voters.

Velumani has perhaps forgotten that during the RK Nagar campaign, there was corruption in every street and by-lane. The AIADMK would do well not to suffer from short-term memory loss like Aamir Khan's Ghajini.

What can be more shameful than the fact that the Election Commission even today finds it difficult to conduct free and fair elections in the heart of Chennai.

Shanmugam made the attack personal by taking a dig at Kamal's live-in relationship. "Kamal went against Tamil and Indian culture and had a live-in relationship with an actor. He then abandoned her. He has no right to talk about us or anyone else in this country,'' he said.

The Bigg Boss show in Tamil that Kamal is hosting has come as handy cudgel with which to beat the actor. The reality show has been criticised for broadcasting anti-Dalit comments and the law minister wants action against Kamal under the Prevention of SC/ST Atrocities Act.

Fair enough.

Pardon my interruption, but Shanmugam should really do something about the honour killings that are taking place in Tamil Nadu — members of the Thevar and Gounder communities, which form the backbone of the AIADMK, are accused of targeting Dalits — taking a swing at Kamal alone is simply missing the forest for the trees.

Higher education minister KP Anbazhagan has really lowered the level of discourse. He dismissed Kamal as "a human being not worth considering." Finance minister D Jayakumar accused Kamal of indulging in loose talk.

Perhaps Jayakumar forgot that many AIADMK MLAs were allegedly caught on tape saying that money was paid to members of the ruling faction during February's trust vote. And if Kamal is indeed unworthy of consideration, one wonders why so many senior ministers are going out of their way to attack him.

The irony is that when Rajinikanth addressed his fans in May, said that people were getting into politics to make money and criticised the crocodile-infested swamp, the cat got the AIADMK's tongue. None of these ministers took on Rajini. Perhaps because they realised that the superstar was backed by Delhi.

But the AIADMK wants to make an example of Kamal. To make a statement: Mess with the Tamil Nadu government at your own peril. It is another matter entirely that Kamal and the AIADMK have not had a smooth relationship. Particularly since his movie Vishwaroopam released in 2013. The actor believes vested interests played a part in creating problems for the film by egging on Muslim fringe groups. Now, Hindu fringe groups are doing the same against Bigg Boss.

Unlike Rajini, Kamal does not mask his punches in diplomacy. He was critical of the government's handling of the 2015 Chennai floods, supported the Marina uprising in favour of jallikattu in January and over the past few months, has been vocal in echoing the voice of the people both in the mainstream and social media. He articulated the south Indian film industry's position on GST beautifully and succeeded in getting taxes on tickets below Rs 100 reduced.

An actor well-respected for his craft, empathy and stance on social issues being critical of the government is something the AIADMK would not appreciate. Especially when the party is under siege.

Tamil film comedian and pro-AIADMK MLA Karunas said, "Let him step into politics and try cleaning up instead of just talking."

At least one politician admits that it's a dirty game.

But knowing the fascination Tamil Nadu has with Kollywood, such a challenge may not be prudent.


Updated Date: Jul 17, 2017 14:48 PM

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