Superstar Rajinikanth said at the Nadigar Sangam (South Indian Artistes’ Association) meet on Sunday that he was one of the main reasons why late Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa lost the 1996 state elections.
“If Jayalalithaa is voted back to power, even God cannot save Tamil Nadu,” the actor had said back then.
The then DMK-Tamil Maanila Congress coalition swept the polls amid strong anti-incumbency and Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK managed to secure only four seats.
In the history of Indian cinema, this is, perhaps, the most candid a popular celebrity has got to acknowledge the influence they have over the masses.
It is no secret that cinema has a played an important role in influencing minds, more so in Tamil Nadu, where many movie stars (MR Ramachandran, Jayalalithaa) and scriptwriters (CN Annadurai and Karunanidhi) have gone on to become chief ministers of the state.
On his 66th birthday, here some of his films with political references:
This is a typical story of an underdog who was once rich and must now fight for his right. His father was a just zamindar who was wronged by the evil designs of people close to him. The rest of story follows the trials and tribulations of the protagonist till he triumphs and his enemies meet a fitting end. Many believe that in the course of the story, Muthu makes an indirect reference to Jayalalithaa.
Be it Rajinikanth or Amitabh Bachchan, there is no escaping from playing an underdog who fights for the less fortunate but eventually goes on to become successful (read rich and famous) but with a caring heart. Mannan’s plot too follows the similar line with Rajinikanth playing a kind-hearted pro-labour manager of a big business house. He takes on its dictatorial and arrogant owner, who happens to be a lady, whom he eventually marries! The Taming of the Shrew anybody? Some critics are of the view that a character in the film was modelled on Jayalalithaa.
With twists and turns that will put Yoga guru Ramdev’s asanas to shame, Padayappa is yet another story of a wronged son of a village head who must fight all forces, inimical to him, and emerge victorious. Needless to say, our man has a heart of gold and is a do-gooder like nobody else. His bête noire is a stubborn and arrogant woman who is, and has been, madly in love with him though he himself loves another woman and gets married to her as well. Yet again, a character in the film is said to have been based on the former chief minister of the state.
Playing a Kuala Lumpur-based don, who fights for the rights of Tamils in Malaysia, Rajinikanth plays a larger-than-life persona and a messiah of the underdog. As he takes on rival gangs, fights for the honour of his wife, perceived dead but might still be alive, and objects to illicit trade (drugs and prostitution), the film also liberally uses Dalit iconography to drop liberal hints about his character’s background.
Kabali has been shown reading My Father Balaiah, a poignant 2011 book by a Hyderabad-based Dalit professor on caste discrimination and untouchability. Throughout the film, Kabali is seen wearing a three-piece suit, nearly in reflection to BR Ambedkar’s sartorial legacy, and tells his followers: “Our clothes is our resistance.”
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