BJP is locking horns with Kollywood heroes; it’s Surya after Vijay and Ajith
BJP’s tussle with Vijay started in 2017, when his movie ‘Mersal’ hit the theatres. Vijay, playing the lead, had then slammed the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in the film, introduced by the BJP government at the Centre.
The BJP in Tamil Nadu has engaged in spats with popular stars of Kollywood, as the Tamil film industry is known popularly, time and again.
There is no love lost between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Tamil film world.
If it is now taking on popular actor Surya over the draft New Education Policy (NEP), it had been involved in duels with young actors of the Tamil film industry Vijay and Ajith as well as versatile actor and Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) founder Kamal Hassan.
Its attempts to lure film stars have not met with any measure of success so far. It is well known that Dravidian politics is intertwined with the film industry and all the three film stars that the BJP has been targeting have a huge fan following.
The tussle with Vijay started in 2017, when his movie ‘Mersal’ hit the theatres. Vijay, playing the lead, had then slammed the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in the film, introduced by the BJP government at the Centre.
“If Singapore which has 7% GST on medicine can provide free health care, why could not our government which imposes 28% GST on medicine do it?” was a dialogue that sparked outrage among the BJP leaders in the state.
While BJP state president Tamilisai Soundararajan demanded that the dialogue must be removed for its negative portrayal of GST, demonetisation and Digital India scheme, the party’s national secretary H Raja brought in a religious angle. Raja tweeted that Vijay is a practising Christian and his full name is Joseph Vijay and attached photographs of the actor’s voter ID and official letterhead.
“Vijay is a practising Christian. He should have said build hospitals before churches, instead he says build hospitals before temples,” Raja tweeted referring to Vijay’s exhortation to build hospitals rather than temples.
Kollywood stood by Vijay with Rajinikanth extending support. And, the film turned out to be a huge hit and even before the dialogues were muted, they went viral on social media. And as if to mock at Raja, Vijay used his official letterhead, with his full name, to thank everyone for the success of the movie.
When his next big-budget movie ‘Sarkar’ was released in 2018, it faced protests from the ruling AIADMK over references to its leader and former chief minister J Jayalalithaa.
Tamilisai had ridiculed the actor’s possible political entry, saying “he is hallucinating. Thus far, he had been interested in filling his coffers most of his life and wants to enter politics by criticising those in politics.”
The BJP’s next target in Kollywood turned out to be Ajith, who has made it clear that he has no political ambition. In January this year, after a group of his fans joined the BJP, the party showcased it as an endorsement of its politics.
Describing Ajith as the most honest person in the film industry, Tamilisai had urged the actor’s fans to help take the welfare measures of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the Tamil people and ensure that the lotus bloomed.
A rattled Ajith, affectionately called ‘Thala’ or leader by his admirers, issued a lengthy statement dismissing the reports about him or his fans joining the BJP as rumours.
“Those who have joined the BJP have taken the decision as citizens and not as my fans,” he clarified.
During the campaign for the Lok Sabha elections, Kamal Hassan had invited the ire of the BJP with his remarks that Nathuram Godse was the first terrorist and that he was a Hindu.
The then defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman charged Hassan with following the Congress and Communists in appeasing the minorities by portraying Hindus in a bad light. The party also moved the Election Commission seeking a five-day ban on the actor from campaigning.
Demanding his arrest, the state BJP said the actor had violated the model code and accused him of trying to create a rift between communities in the name of religion. Tamil Nadu police registered a case under non-bailable sections. However, Hasan was granted an advance bail in the case and the trial is yet to commence.
Senior journalist Babu Jayakumar said the BJP’s confrontation with Kollywood is borne out of desperation due to the inability to get popular actors on their ranks.
“Given the umbilical cord between film and politics in the state, the BJP wants film stars in its ranks. But for the exception of Rajinikanth, no selling hero is willing to identify with the BJP. One reason is the popular mood in the state being anti-BJP and anti-Hindutva,” Jayakumar said.
“Going against the wind will affect the career of the actors. Further, the actors too have grown in a milieu and are not favourably disposed towards the saffron party. Hence, when they speak up, the BJP targets them including raking up their personal lives. Whether this would help the party grow is doubtful,” he said.