Packaging has brought actors to politics
Throw a stone at an election rally and the chances are that it'll hit a star. It all started, of course, in the South, when it was just a hop away from the studio sets to the rally ground. N.T. Rama Rao (NTR), M.G. Ramachandran (MGR) and J. Jayalalitha had all been matinee idols who came real good at the political box office. The trend picked up in the north with screensavers like Vinod and Rajesh Khanna, Raj Babbar and Shatrughan Sinha making the political grade. Cinematic worthies — or 'thespians' - like Dilip Kumar, Nargis and Shabana Azmi found berths in the more rarified quarters of the Rajya Sabha.
So what is it that have made stars and starlets throng to party offices this year? What has made Bhupen Hazarika or Kumar Sanu or Bappi Lahiri strike up a song for a party? Why is Bengal suddenly being given a choice of Nafisa Ali, Mousumi Chatterjee, Moonmoon Sen — all known more for their glam-points rather than their political ideologies?
The answer lies in packaging. Having a Rajnikanth or a Vyjanthimala Bali, a Govinda or a Sunil Dutt, a Jeetendra or a Dharmendra, a Hema Malini or a Poonam Dhillon on board can't harm a party. If anything, it can get the crowds to swarm in. Hopefully, some of the 'feel good' of the Beautiful People could also rub off on to the 'incidental' matter of politics.
But some notable crowd-pullers have been political duds: Amitabh Bachchan and Raj Kumar (of the kidnapped-by-Veerappan fame), to name just a few. Campaigning seems to be the preferred mode of entry for stars, who see it as a halfway house between living the celeb-life and diving into the choppy sea of politics. TV stars doing their song and dance started with the Ramanand Sagar Ramayana brigade — Arun Govil (Rama), ironically, campaigning for the Congress. Mahabharat's one-time MP Nitish Bhardwaj (Krishna) has joined the fray with Smriti Irani (Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi) waiting in line.
So who goes home with the electoral Oscar? That'll depend on how the real actors, politicians without a 'day job', perform on the big stage.