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Song and dance on MGR legacy

Dance groups are an integral part of campaigning as crowd has to be kept engaged till the leader's arrival, reports GC Shekhar.

india Updated: May 02, 2006 12:43 IST
GC Shekhar

An hour before Jayalalithaa's campaign van arrives, AIADMK supporters cheer and whistle at "MGR" and his leading lady gallivanting on the stage as the sound system belts out an old MGR hit.

Dressed gaudily, the hero mimics MGR's dance steps and body language. The song over, a fat guy descends and croons another MGR hit, "Naan Anayittal (If I command no poor soul will ever shed tears)." The pitch is set.

After Jayalalithaa makes her speech and departs, an AIADMK official pays the dance troupe - Paavalar Kalai Kuzhu. Team leader Andandan calls it a day, packs up and consults his dairy. The pages are crammed with bookings up to the first week of May, when the campaign ends.

"Election is our busiest schedule. At times, we perform even three times a day if the organizers provide transport. Otherwise, we travel mostly by bus," says Anandan, whose troupe comes all the way from Pattukottai in Thanjavur district and charges Rs 15,000 for a threehour show.

The repertoire is stock. The members in snazzy costumes and heavy make-up gyrate to film songs.

The women are dressed seductively, but take care not to appear obscene. The "conservative" villagers frown upon show of flesh. At AIADMK meetings, MGR songs are hits, while at DMK meetings they dance to nonMGR film songs.

Adjustments are made for turncoats. "We had to delete a Simran number at DMK meetings after she joined the AIADMK. Thankfully, we can perform Bhagryaraj songs now that he is with the DMK," said Rajni Dharma, whose troupe is a regular in South Tamil Nadu circuit.

"We have no party affiliations and do not even display party symbols during our shows. Our job is to entertain not campaign," Dharma says.

An AIADMK functionary says these dance groups have become an integral part of the poll campaign as the crowd, comprising a sizeable number of rural voters, has to be kept engaged till the arrival of the leader.

"In the theatres, these people visit the loos during the song and dance sequences. But here, they stay glued to their seats to ogle at the women dancers," says a villager.