- Tamil Nadu seems to be getting ready to welcome more star power.
- Rajinikanth's fans are perfectly ready for him to join politics.
- His own statements, made during a fan meet, certainly seem to hint at a political future.
- But will the 'Thalaivar' do an encore like MGR, or will it all vanish like smoke from his famous cigarettes?
Q: Will Rajinikanth join politics? A: Politics may join Rajinikanth.
This could have been one of the many jokes that the actor's name and reputation of a strongman have spawned in the last few years. But perhaps it isn't.
Tamil Nadu is abuzz with speculation that the veteran actor has decided to throw his hat into the political ring. Rumours quickly began to sweep that he would soon meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Such rumours have been denied by the BJP. If he does join politics, as he hinted recently, Tamil Nadu politics may see a new alignment.
Frenzied fans who had gathered for a meeting with their hero last week erupted in joy when Rajini asked them to prepare for "war", taking it as a signal that he would join politics.
Known for its galaxy of actor-turned-politicians, Tamil Nadu seems to be getting ready to welcome more star power. And Rajinikanth's hold over cinema and fans is legion, with his July 2016 film Kabali earning around Rs 650 crore.
His remarks are also well-timed, coming in the midst of a political vacuum created by the death of J Jayalalithaa and the absence in the public domain of the ailing nonagenarian DMK supremo M Karunanidhi. Rajini's fans believe their 'Thalaivar' or leader can fill that void.
Known for his crisp punchlines and inimitable dialogue delivery style, Rajinikanth delivered at the meet what could virtually be a box office hit in real life, with a spate of statements on politics. He also asserting his Tamil identity, the bedrock of Dravidian politics.
With his loaded statement on Monday that he had no political ambitions but would nevertheless show the door to all "money-minded people" if he did make the plunge, the actor seems to have touched a chord with the common man on corruption.
The system was "rotten", he said, despite the presence of "efficient" leaders such as the DMK's M K Stalin and the PMK's Anbumani Ramadoss. "When war comes they will come to the rescue of their motherland. I have a profession, work, duty and so do you. Go to your places, do your duty, take care of your vocation. Let us face the war when it comes," he roared, sending his fans into a frenzy.
And when the actor, who enjoys a demi-God status among his fans, brought up the sensitive topic of his linguistic identity, he more or less sounded the war bugle. A man of Marathi roots originally from Karnataka, Rajinikanth proclaimed himself as a true-blue Tamilian.
"Even though I am from Karnataka, still you have accepted me and you have made me into a Tamilian. I am a pure Tamil now."
"Naan pachai Tamizhan (I am a pure Tamil)... If you ask me to get out and throw me away, I will land only in the Himalayas and not in any other state," he said.
"I am 67 years old. For 23 years I was in Karnataka and 44 in Tamil Nadu. I grew up with you. I may have come here as a Kannadiga or Marathi from Karnataka but you gave me love, support, name, fame and prosperity and you have made me a Tamil," he said amidst loud cheers.
The actor's roots often come to the fore in political discussions when the rivalry between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu peaks, such as during the dispute over the Cauvery River, which often divides the people of the two states.
Rajini fans are eagerly waiting to see if their 'Thalaivar' will do an encore like MGR. Or like the cigarette that he flicks in the air in a trademark style, the frenzied talk will just end up in smoke.
Last Updated 31, Mar 2018, 6:36 PM IST