The relationship between Tamil cinema and politics in the state have always been unique. From SS Rajendran to Kamal Haasan, the industry has given several political stalwarts who have used their onscreen image to great use in the political arena. The latest addition to this list is actor Vishal, who announced on Saturday that he would contest the RK Nagar by-poll elections. With his own anthem to boot, it wasn’t surprising that Kollywood’s angry young man chose this opportunity to step onto the political stage.
The markings have always been there and they follow a pattern. The Puratchi Thalapathy has never shied away from being vocal about the gaps he felt existed in any organisation and the solution he offers is a change from the existing bureaucracy. His electoral promises during the Producer council elections had two major items, transparency and change. The promise had been part of his manifesto during the much-talked 2015 Nadigar Sangam elections. With two years of sustained questioning, the Puratchi Thalapathi’s suggestions had shed the ‘under the leadership of Sarathkumar’ (the then president) tag to ‘By the Pandavar Ani (a moniker for the opposition)’ at a remarkable pace. Also, if one can remember, Vishal was the leading face of Pandavar Ani, even though it was Nasser who ran for the post of President. It is not every day that a producer who started bankrolling films in 2013, gets to be the President of the council so soon.
The motif continues in terms of his political advent as well. If there is a checklist we can compile for a transition into politics, it seems to be complete for Vishal. First of all, he is back on Twitter (The actor had deactivated his Twitter account after the Jallikattu backlash). He has been incredibly vocal in terms of topics that hogged the prime airtime in Tamil Nadu: GST, LBET (Local Body Entertainment Tax), NEET or loan sharks in Kollywood. His team had a hand in relief activities during the various spells of rains that Chennai endured, adding the ‘socially responsible’ tag to his cap. And the Tamilian identity is also in place: he recently contributed to having a Tamil chair in Harvard.
But what Vishal needs to do is to create a sense of confidence that he is serious about his political stint. Unlike Kamal Haasan who has said he would float a party which could be taken as an indication of being politically active in the long haul, Vishal’s plunge is smart. With a divided ruling party and an opposition that hasn’t quite risen to the occasion, it could be the perfect situation to test the waters for someone new and also emerge unscathed if it takes a turn for the worse. He could always say that he delved in due to the turmoil in leadership and is happy to stay away in the presence of good governance. Will his experiment work? Only time will tell.