His grandfather, former prime minister, H.D. Deve Gowda, was famous for catching 40 winks — but Kannada cinema’s latest flower, Nikhil Kumar, looks wide-awake in Jaguar, where he plays an anti-corruption crusader. Nikhil’s debut has audiences clapping hard — particularly in areas like Hassan and Chikkaballapur, where the pull of his grandfather and father, former Karnataka CM H.D. Kumaraswamy, is strong. The mix of starry and political appeal is a heady one — the All Karnataka Nikhil Kumaraswamy Fans Association threw a joyful “Jaguar rally” in Bengaluru, droves proceeding from a temple to a theatre when the film released.
La dolce vita, you could say, life is sweet for such stars who look poised to enter the family business, politics, with a flick of glamorous wrists, a heart-stopping scowl, a memorable growl of mouthy dialogues. The path from silver screen to ballot box is crammed with cross-overs. From the legendary NTR and MGR to Jayalalithaa, Chiranjeevi, Shatrughan Sinha, Raj Babbar, even Babul Supriyo, umpteen artists used their filmi fame to enter power corridors, often encouraging younger relatives to delight tinsel town, keeping the fans cheering until polling day.
But like all dramatic kahaanis, this one has a twist. Film artists from political families are swearing off politics, instead promising, with filmi flourish, that cinema’s their only pyaar. Udhayanidhi, grandson of DMK supremo M. Karunanidhi (himself a script-writer) and son of M.K. Stalin (no grumpy Stalinist when he acted in a TV serial, aired on cousin Kalanithi Maran’s TV network) claims he has zero political ambitions. Udhayanidhi says he’s happy just acting. Plus, producing and distributing films, Udhayanidhi’s company a Tamil cinema giant, its fingers in every filmi idli and pie. Interestingly, Udhayanidhi plays cutesie boys, not angry young men. But why be angry when you can be starry and stay that way, skipping the hurly-burly of rallies, but enjoying influence and applause anyway? As Riteish, Bollywood actor, and son of late Maharashtra CM Vilasrao Deshmukh, might say, this is grand masti too.