On Monday, Tamil superstar Rajinikanth announced pack-up for his political dreams. He wound up Rajini Makkal Mandram, the political platform he had floated to win the 2021 assembly elections. Hereafter, only the Rasikar Mandram (fan club) will continue though the fans have aged.
Ages ago, Muthu, a character played by Rajinikanth, said: “Naan eppo varuven, eppadi varuvenennu yarukkum theriyathu. Aana vara vendiya nerathile correcta varuven (No one can tell when or how I’ll arrive — but I always do, when the time is right)”. For someone whose screen persona always exuded confidence and decisiveness, Rajini’s diffidence about his political entry has been surprising. Since the 1990s, all of Tamil Nadu has waited with bated breath for the superstar to take the plunge. Each time when expectations skyrocketed, he shied away. Much water has flowed through the Cauvery over the years. The two larger-than-life figures who dominated the skyline of Tamil politics, M Karunanidhi and J Jayalalithaa, departed in the last five years. That’s when the buzz around Rajinikanth restarted. In the 1970s, M G Ramachandran had used his fan base to launch the AIADMK. Like MGR, Rajini was to play out the screen persona of the decisive, convincing hero who stood with the poor, oppressed and the working class in the electoral arena. But times had changed and soon Rajini realised that history could repeat as a farce. He read the pandemic as a sign to retreat. The rigours of politics may have been too tiring for an aching body and confused mind. Just ahead of the assembly polls, Rajini announced that he was no longer in the contest. The decks were cleared for DMK chief M K Stalin to win office.
The climax may disappoint the fan, with the superstar forced to quit the scene with a bruised ego. There is, however, a lesson for artists aspiring for public office: Politics is a tough grind and cinema is no stairway to success.