In cinema, unlike in real life, actors — big stars in particular — are spared the more boring parts of the job. As the crew runs around, putting up the lights, figuring out camera angles, setting the stage for his/her majesty to come and deliver the lines, a “stand-in” — usually a junior production assistant — takes the actor’s place. Sunny Deol, second-generation strongman and movie star, (on-screen) hand-pump enthusiast, and now BJP MP from Gurdaspur, has upset many people by applying this cinematic principle to his political responsibilities. Perhaps they are being a little unfair. After all, it seems it was Deol’s characters, rather than any political and administrative achievements, that formed the core of his campaign.
In an official letter, Deol has designated Gurpreet Singh — screenwriter of Yamla Pagla Deewana and a line producer — to “deal with all matters pertaining to my Parliamentary Constituency”. The Congress has taken issue with Deol appointing a stand-in, calling it a betrayal of Gurdaspur’s mandate. But Candidate Sunny, during the campaign, hardly presented himself as either an astute politician. He was unaware, for example, about the Balakot air strikes, BJP’s prime poll plank. Instead, Deol’s campaign featured a hand-pump, recalling his character in Gadar: Ek Prem Katha, and when he joined the BJP, then Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman made a reference to Border.
The problem, of course, is that being an MP carries with it an expectation of accountability, one that demands slightly more than a sunny disposition, dhai kilo ka haath and an enthusiastic line producer to do the actual work. Perhaps MP Deol ought to re-watch Ghatak, a film in which he is forced to fight the system (in a singlet, shouting loudly while flexing his muscles) because the government and politicians are simply absent. The actor needs to realise that politics and administration require more than a proxy. Patriotic nostalgia for a hand-pump will only take him so far.