Kamal Haasan’s party Makkal Needhi Maiyam (MNM) is all set to contest from all the 39 seats in Tamil Nadu and the party leadership is pretty excited with the Battery Torch symbol allotted to it. “So appropriate. We will endeavour to be the Torch-Bearer for a new era in TN and Indian politics,” Kamal Haasan said in a recent tweet. So far so good.
Kamal Haasan is a great communicator on screen: a vibrant screen presence, talented, multi-faceted, more than five decades in films, and over 200 films under his belt. He was award-winning from the word Go. READ IN MALAYALAM
Compared to his screen entry and impact, his political journey so far has been muted. When he communicates off screen with his voters, he normally ties himself up in knots, trying to explain simple issues in a more complex manner. His audience is amused at times and at times baffled. On Twitter, with more than five million followers, he calls himself a ‘neo-polityculturist’, putting the likes of Shashi Tharoor to shame.
But the Tamil film viewer is aware of this trait in Kamal and excuses him. He/She watches him like an indulgent parent or considers Kamal an intellectual when his explanations really go over their head. Kamal is given a long rope in Tamil Nadu out of love for the man and the actor that he is.
But in politics, such long-winded, complex argumentation is severely punished. Voters have a different yardstick to rate their favourite stars and the parties they vote for. In Tamil Nadu, where rhetoric and political communication has been fine-tuned over the years, Kamal Haasan is an odd man out. One also has to understand that the Tamil voter is also overexposed to film stars-turned-politicians.
Kamal Haasan tries to go with the flow. At times he exhibits a compelling need to identify with the atheistic and Dravidian political ethos of the state, which can be jarring to a young audience looking for a change. However, for the 2019 polls, he has kept away from both the DMK and the AIADMK.
He has not been keeping quiet on the political front. He has met with Rahul Gandhi twice and later said something to the effect that if the Congress were to ally with his party, he would be happy. The Congress was certainly not keen to leave a trusted ally like the DMK, and now the DMK is sore with him for even having the gall to say such a thing.
His Makkal Needhi Maiyam is seen as an also-ran in the cash-for-votes driven political scenario, and given the huge spend on elections; the norm now in Tamil Nadu. His party is seen as middle-class and with those who might not want to muddy their hands, while politics and electioneering in Tamil Nadu is quite muddy. His party feels like AAP of the earlier days, without the strident activism. None of the regular political big-wigs or time-servers have joined his party, keeping it pure no doubt, but leaving it without allies.
Analysts say that for the 2019 parliament elections, his party might have a minimal impact unless Kamal Haasan contests from one of the seats. Then that seat per se might become a point of interest and nothing more.
Kamal watchers say the political bravado apart, he is realistic about his strengths and weaknesses and uses his time and resources in a fairly strategic manner.
Kamal Haasan in the film world was known for his search for meaningful cinema and for braving the Tamil filmdom to make some such movies. He was certainly known as an innovator in film making. And in politics too he might be an innovator, only that 2019 is too early. He is a dogged fighter and one who will not let go easily.
A small section of the voters also feel that he is trying to communicate something different, but there is really no time to build on it.