Just what India needs most - another political party!
Kamal Haasan, one of the biggest stars of Tamil cinema, has this evening lived up to his pledge to launch his own party. The inaugural rally in Madurai - the Tamil spiritual and cultural heartland - has been broadcast live on the TV news channels.
The name of the new party was only unveiled an hour or two before the launch. It is, of course, in Tamil: Makkal Needhi Maiam - which translates as Centre for People's Justice.
The new party's logo is six hands forming a circle around a hexagon - (that central symbol is what many would regard as the Star of David though in India it is widely used and isn't generally seen as a Jewish symbol).
Kamal Haasan's name might suggest that he's a Muslim. Not so! He was born into a Tamil Brahmin (so high-caste Hindu) family. He's seen as progressive in politics, and has been critical of India's ruling party, the BJP. Though he insists he's centre (hence its inclusion in the name), not left or right.
Haasan is 63, His breakthrough role came in 'Apoorva Raagangal' in 1975, in which he played a rebellious young man who falls in love with an older woman. That movie also saw the debut of Rajnikanth, the only Tamil actor with a bigger following than Haasan.
Rajnikanth too is about to launch, yes, his own political party. The verbal punch-up that is likely to follow could make 'Gunfight at the OK Corral' look like an elegy to friendship.
Some of the posters promoting the launch show a young Kamal Haasan being garlanded by MGR (M.G. Ramachandran), by far the most commanding figure in Tamil movies who also gave birth to the peculiarly South Indian tradition of the star-turned-top-politician. The slogan translates as: Tomorrow is Ours - the name of one of MGR's most successful movies.
This is a touch cheeky. The late MGR was the leader of the AIADMK, which remains the ruling party. Haasan says he's going into politics because the AIADMK is so inept and corrupt,
Will Kamal Haasan make his mark in politics? Well, Tamil Nadu became a state under that name in 1969. Since then MGR, his widow Janaki and his lover Jayalalithaa have all become chief ministers - and all were actors. In the rival DMK, M. Karunanidhi came to prominence as a screenwriter in Tamil cinema.
In the past half century, the periods (such as now) when someone not connected with movies has served as chief minister have been brief. So, put it this way - either Haasan will get to the top, or his friend and nemesis Rajnikanth will.
Tamil politics can't be without star quality for long.
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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