None can deny that Rajnikanth and Kamal Haasan are super stars of Tamil cinema and their names will prominently figure in the annals of Kollywood history. But after Jayalalitha's demise, the political turmoil in TN has given a new hope to both these super stars who have reached the zenith of their film career. Rajni has refused to move over to character-based roles like Amitabh and is stuck in a time warp from which he doesn't wish to move. So it appears. This is disappointing because Rajni's earlier films like "Bhuvana Oru Kelvikuri", " Arilinrundhu Arubathu Varai" and "Mullum Malarum" showed a sensitive side of Rajini that has never been exploited in recent times. The commercial formula that made Rajini a super star has sadly devoured Rajni the actor.
After steadfastly refusing to enter politics for so many years, suddenly Rajini seems to be adapting a different stance. As with all other film stars, politics becomes their next destination once their film career shows clear signs of a downward slide. Now suddenly Rajini wants to be accountable to the citizens of Tamil Nadu. The moment he made an announcement there was euphoria among his fans who are known to get hysterical whenever a new movie of Rajini releases.
However all the euphoria of the fans is for Rajini the super star and not Rajini - the budding politician. The image of the star and the politician are intricately blended with one another. Yes, it is certainly possible that Rajini can replicate the success of MGR. But there are so many differences between the two. MGR's success was unprecedented and most of his movies carried a social message that the masses in TN believed in. So, MGR's screen persona easily blended with his political persona. MGR understood the pulse of the masses. He was politically connected. He was a shrewd and astutute politician who was able to convert his fan following into a massive voter base. He also never flinched from spending money to appeal to his voters because he believed the expenditure to be an investment. Sivaji Ganesan could only dream of such a success. The thespian and actor-par-excellence in Tamil cinema had to eat humble pie when it came to his political hustings.
Also, unlike Rajini, MGR did not enter politics after his semi-retirement from films. In fact it was the other way around. Since he became so busy, MGR had to give up his film career. His swan song was - " Maduraiyai Meetta Sundarapandian". Rajini too has given meaningful social messages in his movies but most of his movies are known for the glamour quotient. There may be a few exceptions when Rajini delivered a punch line that created mass hysteria. But that was about it. Even if there was a social message in his movies, it was more subtle and not exaggerated like it was in MGR movies.
Rajini's social service is known but in no way can this be compared to MGR's benevolent generosity. The "right-price" shops that Rajini started shut shop soon. His marriage hall is only available to the affluent. One fails to recall any innovative scheme that Rajini managed to launch on his own steam using his massive fan base.
Thus, though MGR and Rajini -both of them are superstars in their own right, the circumstances of their political entry are vastly different. Kamal Haasan seeks money from his fans and one is not sure how many of his fans will actually open their purse strings to support their idol in his political efforts.
As a co-passenger in a train remarked to me once, " Why are tamilians voting for leaders after watching movies?". I had no answer to that. Due to the infighting among political heavy weights, opportunities open doors for film stars turned political aspirants. But not all of them can replicate the success of MGR and Jayalalitha. The list of film stars who had to bite the dust in politics is so long - Vennira adai Nirmala, Karthik Muthuraman, S V Sekar, Sivaji Ganesan, Sarath Kumar, Vijaykanth, AVM Rajan, SS Rajendran etc etc.
But Rajini is a shrewd man. He has announced his decision much ahead of the elections. Or may be as some quarters in the press have remarked, he might be expecting a mid-term poll in TN. Whatever be the future, Rajini has to work hard and deliver his promises to the TN voters. There can be retakes in cinema but no such option in politics.