Among other things that distinguish the 15th General elections in India from its preceding/foregoing ones, has been a relatively more use of film icons in politics. Politics has tried to outsource glitz and glamour from the movie industry. The whole of film industry (leaving a very few) has shown its amazing magnanimity and willingness in extending support to politics. Some have contested elections, some are used in campaigning and the voices of the rest are heard in the process of creating awareness among electors to 'not-to-forget to exercise their franchise.'
Reel personalities like Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan, John Abraham, Kamal Haasan, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Anurag Kashyap, Shriya Sharan, Shruti Haasan, Karan Johar and Sushmita Sen are prominent among those who have joined the process of urging people to vote. Among the leading campaigners or to say the crowd pullers have been Sanjay Dutt, Salman Khan, Paresh Rawal, Hemamalini ,Jaya Prada, Rubina Tandon and Sunil Setty etc. from Hindi film industry; whereas in the South, the icons like Rajasekhar, Jeevitha, Balakrishnan, Naga Babu, Pawan Kalyan, NTR Junior, Taraka Ram were instrumental in this popular fest. Bollywood actor Salman Khan had wooed voters for Congress nominee Anu Tandon in the Unnao constituency of Uttar Pradesh, whereas, the veteran actors such as Paresh Rawal was used in campaign rallies in Gujarat. Even Ollywood (Orissa filmdom) was not an exception to this trend. Though it was confined to some pockets in Orissa but it gave the people a chance to see their cine stars from close quarters and to hear them off the scene. Famous Bengali-Oriya star Rachana Benarjee was among the start campaigners for Congress in Berhampur, whereas, Rubeena Tandon and Sunil Setty came for Jitu Pattnaik to campaign in Joda. The younger generation of Oriya film fraternity had laid their support behind Sidhhanta ' the leading Oriya hero.
In the category of 'film starts as candidates' comes the prominent figures like Shabana Azmi, Satrughan Sinha, Vinod Khana, Dharmendra, Govinda, film maker Prakash Jha. From South Vijaykant and Chiranjeevi were the prominent figures besides Jayalalitha. In Orissa veteran actor like Prasanta Nanda has come successful in winning an Assembly seat, whereas, Sidhhanta has own the Lok-Sabha seat from Berhampur.
The 15th General Election was thus a star studded show despite the fact that film stars have tended to become laughing stock of public when they were making false promises to uplift the downtrodden. They seem to have earned more disaffection from public however; it's a fact that almost all political parties- both National and Regional have utilized their popularity for the purpose of attracting huge crowds during election rallies.
When it is clear that political parties have a purpose in eliciting the support of film celebrities but one wonders the purpose behind the film starts in supporting or promoting politics. Though there is no constitutional bar for them in joining politics but it surprises many to find a substantial reason. It seems most of the movie starts like cricket 20-20 business have perhaps envisage politics as a lucrative business. Few would agree that stars of 'reel' jump into' real' situations solely driven by the desire to serve the people. Some regard it in the pretext of trying luck in politics when they are excelling in the cine industry. In some cases it could be out of pressure and fear of threat one joins politics. For some, it may be a seer opportunism to exploit the love of the people who believe in their super natural qualities for the furtherance of their power, glory and glamour.
This excessive reliance on cine glamour has exposed the weakness of our democracy. Political parties seem to have depended more on these politically immature stars than the professional political workers. A celebrity is given a party ticket more easily overlooking a strong party contender for that. It has also brought to light the bankruptcy of our political parties in terms of their commitment, policies and performance.
It does not mean that cine starts can not be successful politicians. However, the success stories in the Hindi film industry can not surpass that of the South. Among the successful ones from North are Shabana Azmi , Sunil Dutt, Vinod Khanna, Satrughan Sinha and Raj Babbar. They could able to win goodwill of their people. Though Hindi megastars like Amitabh Bachchan, Rajesh Khanna and Dev Anand once jumped into the arena of politics but they could not register success like that of their Southern counterparts. M.G. Ramachandran, N.T. Rama Rao, J. Jayalalithaa and M. Karunanidhi have established themselves as matured politicians. Tamil Nadu has produced five chief ministers in a row connected with films - C.N. Annadurai, Karunanidhi, MGR, Janaki Ramachandran and Jayalalithaa. NTR has remained still as a much acclaimed leader in Andhra Pradesh politics. Once entering politics they had never looked back. MGR and NTR had strived hard to match their screen images before their respective public. In contrast to their Hindi counterparts they had established their own political parties and continued in keeping leadership in their hands. According to some, that may be a reason behind their success besides the culture of 'film as religion' there.
Despite this negative trend in Indian politics one can also find the evidences of maturity of Indian electors if one goes by the outcome of the last concluded General Elections in India recently. Even in South, film stars have not achieved spectacular success. Praja Rajyam has suffered miserable defeat in Andhra Pradesh and in many parts, cine star turned politicians have suffered defeat in the elections. This has proved without an iota of doubt that people have gradually got to understand that cine stars are stars in 'reel' not the 'real' ones.
Dr. Anil K. Mohapatra is Head, Dept. of Political Science, Government Women's College,
Jeypore, Dist.- Koraput(Orissa)-764004, INDIA