Popular Tamil film actor Kamal Haasan to enter politics

Movie star Kamal Haasan has indicated he will form his own political party and is looking to attract people from different walks of life.
Movie star Kamal Haasan has indicated he will form his own political party and is looking to attract people from different walks of life.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Kamal Haasan wants to fight corruption in Tamil Nadu

Mr Kamal Haasan remains a popular actor in Tamil cinema. The 62-year-old hit the big screen when he was just six years old and has since won multiple accolades and starred in more than 200 films.

Now, the star is hoping that some of that movie magic will rub off in the political arena.

The outspoken actor has announced that he is entering Tamil Nadu politics to fight corruption, intolerance and communalism.

He has indicated that he will form his own political party, much likeDelhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party, and is looking to attract people from different walks of life.

"I am thinking of fresh faces. Young people," he told NDTV news channel in an interview.

Mr Haasan, who has met a cross-section of political leaders, has asked major movie star Rajnikanth to join him in his latest endeavour. But Rajnikanth, whose popularity as a movie star is unrivalled in India, has not yet revealed his political plans.

Mr Haasan said: "I will take all the good I can garner from various parties. I am going around meeting people with experience. The road ahead is not easy for a rookie like me."

Tamil Nadu politics has been dominated by regional parties and movie stars-turned-politicians such as actor M. G. Ramachandran, popularly known as M.G.R, and Ms J. Jayalalithaa, the previous Tamil Nadu chief minister and leader of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), who died in December last year.

Her death has left a political vacuum which Mr Haasan, no doubt, is seeking to capitalise on in the next state elections in 2021.

But many have their doubts about whether he would be able to do so despite his appeal as an actor in a state that has long had a fascination with such politicians.

Dr Sandeep Shastri, a political scientist and pro-vice-chancellor of Jain University, said: "Undoubtedly, after the departure of Jaya, there seems to be a vacuum in Tamil Nadu politics. Different players are trying to see if they can play a role. In that context, his entry is interesting. But I am not too sure that, like in the past when film stars have been able to capture the public attention, Kamal Haasan fits the bill or has the stature.

"He seems to capture the imagination of the elite, but I'm not sure he would do that for the masses."

It is Rajnikanth, with his larger fan base, who has the mass appeal, added Dr Shastri.

Mr Haasan comes from a well-to-do Tamil Brahmin family. His father was a lawyer and his mother, a housewife. His elder brother Charuhasan and niece Suhasini Maniratnam are award-winning actors, while his daughter Shruti is an actress and singer.

During Mr Haasan's career, he was renowned for taking roles eschewed by other leading men. In the 1997 comedy Chachi 420, which he also directed, he played a man and a woman.

He also played the leading role of an unemployed man in 1987's Pushpaka Vimana, often referred to as the first full-length silent film in India. In 2008's Dasavathaaram (10 Reincarnations), he played 10 different roles including former United States president George W. Bush.

Mr Haasan has millions of followers on Twitter and his stint hosting reality television show Bigg Boss has contributed to his appeal, particularly among the youth.

He is known for his liberal views and his films often take on social issues affecting Tamil society, such as the rigid caste system.

Over the years, the divorcee, who has been married twice and has two children, Shruti and Akshara, has been quite vocal on issues facing the country. He recently called every department in the Tamil Nadu government corrupt.

And, unlike other actors, he has converted his fan clubs, consisting of more than 500,000 members in different parts of Tamil Nadu, into welfare organisations called Kamal Narpani Iyakkam, or Kamal Welfare Association.

The fan clubs take part in many social schemes such as organising blood drives and collecting funds for poor students.

For many of his fans, however, his entry into politics is a bittersweet announcement.

"Kamal will do good in politics. But if his cinema career comes to an end, that is disappointing. He is the only actor in Tamil cinema making good movies," said 22-year-old Vignesh Narayanan, a member of the Kamal Welfare Association.

"He shouldn't leave movies."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 14, 2017, with the headline 'Popular Tamil film actor to enter politics'. Print Edition | Subscribe