The Annaatthe official trailer is out and it is clear that the avenging aspect of Rajinikanth’s persona is modeled on the fierce Grama Deivam or village deity of non-Brahmanical rural Dravidian theism. In the trailer, as the Superstar threateningly vows to sacrifice his foe to his deity, he is shown in prayer before an icon of Madurai Veera Saamy. Madurai Veeran or Hero of Madurai is said to have been a warrior of low caste who was appointed to high military office in the Pandian empire and then and executed by dismemberment on the order the King in an honour killing for transgressing caste boundaries in his lovemaking. Following this, both Madurai Veeran’s faithful wife and his high caste lover committed suicide. To pacify the spirits of Madurai Veeran and his consorts, the King deified him in a shrine built on the grounds of the great Meenakshi Amman temple.
After a meeting of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet, Home Minister Amit Shah announced the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution ending the special status and relative autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir and the division of the territory into two. While his friend and fellow traveller in movie stardom and in politics, Kamal Haasan has criticized this BJP policy as an assault on democracy, Rajinikanth has, sadly, approved. Taking the spiritual allegory of the Mahabharata, quite literal, to the contemporary battlefield, the fledgling politician is reported to have said that Modi and Amit Shah were like Krishna and Arjuna.
In my own view, this is an epic political fail for Thalaiva. I was, from some of his earlier pronouncements on religious and cast politics, envisioning a more humanistic and inclusive application of the traditional Hindu ethos in contemporary Indian Politics. Indeed Rajinikanth should be wary that he does not become a ‘wooden’ politician, particularly in the sense of becoming the Trojan horse that secrets BJP’s RSS/Arya Samaj saffron remix into the black atheist heart of the Dravida polity. Such an autocratic gesture from this second term Hindutva government bodes ill for the diversity that has characterized Indian politics since independence in 1947.
As far as Thalaiva’s entry into Tamil Nadu politics is concerned, I had hopes that Thalaiva would usher in a fresh spiritually motivated universalism to the tired atheist and ethnocentric Dravidianism that has shaped the modern state. I regret to note that, as his star glows with an increasingly saffron hue, my hope of Thalaiva becoming an exemplary post-traditional politician is fast reducing to just another fan-boy’s fantasy! Come on La … Thalaiva!!!