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!!!
The Koboi had been developing his look after the SUPERSTAR’s image in Kaala (to will be released worldwide on June 7th) for his performance at Courtyard Hiroo, Tokyo at 7 pm on 11th May 2018 I am a fan of Rajinikanth and, as such, I relish the simple pleasure of ‘being’ the Thalaiva. I am, however, also cognizant of the aesthetic and critical connotations of my play. What is the measure of similitude – how much ‘looking like’ does it take to ‘look like’ or signify another person or persona? What is the threshold of sufficiency? Is such similitude founded on ethnic, even ethnocentric, notions of identity? What is the inner dimension of such a representation? How does one actually form a meaningful image of another? When does homage become piracy? Is this a pastiche or a parody, and if it is a parody – what is it a parody of? What, is the difference between a popular and a fine art image in the contemporary taxonomy of the arts? Most poignantly and pertinently, Kaala may be the last of my easy and heartfelt appropriations of the SUPERSTAR’s image as, having launched into politics in Tamil Nadu, Rajinikanth has now placed himself in a different context of signification. Along with Thalaiva’s long-time colleague in the Movie business, and now political co-aspirant, Kamal Haasan, I fear that Rajinikanth’s avowed ‘spiritual politics’ will take on the pungent saffron hues of Hindutva (the Hindu Right)!.
As we eagerly await Kaala, Rajinikanth SUPERSTAR’s first movie after his entry into Tamil Nadu politics, it is pertinent to reflect on the messages embedded in this and his last release, Kabali. Both films are the directorial works of PA Rajinth, the rising Kollywood auteur of Dalit origins who has successfully presented critical social messages with mass commercial appeal. Rajinth is vocal on Dalit issues off the screen and here is an important document evidencing his rage and articulating his core message – TAMILS ARE DIVIDED BY CASTE … ADMIT IT! – It is a message that is steeped deep in Ambedker Blue and, incredulously, one that SUPERSTAR Rajinikanth seems to be taking upon his crisp new political mantle whose own native hue is allegedly a Hindutva Saffron.
As Rajinikanth fans anticipate the April 27th 2018 release of Kaala Karikaalan, the Koboi Project is glancing off the SUPERSTAR’s look for the movie. While as a fan, I relish the simple pleasure of ‘being’ the Thalaiva, as an artist, I am cognizant of the aesthetic and critical connotations of my play. Is this a pastiche or a parody, and if it is a parody – what is it a parody of? What is the measure of similitude, how much ‘looking like’ does it take to ‘look like’ or signify another person or persona? What is the threshold of sufficiency? Is such similitude founded on ethnic, even ethnocentric, notions of identity? What is the inner dimension of such a representation? Hoe does one actually form a meaningful image of another? When does homage become piracy? What, beyond context, is the difference between a popular and a fine art image in the contemporary taxonomy of the arts? Most poignantly and pertinently, Kaala may be the last of my easy and heartfelt appropriations of the SUPERSTAR’s image as, having launched his political party in Tamil Nadu, he is now on the cusp of announcing his manifesto. Along with Thalaiva’s long-time college in the Movie business, and now political co-aspirant, Kamal Haasan, I fear that Rajinikanth’s avowed ‘spiritual politics’ will take on the saffron hues of Hindutva.
As Rajinikanth invests his SUPERSTAR capital in the Tamil Nadu political arena, there is a lot of speculation about his future allegiances and alignments. For those, who like me lament the rise of Hindu Nationalism in Indian politics, the concern is that the waning post-independence secularism in Tamil Nadu politics will finally be dissolved in an alliance between our Thalaivar and Narendra Modhi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). In his speech announcing his entry into politics, Rajnikanth is reported to have said, “We have to create a spiritual politics with no caste and religion barrier. My cornerstones would be honesty, transparency, secularity and spiritual politics. Spiritual politics according to me means fair and just politics.” This statement seems wide open in its possible interpretations. Rajnikanth could indeed end up being , wittingly or otherwise, a Trojan Horse bearing Hindutva cadres into the hitherto atheistic milieu of Tamil Nadu politics. On the other hand, it is possible that his statement carries within it the promise of a new post-atheistic post-traditional polity – one that sets the Tamil peoples inherent sacral tendencies within a trans-communal and multi-religious ethos. It might seem be too much to ask of a mere movie star, but in the story of Tamil Nadu there have been no leaders as powerful as Annadurai, MGR, Karunanithi and Jayalalitha …..movie people all!