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 boss is back and his colour is Black but it seems a to be a Black tinted with strong hues of Blue. The eagerly awaited trailer for Kaala is out and for me, and most of the 10 million other early viewers, the thrill ain’t gone! SUPERSTAR adulation aside however, there has been a lot of talk about Rajinikanth’s colour in the context of his recent entry into Tamil Nadu politics. The concern has been, as his friend and rival in life, art and now in politics, Kamal Haasan, has put it, that Rajinikanth’s hue is Saffron. Saffron is the colour of the Hindu nationalist (Hindutva) politics of India’s ruling BJP, with whose values Rajinikanth has shown some affinities.
In my own view the equation of nation state with religion, that Hindutva represents, is a tragic and disastrous misunderstanding and misuse of both religion and nation. Nevertheless, there is still hope that Rajinikanth is not on the Hindutva page and that his colour may not be saffron after all! Kaala is the followup to Rajni Sir’s earlier collaboration with activist director PA Rajinth. Rajinth is a ground breaking mainstream Kollywood director who is of Dalit origins, and who brings Dalit issues to the central forum of contemporary Indian cultural life. In their previous collaboration, Kabali, this dark duo addressed the caste issue both with external references and reflexive dialogue that deconstructs character roles in Tamil cinema.
In the Kaala trailer Black is presented as the colour of class resistance, but the colour of our hero’s the Mumbai ghetto is clearly blue. Blue is the dominant roof colour in an ariel shot of the ghetto. As observed in an Indiaglitz.com commentary, it is also the colour of the hero’s ghetto flag, the colour of co-star Huma Qureshi’s dress, and also of the drapery that surrounds her in a dance sequence. Blue is the colour associated with the great Indian and Dalit leader B R Ambedkar, who always wore blue suits. Indeed, Blue is the colour of Buddhism and, symbolically speaking, the opposite of the aforementioned Saffron. Blue has become the colour of the Dalit resistance that Ambedkar set into motion at the time of Indian independence. While it must be noted that the hero’s own spouse (one presumes) is seen dressed in a saffron saree, one is not unjustified in hopefully speculating that Rajinikanth’s Black is, indeed, just the darkest shade of Blue.