Big-screen politics

ANOTHER great South Indian potboiler, a heady mix of movies and politics is out, and it stars Chiranjeevi, the 'Mr Jellyhips' of Telugu cinema. While Bollywood has failed to deliver enduring hit heroes with this formula, the south simply sizzles on this front.

Published: Sat 30 Aug 2008, 9:56 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 3:55 PM

In the late '70s and '80s, there was M. G. Ramachandran, or MGR, who strode the Tamil silver screen like a colossus and made a convenient switch to politics. Originally from Kerala, MGR held sway over Tamil Nadu politics like none other before him as chief minister. Popular actress Jayalalitha also became chief minister of the state.

The other big success from the south was N T Rama Rao from Chiranjeevi's own state Andhra Pradesh who went on to become chief minister in the 80s after enjoying cult status as a movie star. NTR, as he was known to his legion of fans became chief minister in a mere six months, riding on the so-called Telugu pride. However, other stars like Prem Nazir from Kerala and Sivaji Ganesan and Rajinikant from Tamil Nadu failed to convert their silver screen magic into votes. But that has not deterred the bleary-eyed Chiranjeevi and other action stars like Vijaykanth. A shot at political stardom in the twilight of their careers does not seem a bad idea after years of nurturing their fan clubs comprising front-benchers with wads of cash and social service thrown in for good measure. Blockbusters are fast drying up in the digital age, so it's best to get back to the starting blocks for the votes, it seems. Chiranjeevi, for his part, has named his party 'Praja Rajyam', which means people's power. Like many of his movies, he kept the suspense going for about six months before the launch of his party at a temple town. If MGR's was a social revolution of sorts in politics, NTR's could be called a self-respect movement. Bereft of issues in a fast-changing society, Chiranjeevi is banking on an emotional uprising in his state with some help from his Kapu community. He may have won the battle of the eyeballs for the moment. But the next six months will be crucial for the 'megastar' as Andhra Pradesh heads to assembly elections, and the country to general elections. For starters, he will have to strike flexible electoral alliances to keep the momentum going. Else, the ballot could well bite.

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