Rajinikanth and politics: A roar of ‘now or never’ that ended in a whimper

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April 1, 2021 6:29 PM

However, within months, he seemed to have a change of heart and categorically announced floating a party in January 2021.

But ever since it was a guessing game, occasional punch dialogues in films, an assertive statement in 2017 and a 2020 marked with flip-flops which culminated with the actor finally saying a big no to politics, citing his frail health.But ever since it was a guessing game, occasional punch dialogues in films, an assertive statement in 2017 and a 2020 marked with flip-flops which culminated with the actor finally saying a big no to politics, citing his frail health.

When he thundered in 1996 that “even God cannot save” Tamil Nadu if the then Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa won a successive term in elections, many saw it as Rajinikanth’s prelude to the political entry of the uncrowned king of Tamil cinema known for his sureshot hits. For, cinema to politics transition was nothing new in Tamil Nadu as former chief ministers–CN Annadurai, M Karunanidhi, M G Ramachandran and Jayalalithaa had successful cinema stints before blending with politics to lead the state. But ever since it was a guessing game, occasional punch dialogues in films, an assertive statement in 2017 and a 2020 marked with flip-flops which culminated with the actor finally saying a big no to politics, citing his frail health.

Named for India’s highest cinema honour, the Dada Saheb Phalke Award on Thursday for the year 2019, Rajinikanth’s larger than image life in screen, his mega hits that raked in the moolah and finally a frenzied fan base that often hailed him as ‘Thalaiva’ (Leader) turned him into a colossal figure in the celluloid world. But his roar of “now or never” in politics last year ended with a whimper in the same when he finally said he would not take the political plunge owing to his frail health.

This, after a 2017 assertion that he would launch a political party and fight from all 234 assembly seats in the 2021 elections in Tamil Nadu which enthused his die hard fans who had been awaiting an announcement that their ‘Thalaiva’ who beat up evil men on screen black and blue was now ready to clean up the ‘system’ with his political avatar. However, their joy was to be short-lived when in March 2020, he announced in a press conference that he never desired to be Chief Minister and that he would enter politics when he saw an upsurge among the people yearning for a change ushering in clean politics, prompting intense debates of “will he or won’t he.”

However, within months, he seemed to have a change of heart and categorically announced floating a party in January 2021. He even named two seasoned politicians, Tamilaruvi Manian and Arjuna Moorthy, to see through the birth of his outfit ahead of the elections this year, now slated for April 6. This was the best time to take the shot, he had said with a catchy Tamil phrase “ippo illana eppovum illa,” meaning if not now then never. With the spirited fans once again rallying behind the veteran, Rajinikanth made another u-turn in December, when he said he will not enter politics in view of his frail health, putting an end to his long-nurtured plans and describing his then hospitalisation as a God’s warning. “Only I know the pain behind making this announcement,” the 70-year old actor then said, days before he was to spell out the contours of his party based on spiritual politics aimed at bringing a total change in the Dravidian heartland Tamil Nadu in the 2021 assembly elections. His announcement came as a shock to many, with Manian quitting politics and Moorthy later floating his own outfit. Many members of his Rajini Makkal Mandram, seen as a precursor to the possible political party, quit it and joined other organisations in the poll year.

Politics apart, Rajinikanth has been a winning horse on whom producers had always loved to place the bet, whether in the 80s, 90s or even now, as he is busy shooting for his upcoming film ‘Annathe’, produced by Sun Pictures, in the lead role. He has featured in some of the biggest blockbusters and runaway hits of Tamil cinema including ‘Baasha’, ‘Annamalai’, ‘Padayappa’, ‘Enthiran’, ‘Muthu’, ‘Billa’, ‘Murattu Kaalai’, ‘Enthiran’, ‘Uzhaippali’, ‘Thalapathi’, ‘Chandramukhi’ and ‘Thillu Mullu’ in his over four-decade career where he started with roles with shades of grey. While he portrayed action hero roles in most of his films, including the last ‘Petta’, he also did more demanding characters, like enacting the titular role in ‘Sri Ragavendrar’, besides acting in others like ‘Mullum Malarum’, ‘Aarilirundu Arubathuvarai’.

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