Kerala has been buzzing with the news of Mollywood superstar Mohanlal joining BJP. Not a big deal otherwise considering that another star Suresh Gopi has already made a similar journey and many other movie stars have become MLAs and MPs after joining other political parties. But what assumes significance is the timing of this news.
Political parties have been roping in people of fame from all spheres of life into their ranks for a long time. But initially, after Independence, this was not the case. There was a separate mainstream political class that used to leverage the reach of famous personalities among people for their needs. It was exactly similar to the way they used to manipulate and use the thugs and goons who in turn fueled the growth of the underworld. Finally, it reached a point where the famous and the notorious came to the same conclusion. Why be the slaves and expendables of the political class when they can become part of the political class themselves? This is how they forayed into politics and became political leaders.
Many movie stars have become amazingly successful in their political lives. MGR in Tamil Nadu, NTR in Andhra Pradesh and Rajkumar in Karnataka were the early trendsetters who went on to become Chief Ministers in their respective states. The fact that MGR was originally from Kerala and had moved to Chennai makes his success even more baffling. They did nothing more than leverage on their enormous and blindly loyal fan base to establish their political careers. All other movie stars have followed the same strategy as well. It does seem like once they have their grip on our attention and faith the next natural step is to start ruling us. After years of speculation, Kamal Hassan and Rajnikanth have stepped inside the political ring as well.
What assumes significance with Mohanlal is the timing of his entrance into politics. The 2019 general elections are inching closer with each passing day. Every strategy of the BJP has failed miserably in Kerala till now. To add fuel to the simmering fire, the callous and inept handling of the recent floods in Kerala by the central government has stoked a huge fireball of resentment against BJP among Keralites. BJP needs someone in their ranks with a massive fan base to potentially divert a chunk of votes towards them. There seems to be a strategy of confusing people as well here. In spite of all the negative perception about BJP and RSS in Kerala, if someone like Mohanlal is joining their ranks, it would set the cat among the pigeons. The strategy must be to make people start thinking in the lines of “if Mohanlal is joining BJP then there could be something right about them”, thereby polarising and splitting votes.
How does this work? From the time of MGR and NTR, these stalwarts have all played the quintessential good guys on screen, time and again in each one of their movies, who take on all the odds and triumph in the end. This has played on our psychology and made us believe that they can do no wrong. What has really happened is that in our minds, the line between these actors and the characters they played has vanished. We have started believing that these actors embody the qualities of the characters they play because being good actors they get into the skin of the characters and play with such conviction. The flip side holds good as well. T G Ravi, another movie star in Mollywood has a similar profile as Ranjeet in Bollywood. Both have played so many villainous roles in their early careers that they are still remembered as reel rapists.
The real question is – what is the intent of elections? My understanding is, elections are conducted for better representation of people so that governance can be improved. Through their votes, people are giving their representatives 5 years to prove that they are fit to represent them again and if they are not they need to be replaced. This is how true democracy should work. But India is miles away from this. Political parties nominate their leaders, people blindly vote for them and hope that they will do their duties properly. But our representatives become our rulers the moment they win elections and we are at their mercy. Time and again, the same story has repeated and thereby emboldened the political class which is why we are being represented by people who know nothing about governance.
But I believe all is not lost. The Delhi government has made giant strides in the field of education and healthcare and has been receiving widespread international recognition. The Aam Aadmi Party has no stars or famous people in their ranks which is the best evidence that ordinary well educated people and not people with fame are best suited FOR governance and fulfilling the needs of the society. Couple this with the fact that Keralites have always been critical thinkers. We have been critical of our leaders if they fail no matter which political party our affiliation has been. The same line of thought goes into every aspect of our lives. Be it of any superstar, if a movie is bad, word of mouth will make sure that the movie fails at the box office. This is why Mollywood is one of the best and the most content driven movie industries in the country and movie stars from even Bollywood desire to work in Malayalam movies.
We do not need good actors who can act as our representatives. Rather we need real people who can become our representatives. I write with the hope that people will understand this one simple difference before choosing to align their loyalty.