Will The Real Kamal Haasan Stand Up?

Will The Real Kamal Haasan Stand Up?

by K Balakumar - Thursday, June 8, 2023 05:28 PM IST
Will The Real Kamal Haasan Stand Up?Kamal Haasan.
  • He is mired in politics of inconsistency, immaturity.

    Question: Who has done more roles than actor Kamal Haasan?

    Answer: Politician Kamal Haasan.

Just consider these: He takes part in the swearing-in ceremony of the new Karnataka Chief Minister and wishes him. He, a little earlier, participates in Bharat Jodo Yatra.

He calls himself a Communist and hobnobs with the likes of Pinarayi Vijayan whose politics are based on life-long antipathy to what Congress stands for. And yes, he also shills for the likes of Arvind Kejriwal, another bete-noire of the Congress.

He calls Dravidian politics the biggest curse of Tamil Nadu. And then announces his support for DMK alliance group's candidate in a recent by-election in the State. He keeps quiet on the plethora of sexual misconduct allegations against Tamil lyricist and his friend Vairamuthu.

But clambers on to the moral high ground offering support to the protesting wrestlers. Not long ago, he quit films to be in full-time politics. Now he says he is back in films to finance his political venture. Also, he has welcomed the inauguration of the new parliament building.

Issue-based approach as opposed to party-centric views is to be welcomed. But Kamal's modus operandi — an usage that he is so fond of — does not seem to come from that moral position. It seems there is more than an element of confusion about his own position in politics. 

Perhaps for the first time, he seems unsure of his role.  His words at the India Today's Southern Conclave clearly betrayed his inner uncertainty.

Asked about his political growth since he launched his party in February 2018, the man responded by talking about Prem Nazir and Sivaji Ganesan. No, seriously. 

Okay, he was trying to draw an analogy by suggesting that when he entered the film world those names were ruling the roost. But eventually he became a star. 

But why is Kamal mixing up films and politics? Is the rise in the film world akin to growing up as a politician? Kamal is damn too intelligent to know that they are entirely different beasts. So why peddle an obviously sham comparison?

For the record, Kamal has not made any mark in the electoral battlefield --- his party earned only around a 3.7 per cent vote share in the Lok Sabha elections of 2019, and it further came down to 2.8 per cent in Assembly elections of 2021. And after making rather brave and bragging noises against the Dravidian parties, he is now just echoing the lines of the DMK. 

Kamal and the Dravidam muddle

The real problem is he is muddling up the claimed idea of 'Dravidam'. Sometimes he speaks about it in a racial sense. Sometimes he refers to it from a geographical perspective. Or falls back on it as a political call for mobilisation. 

He claims Dravidam is not Tamil Nadu-specific but pan-India, having facets of history, anthropology and archaeology. And in the same breath, he unironically wants the Southern States to come together under the same tag (Dravidam) and take on the Centre.

"I can show you a man in Bihar with your (Tamil person's) resemblance. The reason for that is Dravidam is coming from there. There is no reason to destroy it due to it,"  Kamal said a few years back.  

You can find the connection at Keeladi (in Tamil Nadu) and Harappa and Mohenjo Daro (Indus valley civilisation), he said at the India Today conclave. 

Kamal is not known for his direct communication. He prefers similes, metaphors and every other figure of speech to convey his ideas. When asked to walk straight, he is the kind to take two 180 degree turns. But cutting slack for that, how to make sense of what he says about Dravidam at all? 

If we try to summarise what Kamal says, it is this: Dravidam is the very unique identity of Tamil Nadu, and that includes in its ambits all the Southern States, and not to forget other parts of India. 

Okay, Kamal is not the first politician to comically conflate things. But the real problem is we do not know for sure which Kamal is speaking? The actor one or the wannabe politico?

Kamal is willingly wearing the two hats simultaneously even if one of them is ill-fitting.

He is keeping the charade of Makkal Neethi Maiam alive using his film fortunes. He is adroitly blurring the lines between his film career and political life and keeping others guessing. It is a clever by half strategy.

The spectacular success of Vikram has given him an extra contemporary relevance. As an actor of a super-hit movie and being a film legend, he gets access to podiums and platforms. From there, he drops words that would keep alive the memory of his party.

It is a patently dishonest way to do politics, especially in Tamil Nadu where politics and film are already in an unholy embrace.

If Kamal were to oppose, say, Udayanidhi Stalin in politics, while simultaneously working with his Red Giants Movies (which he is doing already), will it be intellectually credible? It is all fine to say that films are financing his politics.

But what it actually means is that he will be truer to his films. In a sense, what is racing to Ajith Kumar, politics seems to be for Kamal — a part-time hobby.

It is good that Rajinikanth did not go ahead with his political plunge, he would have ended us a bigger laughing stock than he did after he pulled out at the last minute.

Rajini's decision was ridiculed (rightly so). But the actor was at least being true to himself. That doesn't seem to be the case with Kamal. Even if he wants to, it will be tough for him.

For, there are too many Kamals around.

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