Kamal Haasan's return in 'Indian' 2: Will the idea of the one man army taking on corruption sell?
The finale for Bigg Boss Tamil was more than just a grand end for a successful first season of the reality TV show. Host Kamal Haasan, who had been dropping hints about his political entry on the platform, went all out and declared that he was ready to take the plunge and do his "duty" for the people.
Interestingly, the finale had director Shankar and producer Dil Raju announce that they will soon be making Indian Part 2 with Kamal Haasan. The announcement is not mere coincidence.
The idea of the one man army
Released in 1996, Indian built on the theme of corruption and vigilante justice with which Shankar had made a successful debut three years earlier. If Gentleman was about a modern day Robin Hood who stole from the rich and the corrupt to build an education empire that would empower the underprivileged, Indian was about a freedom fighter who wages a battle against the corrupt.
The idea of a lone man taking on the system is something Shankar would go on to repeat in other films. After Indian, Shankar made Jeans, a romcom, but returned to the genre with Mudhalvan, the story of a journalist who becomes CM for a day and overturns the system.
Kamal Haasan's one point agenda when it comes to politics, has so far been about 'eliminating corruption'.
The actor has met with communist leader and Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan as well as AAP leader and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, but he has been quite clear that he's not interested in joining any existing political party.
Instead, Kamal has gone on record to say that he does not find any party's ideology to fit his own. Since Jayalalithaa's death, Kamal has been vocal about his criticism of the AIADMK government in Tamil Nadu. He has been making allegations about the government's corruption and inability to run the state efficiently.
In doing this, he has constantly positioned himself as the voice of the common people, choosing to be the citizen rather than the celebrity. Much like Shankar's vigilante characters who are ordinary people pushed to take on the system and spare none (in Indian, Senapathy kills his own son), Kamal has said that he will be equally critical of all forms of corruption.
He has repeatedly said that he's entering politics only because he has been pushed to do it by the corruption around him and that he's not here out of greed for power.
With political turmoil in the AIADMK and the DMK patriarch Karunanidhi taking a backseat, there is an opportunity for a new leader to emerge. Kamal, with his anti-corruption stance, has been trying to create the impression of being the lone man of Tamil Nadu who is asking questions that nobody else would.
The Indian promise
Towards the end of Indian, Senapathy (Kamal) escapes to another country after killing his son Chandru (also Kamal) . However, he promises to be back whenever corruption raises its ugly head again.
Shankar had left the film open ended possibly with a sequel in mind. Or perhaps it was only to give a crowd pleasing conclusion where the brave old man doesn't die. Whichever it is, the ending could not have been more apt for Kamal to adapt it to the current situation.
The actor had, at one point, said that if he was to enter politics, he may quit cinema. However, the announcement of the Indian sequel seems like a political move to impress upon the people that he's here for their sake and will fulfill his promises.
The influence of cinema in Tamil Nadu politics has been written about extensively. Leaders like MGR rose to power on their pro-people image built on the large screen. But will such a strategy still work with voters of today?
In the Sivaji Ganesan memorial function, Rajinikanth had said that not everyone with fame can make a successful political entry and that it's difficult to know what the people really want. While Rajini is still hesitant about claiming that he knows what it is, Kamal seems to believe he just has to take the plunge to find out.
Kamal's move to enter the television space had disappointed many of his fans but time has shown that it was a clever move. It brought him closer to the watching public and also offered him a platform to air his political views.
If Indian Thaatha is coming back, perhaps he will return as the Mudhalvan on screen. Will the gamble pay off? Can wish fulfillment films translate to real life? Kamal believes yes. It remains to be seen if present day voters will walk along with him and buy into the fantasy.