While Rajini urged students to not indulge in politicking, Kamal said that students owe to their nation to remain politically vigilant.

Addressing students at an event held in SSN College of Engineering on March 8, actor-politician Kamal Haasan asked the audience to not just observe politics, but become politically aware. This comes days after actor-turned-politician Rajinikanth urged students to not participate in politics at the unveiling of a statue and portrait of former Chief Minister MGR at MGR University in Chennai’s Maduravoyal.

“I ask you the same question former President APJ Abdul Kalam asked. How many of you are going to be politically aware? I’m not asking you to become politicians. I ask you to carefully watch your politics. Stay vigilant. You owe your duty to the nation about what your politics is going to be,” he said to thunderous applause.  

On the other hand, Rajinikanth, addressing students at MGR University, said, “I ask students not to participate in politics. Vote but don't interfere or indulge in politics.”

While the two actors, who recently plunged into politics full time, share opposing views about student politics, they share similar reasons for entering the arena in the first place.

Kamal said that his situation could be traced back to the political apathy witnessed in a majority of students in his generation. “Because students of my generation failed to stay vigilant about politics, I believe we are in this situation right now. The stand that you are going to take today will determine yours and your grandchildren’s lives,” he said.

“I thought I'm an artist … I’ll stay away and let them do their job. I was looking around to see who else would do the job. But instead of searching and finding someone to delegate the job to, I thought we should become the change,” said the leader alluding to the Gandhian ideal “be the change you want to see”.

Meanwhile, Rajinikanth said that he had decided to enter the fray to fill the vacuum the state was seeing: “They ask why I didn't enter when Jayalalithaa was ruling. ‘Was it fear,’ they ask? I don't have to remind what happened in 1996. Did I come to politics because of a vacuum? Yes. There is a vacuum ... for a good leader. Jayalalithaa was a talented leader. Karunandhi ... even though he was not in power for 13 years, he held the party together. Tamil Nadu needs a leader and I come to fill in.”

The two superstars of Indian cinema have been pitted against one another during their film careers, and will now face each other in the political arena as well.