Jayalalithaa had announced that a memorial will be built for Sivaji Ganesan

Sivaji Ganesan was not a success in politics but Tamil parties still cannot disregard him"SivajiGanesan 19620824" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki
news Thursday, October 01, 2015 - 20:01

His loud and strong voice, great dialogue delivery skills and inimitable, stylish mannerisms are still the stuff of legend. Cherished by his fans with the same vigour almost 15 years after his death, Sivaji Ganesan, popularly known as ‘Nadigar Thilagam’ once dabbled in politics, with not much success. But his real achievement perhaps lies in the fact that even after his not-so-successful political stint he remains an unmatched cultural icon who cannot be ignored by political parties even today.

A few weeks ago, Jayalalithaa had announced that a memorial will be built for Sivaji Ganesan in Adyar on a piece of land which was allotted in her earlier stint for the same. Speaking to the The News Minute, AIADMK spokesperson CR Saraswathi said that there is no real politics behind the move. “Jayalalithaa respects Sivaji Ganesan and has acted with him in multiple movies,” she said.

But as the writers point out here, there could be more to this. “With her announcement on the government building the memorial for the late thespian, she has dealt a blow to the Congress, striving for a revival in Tamil Nadu. But, even before the party could hope for a revival, Jayalalithaa is determined to snuff out any such attempt. For, the AIADMK supremo is not prepared to concede the nationalist space which she has acquired over the years,” the writers MC Rajan and T Murganandam say in the Sunday Express.

The TN Congress, not surprisingly, arrived late to the party. Just last week they announced that they will celebrate his 87th birthday, trying hard to keep the figure close to the party. "The Congress office building in Salem was built by Sivaji with the proceeds from his drama shows," senior leader S Thirnavukkarasar told ToI recently, perhaps attempting to portray Sivaji as a Congress-man despite the fact that he broke ranks with the party early.

But Sivaji Ganesan’s own political journey was not very spectacular.

Sivaji Ganesan’s first tryst with politics was with the Dravidian movement under Annadurai . But after his visit to the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple in the late 50s, he was severely criticized by the party which then espoused atheism with vigour. 

From 1957 his chief mentor was Congress veteran Kamaraj.  In 1988, when the TN Congress itself was split over whether to support Jayalalithaa or Janaki Ramachandran in the internal-tussle in AIADMK, Sivaji quit the party. He then floated his own party, under the banner Tamizha Munnetra Munnani (TMM) which even he later conceded was a disappointment as the party lost all the seats in the 1989 elections supporting Janaki Ramachandran. 

Sivaji himself lost at Tiruvayaru constituency to DMK candidate Chandrasekaran Durai by a margin of 10,643 votes. Sivaji Ganesan had then said, “The votes that I secured came from people of another party. It is true that I was defeated. This was a big disappointment and a very difficult situation that I faced. What could one do?  When we take wrong decisions, we have to face disappointments.” 

Later, he joined the Janata Dal under VP Singh and became the party's state president, but his political life climaxed by 1990. So why the political clamour, albeit small, even today?

The cultural icon and talented on-screen performer that he was made up for everything else.

“He is not politically relevant, but he is a cultural icon. And with the kind of talentless actors we are seeing these days, people have come to appreciate him a lot more. He remains one the best actors the state has ever seen. And politicians being what they are, they want to keep a figure like him on their side,” says Gnani Sankaran, a political analyst in Chennai.

Ramu Manivannan, a professor at the Madras University says, “He is the finest actor that the film industry has ever had. He is important to the political parties, not much because of his political career but because of his recognition that comes from his acting.”

Perhaps proof of Ganesan’s wide appeal is that in the recent film Papanasam Kamal Haasan is seen wiping a tear, watching Sivaji’s movie Paasamalar, and his assistant gently mocks him, to which Haasan responds, “Anyone not crying on watching Paasamalar, cannot be a human.”