Anybody following the ups and downs of Tamil Nadu politics these last 10 months, would have been left bewildered by the sight on display in Chennai at the inauguration of the Sivaji memorial on Sunday. Seated beside each other were fellow actors and political aspirants, Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth, along with deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, Fisheries Minister Jayakumar, and I&B Minister Kadambur Raju.
While other celebrities and politicians at the venue refrained from pointing out the obvious and maintained that legendary actor Sivaji Ganesan was beyond politics, superstar Rajinikanth cut to the chase.
"Sivaji was not only a great actor but he also entered the sphere of politics," said Rajinikanth. "He stood and lost in his own constituency. That is not an embarrassment for him but a shame for the people of that constituency," he added.
The superstar further claimed that Sivaji Ganesan’s loss was a message to people: “If you want to be successful in politics, you don’t just need the name, fame and stardom that cinema gives you. You need something more.”
What exactly is something more? “Only the people know what that is,” Rajini said, reiterating what he has often said on stage about the power of the people. “I swear I don’t know what that is,” he added.
But Rajini didn’t stop at that. Taking a jibe at Kamal Haasan, Rajini went on, “I think, Kamal knows what is required,” to loud cheers from the audience. “But then, he won’t tell me what that is,” Rajini said, continuing with the sarcasm.
“May be, if I had asked him two months back, he might have told me,” he laughed, in a clear reference to Kamal expressing his intention to join politics, which followed Rajini’s own clarification that he wanted to enter the field.
Rajini didn’t stop there. He took a dig at Kamal for apparently believing he was bigger than Rajini: “When I asked him, Anna (older brother), I’m your little brother in cinema, and you need to tell me this… He tells me, ‘You come with me, and then I’ll tell you.’”
Kamal meanwhile, chose to focus on his other political battle. “I would have come to this function no matter what. No matter who tried to stop me,” Kamal said, in what is seen as a clouded reference to his war of words with AIADMK leaders in the recent past, over his allegation of corruption against the present government.
He further claimed that no matter which government was in power, the respect due to the legendary actor would have been given. Without naming the Chief Minister, he said, "We need not pressure anyone to respect Sivaji Ganesan... I would have come here even if I was stopped."
“I have come here only as one of his crores of fans. I have forgotten my standing, I have only come here as a fan of art,” he insisted.
“I came here to thank him (Sivaji Ganesan). And I thank the world of art, the government, and politics for giving me this opportunity,” he said.
But is was actor Sathyaraj who initially cut the ice by pointing out that most unlikely sights were present on the dias today. "Can you see the minister, Kamal and Rajini together?" he asked. "Could you see Sarathkumar and Nassar (who were on opposing teams during the Nadigar Sangam elections) rubbing shoulders? All this is only possible because of the respect we have for Sivaji," he added.
The memorial of the 'Nadigar Thilagam' who died in 2001 after starring in more than 300 films, had generated controversy after the Chief Minister bowed out of the inauguration ceremony. He had claimed that he had prior engagements and deputed minister D Jayakumar in his place. After protest from the actor's fans and family, he said the inauguration will be done by OPS.