While neighbouring Andhra had its own demi-god in actor-turned-politician NT Rama Rao and currently in Chiranjeevi, the sound of Ammaaa… extolling the godly virtues of the incumbent Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa reverberates across Tamil Nadu.
Though not as bowled over by the glitz and glamour, Karnataka too bestowed political beatification on Ambareesh and Anant Nag. Keralites however continue to remain unfazed by celluloid gods and goddesses who decide to turn to politics mid-way through their acting career.
Even when the late MGR is still venerated as an all-time socio-political cultural icon by our Tamil neighbours, Malayalis are sure to look askance at a Mammootty or a Mohanlal venturing into politics.
The reigning superstars of the Malayalam film industry can in no way vouch for their undisputed success if ever they decide to dabble in politics in the state. So they wisely choose to work from the fringes rather than taking the plunge into Kerala’s murky political scenario.
When Tamil Nadu and Andhra can boast of R Sarath Kumar, Vijayakanth, Napoleon, Nandamuri Balakrishna, Pawan Kalyan with a Khushbu thrown in for chutzpah, Keralites can only shake their heads in disbelief at KB Ganesh Kumar actually making it to a ministerial post in the state.
Veteran onscreen comedian Innocent may be the only exception to the Malayali thumb rule of a strict ‘No-No’ to actor-turned-politicians in recent times. Yet political parties in the state are now tripping over themselves to field actors in the assembly elections scheduled for May 16.
Actors Mukesh, Jagadish, Siddique, KPAC Lalitha have already entered the electoral fray while the names of Sreenivasan, Nedumudi Venu, Sheela, Rajasenan and Devan are still expected to make it to the final list of candidates of the various political parties in the state.
Surprisingly Suresh Gopi dropped out of the race apparently miffed at not being made the NFDC chairman by the Centre. A case of better sense prevailing, eh!
The Left had even earlier always been willing to risk their political fortunes by investing in film personalities of the likes of Lenin Rajendran who lost to KR Narayanan and the late Murali who lost to VM Sudheeran.
Yesteryears’ reigning hero the late Prem Nazir too had his name cropping up as a possible Congress candidate in the late 70s, but in the end Nazir reportedly decided to let go off any political dreams in favour of reaping pure cinematic glory instead.
Veteran media analyst BRP Bhaskar attributes such stark contrasts in fortunes of actors who dabble in politics in Tamil Nadu and Kerala to one major difference between the socio-political scenes in the neighbouring states: “In Tamil Nadu, actors were always part of the political movement in the state. Take the case of Annai Durai, Karunanidhi or MGR. They used films for political purposes. For them, politics and cinema were two mediums used to attain the same social purpose.”
But in Kerala -as Bhaskar avers- it was the social reform movement from the mid-19th century right into the 20th century that shaped society. Political parties came onto the scene only in the 1930s.
Bhaskar says that other than for a Ramu Kariat -the acclaimed director of the Malayalam blockbuster ‘Chemeen’ who won as an independent in 1965 assembly elections- or an Innocent, Keralites have never been partial to actors indulging in politics.
Chairman of the Media Development Foundation & Asian College of Journalism, Sashi Kumar chooses to view the high rates of literacy as well as the political consciousness of the Malayali psyche which was moulded by Leftist ideology as the two main reasons for an actor’s fan club not translating into political support on a parallel plane.
With the state’s highly bipartisan political scenario now tottering on the brink of extinction with the recent saffron surge, it may be just a matter of time before Kerala too succumbs to the lure of a glamorous smile or a heroic nod.
After all, it was the BJP which started the national trend of fielding candidates from the film and television fraternities for electoral gains.