He has finally done it. Jumped into politics: hook, line, and sinker. The master actor, the Nayagan of Kollywood, Kamal Haasan, has in one sense done the unthinkable. At the other end, the other man, the one they call the superstar, Rajinikanth, continues to mouth vague inanities that you can interpret any the which way you want.
Personally, I fear for Haasan. Let me tell you why.
He has been into films almost all his life. He has experimented the way no other actor has. The man has played countless different roles and done it with élan. Haasan is the go-to man if you aspire to be an actor of substance. He has oodles of charisma.
But to be into politics, you must have relevant charisma. Charisma is not fungible. You cannot transport the appeal as an actor to charm as a politician. People may come to see him; that does not mean they will vote for him. I am ready to travel miles to watch Sachin Tendulkar play, but I don’t want to even switch on the television to listen to him deliver a political talk seeking my vote.
To succeed in politics, you must have a double thick skin. The intellectuals don’t have it. And the ulaganayagan fancies himself as an intellectual. You must know the art of getting things done that requires a certain level of political ruthlessness, if not cunning. I am not sure if Haasan has it.
Rajinikanth may win votes, even sweep the polls, but he does not have the experience or the expertise or the age to carry it. He realizes that and so has kept away from politics, notwithstanding the myriad noises that you hear. Kamal apparently thinks otherwise.
During my growing up years, Rajiv Gandhi promised to change India and race it into the 21st century. It was the clock, and not he, who finally brought us to the new millennium. When India opened up its economy, Manmohan Singh said, “Give me 5 years, and I will take you to economic Eldorado.” Eldorado stayed in our dreams. In recent times, Kejriwal stood for a clean and efficient government. While I don’t know how honest or valuable he has been, political enemies have thrown a lot of muck on him, and some of it could stick. They were all well-meaning essentially decent men, but could not make their cut in politics.
Does he have the temperament?
More importantly, the minute Haasan puts himself up for public scrutiny as a politician, you will have ruthless rubbish heaped on him. There is already a lot of nonsense bandied about his private life. If he picks traction, rest assured the dirty tricks department of a robust political party will play mischief. Does he have the temperament to take it?
However, if truth is old, Haasan is fast learning the tricks. An avowed atheist, he begins his campaign from the mother of all religious places, Rameswaram. He ropes in Kejriwal, to perpetuate the image of well-meaning people from civil society wanting to make a difference to the nation. He meets up Kalam’s elder brother at his residence saying, “I am the lamp of all your house. Please protect me and keep me lit.”
Leadership involves the ability to get things done. It involves the ability to think big and have it executed. You need to carry everyone along. If you cannot, howsoever talented you may be, you will stare at the wall of failure. And finally, because you have been successful in one field, does not mean you will be successful in another. I hope all film stars who want to become politicians remember this.
In short, Kamal Haasan does not have the political standing to get my vote. I would walk miles to watch Haasan act on the silver screen including his movie Indian, but I don’t think he will be able to serve as a remarkable politician. And there is nothing personal about it.