Will Kamal Haasan take the political plunge? What’s playing on his mind? We look back on his tweets and interviews and attempt to decipher the path he might choose
Kamal Haasan usually has a lot to say on matters related to the arts, but is known to tread a safe, bipartisan line when it comes to politics and other matters. Of late, the actor, choreographer, director and producer has thrown caution to the wind and come out guns blazing against the current party in power, announcing that he would launch a party and contest the elections.
This was a bit of a surprise.
If anything, people have been expecting forever that Rajinikanth would start a party of his own. After all, the superstar had sort of flirted with the field before, and was highly influential in the 1996 elections in the State. The Congress party had split in Tamil Nadu, with GK Moopanaar floating the Tamil Maanila Congress. Rajini, perceived as Moopanaar’s friend, came out with a statement that criticised Jayalalithaa. The DMK -TMC alliance won the elections and Karunanidhi became Chief Minister once again.
Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth, two superstars often seen as rivals by their fans though they share a good working relationship, are now, maybe, competing against each other for the popular vote.
But Kamal may possibly need a speech writer, or, at least, a social media manager. His recent statements have been a series of flip flops. In May, when speculation was rife that Rajini would join politics, and, more specifically, align with the BJP, Kamal said that rational people would not join politics. He said, “Given the current political scenario in Tamil Nadu, I would say no one should enter politics. Why single out actors? Any rational person will not do that.”
Soon enough, he announced the start of his political career. In an interview to Quint in early September, he said, “This is the right time for me to come into active politics because everything that can possibly go wrong is going wrong. We need better governance. I am not promising swift remedies. But, I promise to start the process of change. This change may not even happen in my lifetime. Hopefully, there will be others to carry forward the cleansing process.”
His tweets became increasingly critical of the ruling AIADMK, and, as always, cryptic (that’s not doing Kamal justice. ALL of his tweets are usually cryptic)
புரியாதோர்க்கு ஆங்கில பத்திரிக்கைகளில் நாளை வரும் சேதி pic.twitter.com/yoFMD8jeJO
— Kamal Haasan (@ikamalhaasan) July 18, 2017
A request to my fans and the discerning people of TN. நேர்மையான தமிழகக் குடிமக்களுக்கும் ,என் தலைமையை ஏற்ற தொண்டர் படைக்கும் சமர்பணம் pic.twitter.com/OFqbDaJ5wS
— Kamal Haasan (@ikamalhaasan) July 19, 2017
Am against corruption.I am not against A party All guilty of it I revolt against Revolutionists are not afraid of death or failure. Are u?
— Kamal Haasan (@ikamalhaasan) July 26, 2017
The honourable court warns teachers on strike. I beseech the court to issue similar warnings to those MLAs who desist from attending work
— Kamal Haasan (@ikamalhaasan) September 15, 2017
On September 1, Kamal Haasan took the next step. He described a meeting with Kerala Chief Minister M Pinrayi Vijayan as “learning”. This was, perhaps, expected, for Kamal is known to be sympathetic to the Left, and has espoused Communist ideas in many films, including Varumayin Niram Sivappu and Anbe Sivam.
Speculation then began that Kamal’s possible party would align with the Left. But, he quickly added: “I am not going to do business with any of them. I will go alone.”
Later, Kamal said that Rajini’s religious beliefs made him a better ally for the BJP, which has been peddling a hard-line Hindutva policy that has only got stronger since its win in the 2014 national elections.
After his meeting with Pinrayi Vijayan, Kamal said that his colour was not saffron – a reference to the BJP’s party flag and policies. “My colour has obviously seen the 40 years I have worked in cinema, but it’s definitely not saffron,” he said. The actor, who professes to to be an atheist and a rationalist, is also seen by many as friends of the DMK party and its leader, M Karunanidhi, himself an atheist. But Kamal also said, “I want to be in the middle of things and do not want to lean to any side.”
In July, Kamal said in an interview to Thanthi TV, “The current state of politics is such that only a person well-versed in statecraft can do some amount of good to the people. I am probably the best choice to run a film school. I am not equipped enough to take on a career in politics. I am the sort of person who thinks that corruption should not be a part of public life. That does not automatically make me a good choice of leader.”
Kamal met Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, leader of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) which came to power on an anti-corruption platform, on September 21. He said: “I am honoured that the Chief Minister of Delhi decided to visit my abode. This house has been political since my father’s time, and I was the one who got into it late. We got together for a purpose.”
At the end of his meeting with Kejriwal, Kamal said it was time for an alliance of people fighting communalism and corruption.
Finally, Kamal Haasan seemed to suggest that he might, after all, work with the BJP. “Nothing is untouchable in politics,” he said. “I may have to make some adjustments and come to the Centre.” He added: “The BJP is going deep right and that distresses me. But, if there is a common minimum programme that will benefit people, I am okay with joining hands (with the BJP).”
For someone who’s adopted a rational, anti-religion stand for most of his public life, and someone who’s current gripe with the party in power is its anti-people activities, Kamal Haasan’s stand, and his statements are too ephemeral for analysts to sense where he’s headed.
Timeline of Kamal Haasan’s public statements about politics.
May: Says no rational person will join politics.
June: Increasingly critical of the current AIADMK government in Tamil Nadu
July: Says that, perhaps, it is time for him to join politics.
July: Says anti-corruption alone cannot be a political stand.
Late July – August: Uses his platform on Bigg Boss and other (non-political?) events to make political comments. More criticism of the State Government.
September 1: Meets Pinrayi Vijayan, says saffron is not his colour.
September 20: Meets Arvind Kejriwal, says time for anti-corruption, anti-communalism forces to come together.
September 25: Says is willing to work with the BJP if there’s some good outcome for the State.