Reel Stars in the role of netas Are they chasing a chimera?

Reel Stars in the role of netas Are they chasing a chimera?


Reel Stars in the role of netas Are they chasing a chimera?

By Colonel Satish Singh Lalotra

‘Democracy is based upon the conviction that there are extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people.’
Harry Emerson Fosdick.

The behemoth of a country of India’s size that houses within its geographical limits an equally humongous and multitude of its 1.4 billion populations and counting every second has two peculiarities within itself.

Firstly is the endless cycle of religious fervour which resonates in its very being from the frigid environs of Ladakh right till the deep jungles of Arunachal Pradesh.

Since the country has some of the most diverse population inhabiting this planet it is but natural that the religions they profess are equally humongous. The second peculiarity of India is the endless cycle of elections, being the biggest democracy of the world.

It is the cross linkages of its population that elect its representatives with the democratic system which witnesses an endless cycle of elections in the form of so called ‘By elections’, State Elections, Lok Sabha elections and so on.

It seems as if the biggest festival of democracy viz elections and the religious festivals have intertwined themselves in the very sinews of this nation, each drawing sustenance from other.

The recent inauguration of Ayodhya Ram temple is the latest testament of our belief in what I have stated above. Take out one such above mentioned peculiarity from the lives of countless Indians and you will be left with a bewildered mass of humanity who will be peeping into an endless pit of vacuum in their lives.

The irony of these peculiarities lie in the fact that they also act as a ‘de facto employment giver’ to the burgeoning populations of this country and therefore inadvertently act as safety valves to millions of aspirations of Indians.

Though the masses of this sub-continent are emotional creatures, they are no emotional fools either when it comes to exercising their franchise. These masses exhibit some of the most evolved and refined sense of discretion when it comes to cast their precious vote.

One may call this evolved sense of discretion of the masses in electing their representatives honed on the anvil of either hard ground work done by their reps or a very high level of situational awareness to the evolving situation as the date of casting their votes appears nearer last but not the least choosing a lesser evil among a raft of reps to choose from.

The final hallmark of maturity of an Indian voter is the high pedestal which they make their elected representative to sit on when the going is good ; and equally trounce him on his or head if the promises made by them fall flat of their expectations without any sense of remorse.

In such a highly charged scenario where the stakes are equally high, can the Bollywood heroes and heroines be left far behind?

Will they also not like to have a slice of this democratic bonanza in the form of an elected representative, riding as such on a high note of celebrity status and cult following amongst the masses of the country? After all it calls for only a slight extrapolation of fortunes and luck to see themselves adorning the front seats of the Parliament.

Well, the above statement of mine may be easy to write but it is equally difficult to profess and qualify in terms of such Bollywood heroes and heroines who may have had that much of political sagacity and insight to dive into the murky world of politics and yet emerge unscathed in terms of retention of their name and fame counting on the people’s benchmark of deliverance of public goods as worthy of their respect.

The thread of commonality that runs in these two diverse set of personalities i.e a political leader and a movie hero is the ‘mass appeal’ or adulation which both of them garner owing to their exposure to the masses albeit in a different format.

It is only a miniscule few of such Bollywood stars who seamlessly slip back and forth into their diverse roles (movie hero and a politician) without one clashing with the other.

One big factor which successful movie heroes or heroines cum politicians have been able to do for themselves is the art of removing that interface of silver screen from their persona and diving headlong into the rough and tide of actual public service as compared to being in touch with the masses via an artificial medium that panders to their hidden whims and fancies.

The typecasting and breaking of a typical villain or hero mold is another Gordian knot that a silver screen hero has to deal with while donning the mantle of a politician which is not everybody’s cup of tea.

Elections and movies both demand bags full of money which is not much of a problem for a politician or a silver screen hero or heroine.

In our Indian context there has been frequent dabbling of fortunes by silver screen heroes and heroines into the murky and uncertain world of politics often with mixed results.

The single biggest factor which can both make or mar the political and filmy fortunes of a budding Bollywood hero or heroine is aligning himself /herself with a particular political party that is coterminous to both the interests of the participants.

This again calls for a serious rethinking on the part of the hero, since his image already been typecast by his roles either as a man of principles or pandering to the expediencies of the situation on the silver screen goes to finally decide his or her gelling with the party ethos.

One of the biggest names of Indian silver screen heroes, Amitabh Bachchan comes to the mind who drawing a family and historical linkages with the biggest political family of the country i.e Nehru-Gandhi duo jumped into the bandwagon of politics in the 80s.

In 1984 he took a break from his stint of acting to support his longtime family friend Rajiv Gandhi but soon regretted it with the latter getting embroiled into the infamous ‘Bofors scandal’ consequently putting an ominous shadow on the former of his dubious connection.

Amitabh Bachchan had the singular credit of defeating a political ‘Goliath’ the former CM of UP and a seasoned politician Hemwati Nandan Baghuguna from Allahabad with a resounding victory of votes garnering 68.2% in his favour.

Even riding high on the crest of a ‘Sympathy wave’ for the late PM Rajiv Gandhi couldn’t save the so called ‘political boat’ of Mr Bachchan from getting rocked. What does that prove?

Does it portray a lack of political sagacity on the part of Mr Amitabh or does it show coming of age of an Indian voter who wizened under the harsh glare of political instability gave overriding preference to fulfillment of his own immediate needs vis a vis went with the flow of the issues as manifestoed by the politician cum actor?

These are some of the questions which are thrown repeatedly to the environment for its consideration. Every top echelon of the society has members who have a penchant for aligning themselves with the ruling elite ostensibly for garnering support for their myriad activities which many a time border on the twilight zone of propriety/impropriety of their actions.

Bollywood actors are too not high above this invisible benchmark of societal behavior. From Rajnikanth to late Jayalalitha to MGR (MG Ramchandran) of the southern India the story of silver screen heroes and heroines scripting political success has been astronomical.

It goes to the political acumen of these tinsel town personalities for attiring themselves in a perfect mode and manner of a seasoned politician.

Having commanded an iconic place in the Tamil film industry to serving as the state’s CM from 1977 to 1987, MGR virtually ruled the hearts and minds of Tamil people often taking his cult across the Palk straits into neighbouring Sri Lanka. Same was the case with Jayalalitha who made the masses of Tamilnadu miss more after her mysterious demise.

There were cases when people committed suicide after hearing the news of death of both their CMs cum silver screen actors in Tamilnadu. It goes to prove the efficacy of delivery mechanism of public goods of these politicians cum silver screen actors and standing tall in their promises made by them in their election manifesto.

Cut to the recent past, there have been a surfeit of Bollywood heroes and heroines viz late Viond Khanna representing his constituency of Gurdaspur in Punjab who very ably used to distribute his precious time between the tinsel town of Mumbai and the border belt of Punjab bringing to fruition many of the stalled developmental projects thereby winning the hearts and minds of his people.

This year many heroes and heroines like veteran actor Arun Govil who famously played the role of Hindu God Ram in the TV show of the 1980s -‘Ramayan’ is contesting from the BJP’s ticket from Meerut thus giving a big heft to the already hyped inauguration of the famous Ayodhya temple recently.

Similarly Kangana Ranaut is contesting from Mandi in Himachal Pradesh. Both are known votaries of a very vociferous Hindu face in a secular set up of the country.

In Tamilnadu star couple Sarathkumar and Radikaa joined the BJP with the female actor contesting the elections from Virudhunagar thus making initial forays of BJP into the southern belt of the country.

Recently the famous bad boy of Bollywood Sanjay Dutt put an end to rumours about his political entry after having burnt his hands in 2009 when he aligned with the Samajwadi Party but failed to make any difference and resigned as a general secretary of the party.

When juxtaposed with the Hollywood heroes and heroines of the western world who took a plunge in political whirlpool of their respective nations, an altogether different albeit contrarian narrative emerges.

A narrative of successful venture that catapulted the nation from the throes of despondency and despair. Ronald Wilson Regan, the 40th president of the USA was one such Hollywood hero who literally proved himself the actual American Hero in the eyes of his countrymen.

Responsible for the famous ‘Reaganomics’ which involved economic deregulation and cuts in both taxes and Government spending during the worst phase of American stagflation he proved his worth as hero both on and off screen.

Regan left the presidency in 1989 with the American economy having seen a significant reduction of inflation, the unemployment rate plummeting, and the US having entered its longest peacetime expansion.

Does any single Bollywood hero or heroine measure up to the political sagacity as has been on the display by the late 40th president of USA? It is a sad show of political one-upmanship and brinkmanship by our Bollywood stars who firstly don’t attend the parliament session in its entirety and secondly do not contribute meaningfully to the national debates that are televised all over the world.

Are these heroes and heroines chasing a chimera by casting themselves in the role of a politician or should they abdicate their right to sit in the parliament as a responsible rep of their people, and give way to more serious men and women of strong mettle? Since ‘Democracy is based on the conviction that there are extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people’— unquote.
(The writer is a retired army officer)