Celluoid superstars try for political stardom in south

March 29th, 2009 - 12:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party By V.S. Karnic
Bangalore/Hyderabad/Chennai/Thiruvanathapuram, March 29 (IANS) Election time is star-wars time in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

With 42 seats up for grabs in Andhra Pradesh, the Lok Sabha polls will see mega star Chiranjeevi battling the ruling Congress and star children of the legendary Telugu film hero N.T. Rama Rao, who launched the Telugu Desam Party (TDP).

In neighbouring Tamil Nadu, Vijayakanth, popularly known as ‘Karuppu MGR” (Dark MGR), is hoping that this Lok Sabha poll will pitchfork him to front benches of state politics, dominated by the DMK and the AIADMK.

While films and politics have had close links for decades in Tamil Nadu, these began in Andhra Pradesh with NTR floating the TDP on the plank of Telugu pride in 1982.

But in the two other southern states of Kerala and Karnataka, mega stars have either kept away from politics, like in Kerala, or have been playing a marginal role, like in Karnataka.

It is the entry of Chiranjeevi, Chiru to his millions of fans, in Andhra Pradesh that dominates the political discourse in southern India. The question is if he will repeat NTR’s success story.

NTR’s Telegu Desam swept to power in Andhra Pradesh within nine months of its launch.

The Congress, which rules the state, is fighting to retain power while the TDP, led by NTR’s son-in-law N. Chandrababu Naidu, is desperately trying to revive its fortunes after the drubbing of 2004.

Chiru’s political plunge has made the simultaneous assembly and Lok Sabha fight in Andhra Pradesh a high-voltage battle.

Also never had elections in the state witnessed so much glamour.

While Chandrababu Naidu, who had broken off with NTR, is now relying on NTR’s son and grandson to bring voters back to him, the Congress is lagging behind in star attraction. Though it has roped in a few stars, none is as popular as Chiranjeevi or the NTR clan.

Chiranjeevi’s Praja Rajyam, which he floated in August last year, is largely a one-man show, although he has the support of his brothers Pavan Kalyan and Naga Babu, both popular actors.

Chiru, 54, has acted in 149 films in a career spanning over three decades.

Chiru added more glamour to his ranks Tuesday when veteran actor and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Krishnam Raju joined the party. Popularly known as ‘rebel star’, Raju is a two-time MP and served as minister of state in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government.

NTR’s son N. Balakrishna, whose popularity is considered to be on a par with that of Chiranjeevi, and NTR’s grandson Junior NTR are drumming support for Telugu Desam.

Junior NTR, who is not even half the age of Chiru, has proved a bigger hit than his uncle among masses. The young actor, who resembles his legendary grandfather, is attracting huge crowds.

His dialogue delivery, theatrical punch in speeches, dress and the mannerism all remind the people of NTR.

The Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) also has its glamour quotient in popular actress and former BJP leader Vijayshanti. Known as ‘Lady Amitabh’ for her roles on screen, she is likely to contest for the Lok Sabha.

In Tamil Nadu the DMK and the AIADMK, for the first time, are devoid of support from leading stars.

In the AIADMK the leader, J. Jayalalitha, remains the star attraction. She has acted in several films with her mentor and AIADMK founder M. G. Ramachandran or MGR.

Film personalities on her side have non-existent careers. Her attempts to rope in party-hopping former star T. Rajendherr has been a non-starter.

Apolitical thespians Rajnikant and Kamal Haasan are yet to show any inclination to join politics or indicate which Dravidian front they favour in the April-May polls.

Vijayakanth, founder of the DMDK, has announced he would plough a lonely furrow and contest all the 39 seats in Tamil Nadu and the lone electoral prize from Puducherry.

Also in the fray is All India Samathuva Makkal Katchi (Egalitarian People’s Party) leader Sarath Kumar.

In Kerala with 20 Lok Sabha seats, superstars Mammootty and Mohanlal have scrupulously kept away from politics. So also the angry young man of Malayalam film superstar Suresh Gopi. He does not want even to comment on elections.

Superstars in the Kannada film world too have not shown any interest in joining political parties or fighting elections.

The only leading star who has been contesting in the last three Lok Sabha polls and winning is ‘rebel star’ M.H. Ambareesh, a Congress member and central junior minister for information and broadcasting.

He is being wooed by the BJP and the Janata Dal-Secular and he is likely to decide in the next few days whether he will remain with the Congress or switch sides.

However several stars, including women actors, participate in party meetings and some of them even campaign during elections.

(with bureau inputs)

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