Films to politics - actors’ ultimate destinationJanuary 8th, 2009 - 11:24 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, Jan 8 (IANS) Troubled actor Sanjay Dutt Thursday became the latest Bollywood star to join politics with the Samajwadi Party naming him as its candidate from the Lucknow Lok Sabha constituency in the general elections later this year. A political analyst predicted a bright future for “Munnabhai” in his new avtar.Sanjay will be contesting from a constituency that has long been represented by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee of the Bharatiya Janata Party and who has opted out of the race on health grounds.
“Sanjay has a good chance in Lucknow. With the Samajwadi Party naming him as its candidate, Lucknow will witness a star contesting the election for the fourth time. However, on earlier occasions, no film star was successful in winning from this constituency,” Ramesh Dixit, a Lucknow-based political analyst, told IANS.
“However, Sanjay has very good chances of winning because he has some roots in the city. After the partition of the country, his father Sunil Dutt came here with his family and lived in old Lucknow for a few years,” added Dixit, who teaches political science at Lucknow University.
Muzzafar Ali twice contested from Lucknow on a Samajwadi Party ticket but he never won. Raj Babbar also tried his luck once from Lucknow but in vain. He later won the Agra seat on the Samajwadi Party ticket before quitting the party.
Elsewhere in Uttar Pradesh, southern star Jayaprada contested the 2002 Lok Sabha elections from Rampur on a Samajwadi Party ticket and won.
Then, of course, there is Amitabh Bachchan, arguably the most high-profile star to have entered parliament, but more about him later.
Thus, actors turning into politicians is not an uncommon trend in India.
Tamil superstar MGR was perhaps the first one to enter the political domain. After reaching dizzying heights as an actor, he forayed into politics with the regional DMK party in 1953. He was with the party for 19 long years before being expelled in 1972. In the same year, he formed his own party ADMK, which was later renamed AIADMK.
MGR became the Tamil Nadu chief minister in 1977 and remained in office for a decade till his death in 1987.
During this period, he brought his co-star and protégée Jayalalitha into politics, and she too has served as the state’s chief minister.
Telugu star Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao, better known as N.T. Rama Rao or simply NTR, too was successful in politics. He formed Telugu Desam Party in 1982 and within nine months, it had stormed to power in Andhra Pradesh and he became the chief minister.
Following in the footsteps of the senior actors, many southern stars like Rajnikant, Chirnajeevi, Mammootty, Vijay Kant, Sharath Kumar and Rajkumar too have traversed the political path.
“In the northern region, this trend has started about two decades ago but in south it has been there for much longer,” Dixit explained.
From Hindi film industry, the success story is not that colourful.
Bollywood’s evergreen star Dev Anand laid the foundation by floating his own party during the Emergency in 1975. Angered by the then minister for information and broadcasting V.C. Shukla’s attempts to browbeat film personalities, he formed the National Party of India to protect the fundamental rights of citizens.
However, Dev Anand couldn’t keep the party going because of his film commitments and had to dissolve it.
The trend continued when Bollywood’s then “angry young man” Amitabh Bachchan came into politics at the behest of good friend and former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. He contested the Lok Sabha election from his native Allahabad in 1984 and though he won by a huge majority, he failed to make his mark as a politician.
“Amitabh Bachchan registered a landslide victory, but this was attributed only to his superstar image,” Dixit maintained.
Amitabh’s unceremonious departure didn’t deter others from testing the waters. The list of actors is long and has names like Vyjanthimala, Rajesh Khanna, Shatrughan Sinha, Raj Babbar, Jayaprada, Jaya Bachchan, Hema Malini, Dharmendra, Govinda and Poonam Dhillon.
Lesser-known TV actors too tried their luck in politics. They include Nitish Bhardwaj and the current entrant from small screen Smriti Irani, known for her role in long running TV soap “Kyunkii Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thii”.
However, hopes are high from Sanjay Dutt, whose father was successful politican and central minister, with his younger sister Priya Dutt, a Congress MP from South Mumbai, carrying forward the legacy.
Sanjay’s mother, the legendary Nargis Dutt, also was a Rajya Sabha MP.
Sanjay, who had led a chequered life more dramatic than some of his films and was convicted for possessing illegal firearms ahead of the 1993 serial blasts in Mumbai. He is currently out on bail and his petition challenging his conviction is pending in the Supreme Court.