Dubai: In a political landscape that’s teeming with actors-turned-politicians, south Indian actor Kamal Haasan made his governing ambitions known on Wednesday by launching his own party Makkal Needhi Maiyyam in Madurai.
Roughly translated as People’s Justice Centre, the 62-year-old charismatic actor with a distinct voice claimed that he’s in it for the long haul. Just like his on-screen persona, the matinee idol made dramatic statements during the event-filled launch that would put his socially-charged blockbusters such as Nammavar to shame.
He also unfurled his party’s flag, which has six hands — three in red and three in white — joined together around a star on a white background.
“You must be an example to the present day political system and I will be seeking your suggestion rather than giving you speeches,” said Haasan at the party launch.
Earlier, the actor-turned-politician formally began his political journey from former Indian president late A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s residence in Rameswaram and said he was no more a movie star but a lamp in the homes of people. “Like the lamp in your homes you should protect me,” Kamal told a gathering here on his way to Madurai.
“Greatness can come from simple beginnings … It will come only from simplicity. Glad to start my journey from a great man’s simple abode,” the actor added in a tweet.
The actor also rejected the idea of draping a silk stole by his patrons and requested everyone to donate such offerings to orphanages, a move that’s symbolic of his agenda to be the saviour of the people.
With this development, Haasan joins the league of Tamil superhero Rajinikanth who announced his political ambitions in December last year. Recently, when Rajinikanth announced his decision to float a political party, it generated a frenzied response from his fans. Though the two silver screen rivals subscribe to different ideologies, both seem to be cashing in on their popularity transforming into votes.
But Haasan’s foray into political stardom did not go down well with traditional politicians. MK Stalin, president of Tamil Nadu’s opposition DMK party, appeared to take a dig at film personalities taking a plunge into politics and said: “Paper flowers which do not have fragrance will bloom during a season but they will wither very soon.”
The state’s ruling AIADMK leader and minister D. Jayakumar agreed with Stalin and added that these “modified genetic seeds” will not grow. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s Tamil Nadu unit leader T Soundararajan, meanwhile, told reporters that Haasan appeared to have “started a political party to compete against someone,” an apparent reference to Rajinikanth.
Reacting to the scorn from his political rivals, Haasan said he is not a paper flower but a seed: “Plant me and I will grow,” he urged his supporters.
Every word that tumbled out of Haasan on Wednesday was lapped up by thousands of supporters underlining the political vacuum that exists in Tamil Nadu after the demise of iconic chief minister J Jaylalithaa in December 2016. Three chief ministers of this state have been actors-turned-politicians.
Haasan, who promises to weed out corruption and be the voice of the common man, claimed he didn’t turn to politics on a whim.
Unlike cinema, the actor who’s fondly called “Ulaga Nayagan” or the world’s hero, realises that the stakes are higher on a political stage.
“Cinema is a medium to connect with people and so is politics. But there is more responsibility as a politician. It was like barter system — there (in cinema) — their (people’s) money for my talent. But there is no such thing here (in politics),” Haasan told reporters.
His announcement on Twitter also suggested that he’s a political leader that strives for inclusiveness and yearns for his voters to be socially aware.
“The newly-founded MAKKAL NEEDHI MAIYYAM is your party. It’s here to stay, and to make the change we all aspire for. Guide us to serve you,” said Haasan. In one stroke, he announced his leadership with a message that was potent mix of determination and vulnerability.
Just like his taste in picking films that explore relevant themes in today’s times such as war-against-terror in Vishwaroopam, Haasan is the quintessential poster boy for liberal politics. After having acted in over 200 Indian films, his latest role is that of a visionary and determined saviour of the people making it his biggest gamble of his career.