The newly elected chief minister of Karnataka, HD Kumaraswamy is by profession a film producer. His wife is a film actor. Film and politics, especially in the southern states, are very closely interlinked. The former chief minister of Tamil Nadu, Jayalalitha, was a film actress. So was Andhra Pradesh’s Chief Minister N.T. Rama Rao.
The superhero of the south, Rajanikanth (whose political ambitions are well known) commented on Karnataka’s results as a ‘victory of democracy’. Kamal Hassan too is standing at the edge of politics. The film media has given them a pedestal to be popular among the masses – and that has quickly been transformed into political mileage.
But today the link between film and politics has not remained confined to the southern states alone. In West Bengal, for example, the Chief Minister, though herself a hardcore politician has taken advantage of the glamour of films to add colour to her politics. Several film stars of West Bengal are today MPs and MLAs.
Of course there is nothing wrong in a profession getting close to the corridors of power. In times of the Congress, it was mainly the lawyers who joined politics. Among the Leftists, teachers joined politics. Now the question is what has been the contribution of the film stars to democracy apart from adding glamour? True, in America, they did have a president, Ronald Reagan, coming from filmdom. But his “Reaganomics” or trickle-down theory is much in question today. Lawyers and teachers in the Indian Parliament or state assemblies have often produced good orators. But film stars? We are yet to find a good parliamentarian from that sector.
New professions, new faces need to be tapped to provide fresh blood to Indian politics. The crisis India faces today is primarily because the power is confined to a few families, and in some states, even among members from the underworld. If we elect a person, we do so with the expectation that they will work towards an equal distribution of our ‘public resources’. They are the trustees of public resource. But can we really trust someone from the underworld? Or someone from the world of glamour? We know now the number of pairs of shoes and dresses and jewellery discovered from the house of a chief minister, once a famous filmstar.
The mass has historically been attracted towards the media. And the media has been used by the politicians to add glamour to themselves. But somewhere there has to be a line of reason - how much the media should help the politician to achieve his aim. The men behind the camera or the pen should critically examine as to how much of a ‘trustee’ the elected member can be – from whichever sector he might have come. A former film star or a former journalist cannot grab added advantage from the media. A politician and the media person have different roles to play. There can be role-reversals – and as we can see today – it is often happening. But the margins have to be kept separate.