The Cine-Political nexus – Priti Jain

Not everyone would agree to the textbook description of Political Science being called a science, given the core subject being humans. One of the reasons why political scientists are keen on Politics being called a science is the freedom of experimentation; going beyond the realms of the conventional labs, making the whole world it’s experimental ground. An area that has experienced most of the experimentations we talk about is Election Campaigning. They bring out the best and the worst out of the political parties. The funding and expenditure in these campaigns have always been a bone of contention between the parties and the Election Commission. The freebies (laptops, kitchen appliances, food and sometimes even money) no more remain the means afforded by a few heftily funded parties, but have now become a mainstream political tactic. The people on the receiving end justify their acceptance of these gifts as the only good thing happening to them before and after the elections. So they might as well make the best of it. Technological adoptions to reach the masses and living/ eating with a few to gauge their reality have added to the mere throat screeching speeches. But one experiment that has faded with time has been the use of cine stars to attract the masses.

The experience in the southern politics is not unknown to all; the cinematic idols transformed themselves into political idols by forming their own parties, parties which have shaped their respective state politics.  MGR for Tamil Nadu was what NTR was for Andhra Pradesh and what Rajkumar could have been for Karnataka. The common thread linking them is their cine influence used to garner the mass support, which they ultimately received. There are two reasons that led to their political popularity; the characters played by them in the movies and their cultural, ethnic and lingual connection with the masses. The cine-political nexus in their times was a serious affair, the stars received the love and affection the politicians always desired. Somehow, these actors/ play writers took their jobs seriously. They had the image, they had the support, they had the ideology and ultimately they had their own ruling party. This very theory explains the failure of the northern actors in flagging themselves as successful politicians. The Bollywood in particular is a cultural mix-bag. You can worship them, be a die-hard fan, or even be a stalker, but relating to them as a political figure can be difficult. They were more focused on the aspect of national politics with a diverse population base, rather than regional politics.

We have seen actors like Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra, and Shatrugan Sinha defying laws and fighting the evil, which many a times would be a mafia-political nexus; them eventually becoming a politician would not be well received. But one reason why you tend to trust them is the belief that these actors would make an attempt to clear the mess with their ‘clean’ image, but they have no political experience and knowledge of the needs of their constituency. It would not be surprising if they become insignificant in the political world and feel out of place, in no time would they start longing for their easy lives. And who can guarantee their seriousness? Politics might just be their retirement plan; having a party friend, making some extra money and simultaneously moving on with their stable movie careers. Consider them taking their job up with complete passion and determination, would they get the majority within their party? Political parties use them as crowd pullers and sometimes give them the party tickets considering their level of popularity; they honestly do not entrust any important portfolio to them. Most of the actors tend to play safe by joining the less controversial Upper House of the Parliament, with the exception of few like Amitabh Bachchan, who succeeded in securing a Lok Sabha seat. His friend Rajeev Gandhi insisted on him fighting for the seat in 1984, but with the end of the 5 years, he swore never to attach himself to politics again.

With the exception of a few like Raj Babbar, Rajesh Khanna, Sunil Dutt and even Shatrugan Sinha many have distanced themselves from this game.  While people like Shabana Azmi have vouched for laws saving the interest of the artists in the form of amendments to the Indian Copyright Act, 1957, their contributions have been restricted to such niche areas. They are more active working on their social status rather than being present in the parliamentary sessions. One of the reasons why Jaya Bachchan was in news was concerning the appeal to the Speaker to change her seating arrangement owing to its vicinity to Rekha’s seat. We solely cannot blame our actor lot for being non-attentive for the sessions for our less-loved authentic political leaders deserve no award for their attendance record.

What we now see is a slow disappearance of the actors from the political world; the majority who tried either left and some continue to be their insignificant selves. The parties themselves might have realized the fruitlessness of these actors and have chosen not to actively associate with them this time. This was a phase of trial and error; but have the political parties realized the dire need for their parties to substantially deliver rather than add glamour and twist to their campaigns? It is quite possible. Though there can be no absolute end to this nexus, a fading trend is apparent. The hollowness in their agendas is manifest in the attempt to mitigate their image with the help of cine stars. With the brevity of their terms and their disastrous experiences, this experiment worked only in the initial years of the regional politics in the south and failed to mark its presence in the rest of the nation.

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