NEW DELHI: Films like ‘Satta’, ‘Nayak’ and ‘Rajneeti’ in recent years, have shown the Bollywood filmmakers’ interpretation of the way politics works in this country. Not to forget movies like ‘Sarkar’ that exposes the links of the underworld with politicians.
Perhaps this exposure to politics and largely the anti-corruption wave that swept the country in the wake of Anna Hazare’s movement has resulted in probably the largest number of film personalities enter the fray for the 2014 polls.
Although all political parties have not made public their complete list, around 40 actors from across the country are in the election arena – revealing perhaps the largest participation from Bollywood and north India, since the participation of the film industry from south India has already been quite good.
But for the film industry, five constituencies are going to be worth watching as they have actors pitted against each other. Perhaps the most glamorous poll fights is in Chandigarh, which will see actor former Miss India Gul Panag of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) pitted against her senior and very versatile actor Kirron Kher who has taken up cudgels for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Though Panag was born in Sangrur, she has continued to live in Chandigarh, while the Chandigarh-born Kher has come into fray from this city though she lives in Mumbai.
The not-so-‘khamosh’ Shatrughan Sinha is once again representing the BJP from Patna Saheb in Bihar where he will face Bhojpuri actor Kunal Singh of the Congress. Singh has stated that he is prepared to take up the challenge because he does not feel Sinha has done enough for the constituency.
Mumbai North West will see a triple star fight: the verbose Kamal R Khan who often gets into controversies for his utterances is pitted as an independent against equally controversial star Rakhi Sawant who represents the Rashtriya Aam Party, and Mahesh Manjrekar who represents the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS).
In Birbhum, the fight is between actor Satabdi Roy of the Trinamool Congress and actor Joy Banerjee of the BJP which has generally not done well in West Bengal and hopes star power may help.
Singer Indranil Sen from TMC will take on actor Sidhanth Mahapatra of the Biju Janata Dal from Behrampur.
In fact, the BJP has attracted the largest number of film personalities, particularly from Bollywood and north India. Some other film personalities representing the party are George Baker in Howrah, Nimu Bhowmik in Raiganj, versatile singer Bablu Supriya in Asansol, senior actor Hema Malini in Mathura, Hindi and Bhojpuri actor Manoj Tiwari in North East Delhi, music maestro Bappi Lahiri from Serampore, versatile actor Paresh Rawal from Ahmedabad East, veteran Vinod Khanna from Gurdaspur, and television actress Smiriti Irani from the high-profile constituency Amethi.
The Congress has roped in Kannada heroine Ramya in Mandya, actor Aparajita Mohanty in Cuttack, veteran Oriya film actor Bijay Mohanty from Bhubaneswar, Hindi and Bhojpuri actor Ravi Kishan from Jaunpur, petite actress Nagma in Meerut, actor Jayasudha in Secunderabad, the high-profile Raj Babbar from Ghaziabad, Union Minister D Napoleon from Perambalur in Tamil Nadu, and actor Vijaya Shanthi from Medak.
The Trinamool Congress is not far behind, with glamorous actor Moon Moon Sen in Bankura, reigning Bengali star Deb in Ghatal, Sandhya Sen in Midnapore, actor Soumitra Roy from Malda North, actor Arpita Ghosh in Balurghat, former Bollywood star Biswajit (Chatterjee) from New Delhi and actor Tapas Paul in Krishnagar.
The AAP has roped in TV actress Rina Rani to contest from Maharajganj and the actor-dancer Javed Jaffery (son of former comedy actor Jagdeep) from Lucknow.
Actor Innocent will represent the Communist Party of India (Marxist) from Chalakkudy in Kerala, renowned award-winning director will fight for the Janata Dal (United) from West Champaran in Bihar, former actor Jayaprada will be fighting this time on behalf of Rashtriya Lok Dal from Bijnor.
Jayaprada initially represented the Telugu Desam Party, later switching to the Samajwadi Party and then moving to RLD after her friend Amar Singh was forced to leave SP.
Rakhi Sawant says she is contesting the elections on the plank of restoring women's safety in the metropolis. "I was offered a BJP ticket from Srirampur in West Bengal. But I am from Mumbai and know Hindi and Marathi. I don't know the local language of West Bengal, so why should I stand from there?" she said while announcing her candidature.
Actor Ramya (Divya Spandana) is the first female star from Karnataka to enter the Lok Sabha. Ramya joined the Youth Congress in 2011 and had campaigned for the party in the assembly elections.
The final list is yet to come out, and so Punjabi pop singer Rabbi Shergil who has joined the AAP is also expected to contest, even as actor Murali Mohan is eyeing the Rajahmundry seat. Pawan Kalyan who formed the Jana Sena is hoping to contest from Kakinada.
Some actors or film personalities who have got elected to Parliament in the past or are presently in the Rajya Sabha as elected or nominated members include Prakash Jha, Amitabh Bachchan, Govinda, Dharmendra, Shekhar Suman, singer Hans Raj Hans, Babu Mohan, Murli Mohan, Krishnam Raju, Nafisa Ali, late Sunil Dutt, Jaya Bachchan, late Rajesh Khanna, late N T Rama Rao, Vyjayanthimala Bali, late Dr Raj Kumar and K Chiranjeevi. The nominated members include Nargis Dutt, Lata Mangeshkar, Shabana Azmi, Rekha, and Javed Akhtar.
Babu Mohan has joined the Telengana Rashtra Samiti to fight the assembly elections, while in Tamil Nadu, Jayalalitha will again represent the AIADMK in the assembly. Actor Jeevitha who joined the BJP is hoping to get an assembly seat, actor Nandamuri Balakrishna is also looking for a seat in Andhra Pradesh, while comedian Ali from the south and actor Ambreesh are not far behind in their quest. Vijay Kanth of the DMDK and U V Krishnamraju from the BIP are others in the fray for state assemblies.
Almost all the film personalities in the fray have some controversy attached to their lives or their present campaign. Kamal Khan who is known to be outspoken had in one of his films added dialogues attacking the MNS announcements about outsiders in Mumbai, while actor Nagma has had to face people who have not just tried to grope her but Congress MLA Gaj Raj Sharma grabbed and kissed her during one of her campaigns. She has even been manhandled.
Kirron Kher was met with black flags when she first came to Chandigarh and had to convince voters that she was indeed from Chandigarh, while actor-dancer Hema Malini has been booed for not daring to step out of her Audi as she moves around Mathura. And if she does peep out of the sun-shade of her car, it is only for a brief glimpse and visits to temples are in the midst of bouncers.
Manoj Tiwari had earlier contested the national elections from the SP ticket in 2009 and is now representing BJP.
Raj Babbar had won from Firozabad for a fourth term by defeating Dimple Yadav, wife of Akhilesh Yadav and daughter-in-law of Mulayam Singh Yadav, but has now been shifted to Ghaziabad.
The versatile Aamir Khan has become the national icon of the Election Commission after the last episode of the second edition of Satyamev Jayate. A team from Doordarshan, EC’s official partner was rushed to shoot a video with Aamir Khan. Apart from the video, Khan has shot for an audio spot, urging the people to cast their votes. He says, “Rukey nahin, chookey nahin…vote zaroor daalein.”
Singer Anoop Jalota will campaign for the BJP while Kapil Sharma and Soha Ali Khan will campaign for the Congress.
While Bollywood has generally not been very successful in north India, the southern film industry is rich with examples of film-politicians. Since 1957 when actor S S Rajendran (SSR) entered the fray in Theni during the assembly elections to the then Madras State Legislative Assembly polls, the DMK and its 1972-offshoot AIADMK led by popular hero M G Ramachandran, have in most elections given tickets to stars.
In the post-MGR era, the AIADMK, the DMK and other parties had fielded actors in Parliamentary and assembly elections since 1998, barring the 2004 Lok Sabha polls.
The outgoing 15th Lok Sabha had two actor MPs, D Napoleon and Ritheesh, of the DMK. Now they have switched loyalties to suspended DMK leader M K Alagiri. Napoleon had earlier represented the Villivakkam Assembly constituency during 2001-06 and lost to comedian S V Shekhar in Mylapore in 2006.
This time, the ruling AIADMK and DMK have trusted lawyers, businessmen, doctors and others than trying actors though initially there were speculations that yesteryear heroine Khushboo and Radhika Sarathkumar could fight it out in a constituency in Chennai.
While the connection between Tamil cinema and politics goes back to the 1940s when DMK founder C N Annadurai and its present chief M Karunanidhi were script writers, SSR known as a ‘Latchiya Nadigar’ (Ambitious Actor), was the first screen star to join the fray. He had lost the 1957 election by 6,781 votes to a Congress candidate.
However, in the 1962 assembly polls he created history by winning from Theni on a DMK ticket thus becoming the first actor in the world to enter an elected legislative body. In later years, he was nominated to the Rajya Sabha and also won from the Andipatti Assembly constituency (MGR’s last represented constituency) in 1980 as an AIADMK candidate.
MGR entered electoral politics only in 1967, winning from St Thomas Mount, while chief minister J Jayalalithaa became a Rajya Sabha member in 1984. The same year, the Congress had successfully fielded yesteryear actor Vyjayanthimala from the South Madras Lok Sabha constituency and she sprung as a surprise by defeating veteran politician Era Sezhiyan.
But popular Sivaji Ganesan, one of the greatest actors in the world, had a failed political career though the Congress once made him a Rajya Sabha member. The Thamizhaga Munnetra Munnani, which he launched after MGR’s death, failed to take off and he did not make it big as president of the Janata Dal (Tamil Nadu) unit either.
Actor Sarathkumar was defeated in 1998 from the Tirunelveli Parliamentary constituency on a DMK ticket. Subsequently, he entered the Rajya Sabha and is now a MLA. In contrast, another actor Ramarajan, whose popularity was on the wane, got elected to the Lok Sabha from Tiruchendur as an AIADMK candidate in 1998.
Another yesteryear MGR film heroine Latha lost her deposit when she contested from Dindigul in 1998 Lok Sabha polls on a MGRADMK ticket. The following year, voters of the constituency rejected DMK candidate actor S Chandrasekar.
Similarly, in Periyakulam, villain Mansoor Ali Khan fielded by Puthiya Tamilagam, came third in 1999 but polled over 87,000 votes.
Some of the Tollywood actors who made it to the assembly and Parliament (including Rajya Sabha) are: villain Radharavi (AIADMK), comedian S S Chandran (AIADMK), Vijayakant (DMDK), Arun Pandian (DMDK rebel), versatile film personality T Rajendar (DMK) and comedian Isari Velan (AIADMK).