Stagecraft Vs Statecraft

Superstar Rajinikanth recently hinted about entering politics when God tells him to … and suddenly there is a frenzy of interpretations. Its comic to watch serious news anchors (no pun intended) viewing this “major development” with a lot of serious thought and evaluating the implications at the state and central government level. This is a repeated one-act play that Rajinikanth puts up every five years when state elections are held. Everyone holds their breath as long as they can and then heave a collective sigh when he doesn’t confirm anything and continues to make movies.

Mind you, am a die-hard Rajinikanth fan. Thalaivar is an enduring idol for me, BUT, I don’t think he should enter politics ever. He can continue to stage the one-act play during state elections, but that’s it. Thalaivar is one of the smartest guys in the country, so he should know that stagecraft does not translate into statecraft. The qualities required for both crafts are very different. There are very few politicians who chose acting as their first vocation and very few actors for whom politics is their first vocation – both are a problem. There is one MGR, one Jayalalitha and one Ronald Reagan … who moved from stagecraft to statecraft with relative ease and there are countless others who made a mess of it. Remember Amitabh Bachchan?

The reasons why Thalaivar should not enter politics are many, the first one being, he doesn’t understand the playing field. He is an amazing actor who has figured out what his audience wants and delivers just that, but he had never tried to change their preferences. Kamal Hassan has tried and failed several times. Its relatively easy to figure out what people like to watch as a movie, but very difficult to figure out what will help them change. Politics is about figuring out what the citizen wants and promising them that you can deliver on that…. but its also about channelizing their energy towards something that you want for the future. The first part is easy in the movie business because everyone is trying to deliver a hit, which can only happen when they deliver what the audience wants. In politics, the party wants one thing, the people want another thing, the state needs something else and you want something altogether different !! Thalaivar has not shown that he can bring so many diverse viewpoints together.

The second reason for Thalaivar not to join politics is his inexperience in building institutions, like Shah Rukh Khan. Now, Shah Rukh will make a great politician, if only he can rein in his acerbic wit which sometimes makes him say really nasty stuff. Rajinikanth is as smart or even smarter than the Badshah of Bollywood, but he hasn’t spent time creating or running an enterprise. Its very different than preparing for a role and politics requires a mindset of building institutions. His decisions will impact millions of people, and he doesn’t have the experience of impacting a few hundreds in an institution. He hasn’t taken an independent decision for any of his movies except the decision to act in it … a movie is a collective effort and a collective success or failure. Politics will always be a sport where winning will be termed a collective effort and failure an individual’s fault. Thalaivar hasn’t experienced that.

The third reason for Thalaivar not to join politics is his age. He is the same age as our PM Modi, both being 66 years old. PM Modi has been in politics ever since the age of 8 when he joined the RSS. Thalaivar was probably enacting something at that age. Can he learn at this stage? Yes, he can, but the learning curve will be too steep and the price he will pay for the education may be too high. While the late Cho Ramaswamy in his play “Mohammed Bin Tughlaq” quipped “Arasiyal oru sakkadai, athil yethu vendumanallum kalakalam” – “politics is a dirty drain, you can mix anything in it”, politics also is a science. You need to gain experience and learn the tricks till they become second nature. The only thing that’s different for politics and other professions is, the entry is free – anyone with any background can become a politician. Rajinikanth is a committed, sincere actor – he doesnt take his movies lightly and precisely because of that, he shouldn’t enter politics at this age when its difficult for him to learn something that he is not naturally inclined towards. MGR had political ambitions even as he was a filmstar – for him movies was the route to politics, for Rajinikanth, acting is his passion, politics is an afterthought.

I sincerely hope that Thalaivar reconsiders his hints of joining politics – he can make his social contribution through his philanthropic activities and by lending support to any party that he chooses after careful consideration. He can certainly be an effective counter force and check to the party that comes to power in TamilNadu because he is loved by millions like me. He should contribute his thoughts and question when things go wrong as they are going wrong right now, but he should never become a politician.

A superstar became a Thalaivar, but a Thalaivar should not become a politician !! Its a humble request from a die-hard fan.

Do read my post on Rajinikanth – Thalaivaa… Happy birthday

***Thalaivar (Tamil word) means Leader.

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