Entertainment Rules

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Is the film industry the best university for a wannabe politician? From the United States to India, film stars rule the roost.

I say entertainment rules, not democracy.

As flimsy, whimsical and tacky as it may sound, there is reason to believe this. I have the evidence to back this up, and that too from the world’s oldest democracy as well as from the world’s largest democracy.

Let us start with the world’s oldest democracy – The United States of America.

In the 1960’s, the lover boy of American silver screens, the charming Ronald Reagan got his first moment of fame in Hollywood’s ‘B-Film Unit’. After a successful career in films, he changed track and took up politics. His early critics were apprehensive of whether an actor could take the highest office. Reagan won the presidential elections to become the 40th President of the USA. A few decades later, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the muscular Austrian-American, also made the move from acting to politics. The ‘Terminator’ was governor of California for a full two terms.

Together, these actors entertained the masses with their charm, muscles and everything else.

Cut to 2016, the world’s oldest democracy shocked the world by voting Donald Trump, of WWE and ‘The Apprentice’ fame, to the White House. A sort of entertainment industry side kick, a reality TV star and businessman, has become the President of the United States.

Perhaps, it’s their ability to entertain, perform and grab eye-balls; saying what audiences want to hear, that helps them win votes.

In the world’s largest democracy, India, entertainers have also left their imprint on politics.

In the 1980s, after retiring from politics, the Tamil film star M.G. Ramachandran (MGR), entered politics and became the Chief Minister of the state of Tamil Nadu. Following suit, in Andhra Pradesh, N.T. Rama Rao (NTR), an actor who played the roles of Hindu Gods Rama and Krishna, went on to start his own political party – the Telugu Desam Party. Within six months, he won an unprecedented victory, becoming the Chief Minister. In the last decade, Chiranjeevi, the Telugu actor-turned-politician launched his own political outfit – Praja Rajyam Party. Unfortunately, the actor who delivered several hit films over estimated himself. He turned out to be a massive flop in politics. So much so that he had to ‘merge’ his party with the Indian National Congress to become India’s tourism minister, and the face of ‘Incredible India’.

This is not a classic case of ‘Madrasi’ obsession with stardom, as some might say. When the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) gave a ticket to television actor Nitish Bharadhwaj, who acted as Lord Krishna in the serial Mahabharatha, he made his campaign dressed as Lord Krishna and went on to become a member of Parliament. The likes of Amitabh Bacchan, Govinda and Sunil Dutt have all followed suit, charting their own course in politics.

Curiously enough, in America – the world’s oldest democracy, successful actors who became politicians were mostly men. But in India, women actresses who proved their mettle in the entertainment industry went on to change their filmy avatars, and present themselves as public servants, Desh Bhakts or Mothers (Amma). For example, Smriti Irani who played the docile daughter-in-law in the hit television serial Kyunki Saans Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thee went on to become India’s Minister for Human Resource Development. J. Jayalalithaa, the super star of the 70s went on to become Tamil Nadu’s longest-serving chief minister. India’s ‘Dream Girl’ Hema Malini, went on to become a Member of Parliament. In this case, the world’s largest democracy beats the world’s oldest democracy hands down when it comes to actresses becoming top politicians.

The entertainment industry churns out a disproportionate number of politicians. It is probably the best university for a wannabe Netaji. So, all you wannabe Netas, it’s time to put the make-up on, and start the Bhashan – the clap board is your best gateway to the corridors of power. Why learn the nuts and bolts of the constitution? Do some drama, become a star. You will go far!

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Views expressed are that of Eka Love Ya and do not represent that of Madras Courier.

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