Kamal Haasan’s decision to launch a political party has raised a lot of eyebrows and heckles throughout Tamil Nadu. In fact, it has surprised a lot of political observers who were all waiting for someone else to join politics – Super Star Rajnikanth. This was because Rajnikanth has never hid from his films that he had political ambitions. But Kamal Haasan never gave any such signs during his long career. But someone who has been able to read between the lines from his filmography and interviews would not be surprised at this development.
Let us look at various instances during his career where he had a brush with politics.
1. Devar Magan (1992)
This was the first time Kamal Haasan took care of the writing department of his film. The film underlined the futility of caste and the violence it entails upon one’s own fellowmen. The political line of the film was quite outright – Leftward. The film prescribed provision of education to everyone to remedy the ills of caste and backwardness.
2. Babri Masjid Protests (1992)
Babri Masjid demolition on December 6,1992 led to widespread reaction among the Left and liberals across the country. Many activists and artistes participated in protests across the country. Kamal Haasan surprisingly joined a candlelight march in 1992 at the Parliament, New Delhi. Gnani Sankaran, the well-known political commentator remarked that Kamal was very active during that time and even was thinking about entering politics. This was a continuation of the Devar Magan Kamal Haasan who had no sympathy for caste or religion based politics.
3. Kurudhipunal (1995)
The Bengali classic Drohkaal was remade in Tamil directed by P. C. Sreeram. Kamal Haasan played a police officer whose sympathies veered towards Naxalism and class struggle. The film had a lot of inflammatory dialogue and a clear Leftward drift was very much noticeable.
4. Anbe Sivam(2003)
The film was a very resounding ode to Communism. The Nalla Sivam character portrayed Kamal’s disaffection with capitalism and its consumerist ideas. Kamal went on to break away with this line when he did his Pothys Ad in 2015. Everyone were surprised to see a left-wing Kamal selling clothes for a Corporate Superstore for money.
5. Virumandi (2004)
Virumandi, though essentially a heavy-romantic drama had a clear propaganda favoring abolition of death penalty. The film’s message that the Government does not have the right of ordaining the destiny of a citizen through death sentences was very loud and effective.
6. Unnaipol Oruvan (2009)
Unnaipol Oruvan unfortunately went to deny the political stance taken by Kamal Haasan in Virumandi. The unnamed protagonist played by Kamal Haasan advocates immediate death penalty for terrorists without trials or probes- a clear drift from his Virumandi idea.
Kamal, during the promotion of Unnaipol Oruvan went on to express his frustration at the current political system in one of his Vijay TV interviews. When the TV anchor came up with the question, ‘Will you join politics?’, he retorted, ‘If I come, I will have to come wielding a gun to change everything here.’ This was quite radical a standpoint akin to the one taken by Naxals. The interview made everyone think that Kamal Haasan would never favor entering electoral politics on account of his extreme distrust in the system.
7. Viswaroopam (2013)
Kamal Haasan’s Viswaroopam was banned by the Government of Tamilnadu for its attempt to endanger peace and law and order in the state. Kamal was clearly being punished for his defiance towards Jaya’s government that was keen on censoring this film. The film went on to become a blockbuster just like how BJP made a superhit out of the recent Mersal.
8. Chennai Floods (2015)
Everyone remembers the disaster that broke Chennai’s soul in 2015. The Tamilnadu Government’s apathetic response puzzled and frustrated everyone. Kamal hid none of his indignation in an email which said, ‘I don’t see a Government at all existing here at this point of time’ taking a dig at the Jaya Government. The Government, the very next day responded to Kamal’s accusations with so much authoritarian harshness.
When you look at how Kamal has fared during his brushes with politics over the years, you can see that there was a clear Left-Of-Centre line inspite of very minor inconsistencies. The best thing about Kamal Haasan is very much his pan-Indian approach that is so characteristic of his films. His films like Michael Madana Kamarajan, Dasavatharam, Devar Magan, Manmadan Ambu feature a lot of characters who speak various languages. His films have made bold political statements on national and global politics (like the Hitler jab in Viswaroopam).
Tamilnadu currently lacks a leader who never shies away from looking outside the local Well. A clear pan-Indian approach and a strong Left-Of-Centre narrative of Kamal Haasan might give him a unique place in the current political context of the State.