The Superstar and the Ilaya Thalapathy (Young Turk) are under the scanner; will the stars stand robust or show feet of clay?
In rarest of rare cases, Rajinikanth and Vijay, two big ticket movie stars who flirt with politics, are facing the heat of official enquiry, all in a 24-hour span.
Such astonishing ‘political developments’ have rarely occurred in Tamil Nadu, where the two predominant Dravidian parties DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) and AIADMK (All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) have ruled the state, alternately, over the past seven decades. Not even in an election year have we seen such frenzied activity.
Technically, Rajinkanth will face the authorities on February 25, the day he has been summoned, to appear before the Justice Aruna Jagadeesan Commission, probing the anti-Sterlite protests in 2018 and the police firing on 22 May 2018 in which 13 people lost their lives. He has been summoned for his comments immediately following the firing.
We will come to that later.
Like a scene out of a mass hero movie (that Rajini and Vijay churn out, much to the delight of their fans, male, female, newbies and oldies), in sheer filmi-style, on Wednesday, over half-a-dozen IT sleuths descended upon actor Vijay’s shooting spot in Neyveli, the lignite-producing town in the state, and reportedly questioned him for over an hour in his caravan.
Vijay, who was shooting for the Logesh Kanagaraj-directed film, Master, is said to have cooperated fully with the officials, who then asked him to accompany them to Chennai, so that their search of his homes and offices in ECR and Saligramam could be conducted further. There were five other sleuths doing their jobs in Chennai.
The actor and the cavalcade of IT sleuths were on the road to Chennai by evening - yes, it reads like a cloned script of a Singam movie or a Vijaykanth movie, but this really happened. The taxmen are questioning Vijay over his pay packet for his recent movie, Bigil, reportedly a blockbuster.
The movie released late in 2019 and was produced by AGS group of companies, currently under the lens of the IT department. Over 20 of their properties were searched and the investigation is still ongoing.
The high-octane action of ‘bringing’ Vijay to Chennai post-haste, makes one wonder at the urgency of it all. A top star’s dates (call sheets as they are technically known) is also a product, like a smartphone component, and any delay, will impact supply and cost of the finished product. The budget of the film will be impacted, as well as the work of the other cast and crew.
“Where is the rush? Vijay is not going to run away from Kollywood,” said a befuddled fan. But then, that is the price Vijay has to pay for serenading politics, with his broadsides, especially in the last couple of years.
In the movie Mersal, in 2017, he was critical of the demonetisation drive and GST regime ushered in by the Narendra Modi government. In Sarkar, Vijay fired a salvo at the freebie scheme of the state government, riling up the AIADMK government. Top leaders such as Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar were scathing of actors who merely “mouthed dialogues”.
Both the DMK and the AIADMK take great pride in their various pro-people schemes and showcase the same as have been agents of real socio-economic upliftment.
Vijay may have taken on both the centre and the state governments, but when it comes to politics, even going along with the central government does not guarantee a safety cushion, as Rajinikanth is finding out, of late.
The actor, who has been hinting at political entry for a while now, is now busy juggling dubbing for his movies and facing the media on current issues. Sharing the point of view of the centre on CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) and NPR (National Population Register), which runs counter to the sentiment of most political parties in the south, Rajini, however, has been summoned by the probe panel for his comments to the media, made on 20 May 2018, in Thoothukudi, post the police firing on Sterlite protestors.
On that occasion, Rajini had not only claimed that anti-social elements had intruded into the protesting crowd and caused the violence, forcing the police to resort to shooting at the mob. He had even claimed to have knowledge of those who incited the violence.
Based on this, Naam Tamilar Katchi (NTK) leader Seeman had said that Rajini should depose before the probe panel. Will Rajini be able to back his own statement with hard evidence is the big question now.
With the talk of his political plunge in the forthcoming Assembly elections, the Sterlite probe panel’s summons gains significance. Rajini has to sport the political shoe and stand his ground, if he wants the romance with politics to be on a song.
Let us not forget one gritty actor who took on her detractors and went on to carve a small but significant role at the national level. Actor Khushbu Sundar, who was pilloried for her remarks on pre-marital sex to India Today magazine years ago, was taken to court, with cases filed in a dozen places. She stood by her comments, fought the legal battle, emerged victorious, joined the DMK and later, the Congress, and was the go-to-spokesperson for almost all the media outlets up north.
Will Rajinikanth and Vijay walk the talk?