10 October 2003

India offers Arnie a pointer or two

NTR and MGR did extremely well in buttressing their screen image to further their political ends. NTR played God in several of his movies, produced at his own studios, and built temples for people to worship him, and he played a similar role as a higher being while in office. MGR, meanwhile, portrayed the role of the savior of Tamil pride perfectly whenever his political stakes were down. The tactic worked a charm.

Schwarzenegger could also learn that in politics, the spicier the better. The current chief minister of Tamil Nadu, J Jayalalitha, was the top actress of her time, and she also happened to be a mistress of MGR. She fought a bitter political battle of legacy with MGR's widow, who was herself chief minister for a short while before Jayalalitha took over.

For further micro studies, Arnold could brush up on the political history of several other stars - Shabana Azmi, Dilip Kumar, Rajesh Khanna, Vyajantimala Bali and Raj Babbar, to name a few.

Due to their larger-than-life presence, plenty of literature delves into the role of film stars in politics. Arnold could study this as well. What emerges from this knowledge bank is that when people in the past voted for stars, they did so for style rather than substance, for image rather than reality.

However, the Indian electorate has evolved. It has come to realize that it is the person who delivers that matters. The mantle of NTRs party has been taken over by his technocrat son-in-law Chandrababu Naidu, who dreams of modeling his state on Singapore by making it the hub of India's information technology boom.

Jayalalitha was voted back into power not because of her star status, but due to the ineptitude of the previous government, as well as her reputation as an iron-fisted leader.

Actors, like anybody else, have the right to stand for elections, and like anybody else they need to perform or they will be shunted out. No doubt they have an initial advantage, but honeymoons have a horrible habit of ending all too soon.

Actors, like everybody else, also need to understand that you can't balance the budget by raising spending and cutting revenue. The new fiscal technique of waving a broom about has not been tested yet.

No comments: