Poor Rajinikanth – He will be more embarrassed than thrilled to learn that he has been chosen for the prestigious Dada Saheb Phalke award for his contribution to cinema.
The timing of the award, less than a week before Tamil Nadu votes for a new assembly, could not have been more awkward for the superstar. For, it is nothing but a crass attempt by the Modi government to woo his fans to vote for the AIADMK-BJP alliance. Union Information Minister Prakash Javadekar’s observation that the award to Rajinikanth has nothing to do with Tamil Nadu elections conveys exactly the opposite meaning – it HAS everything to do with the April 6 election in Tamil Nadu.
The BJP had been banking on Rajinikanth to make his political entry and has been wooing the superstar overtly and covertly. In 2016 he was conferred with the Padma Vibhushan and in 2017 he announced his entry into politics – only to be halted by corona which left his fans in the lurch. By dangling the Phalke award for Rajinikanth, the BJP now hopes to tempt lakhs of Rajinikanth fans to vote for the NDA alliance in the state.
The award also betrays certain desperation by the BJP’s poll managers who apprehend that they have not been able to halt or disrupt the DMK’s most likely return to power as indicated by most opinion polls. These polls also show that the BJP’s 20 candidates are struggling to make a mark and it would be a surprise even if one of them manages to win. Also, Rajini has made politically convenient noises in support of the BJP – he supported demonetization, CAA and opposed the derogatory comments on Lord Muruga by rationalists. “So why not entice his fans with the Phalke award for the superstar?” would have been the brainwave in the BJP HQ.
If the Centre wanted to honour a film great from Tamil Nadu with the Phalke award, Kamal Hassan would have fitted the bill admirably. He is much senior to Rajini and has been acting for over six decades having started his career as a child artiste. He has acted across various languages, experimented with roles, won three national awards for best actor, directed movies and is a singer as well.
Unfortunately, Kamal happens to be a political contender in the present elections, directly challenging the BJP candidate in Coimbatore South. Such a political opponent, who has also been critical of the Modi-Palaniswami governments, does not qualify for the Phalke award which is announced solely at the discretion of the Union government.
And Kamal made a telling political statement on Wednesday – he visited a footwear shop owned by a Muslim in Coimbatore and purchased a pair of chappals. Reason – the shop had been attacked by BJP cadres for being kept open when their motorcycle rally passed through the area en-route to a campaign meeting to be addressed by UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. Kamal thus further disqualified himself in the eyes of the present government.