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Life as I'm learning it

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Location: Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, United States

"It little profits that an idle king, By this still hearth, among these barren crags, Match'd with an ag├Ęd wife, I mete and dole Unequal laws unto a savage race, That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me."

Friday, March 17, 2006

His last bow?

[cross-posted in TN Assembly Election '06]

Rajnikanth's decision to stay away from the political theatre this time around is probably his best move yet. The actor, who was once touted to be future Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, has now politely removed himself from the race. This offers an excellent study of the characteristics a leader requires, most of all, ruthlessness.

Ten years ago...

I remember that day (April/May 1996), and that televised speech vividly. My grandfather was in hospital, and I was at my cousins. There was buzz all round that Rajnikanth might appear on TV to support the then recently formed DMK-TMC alliance. And appear he did. Rajnikanth, who had just had the biggest hit of his life yet (Baasha), was the toast of Tamil Nadu, and people were certain that he would mince no words about the unpopular ADMK government. He didn't disappoint. The statement was made, and the DMK-TMC combine got a great boost. Not that they were on a sticky wicket before, but the support of a man of Rajni's charisma does sway many.

Subsequent Rajni movies were huge hits and were sprinkled with generous amounts of anti-JJisms. No one was in any doubt who the inspiration behind Neelambari in Padayappa was. Padayappa was then the biggest grosser in the history of Tamil cinema. That was the moment. He had to decide. He missed the moment.

Doubts, doubts and doubts

For all his studied pragmatism on-screen, Rajnikanth failed to carry it into his real life. "Will he? Won't he?" filled the air. Some said he would float a party and forge an alliance with the DMK. Others wished he would go it alone. Rajnikanth missed the boat at that moment. His doubts were compounded by the fact that the parties he placed faith in shifted alliances and allegiances at the drop of the hat.

The last blow came when the BJP and the DMK split, and Dr. Ramadoss' PMK aligned itself with the DMK. The BJP sided with the ADMK. Rajnikanth's friends were on either side, and in an uncalculated move, he released a statement that he would vote for the BJP, and that his supporters would work for the downfall of the PMK. Seasoned political watchers knew then that this man had gone to a point of no return. The BJP lost, and the DMK alliance romped home 40-nil.

What went wrong?

Rajnikanth became a victim of his own indecision. A man who spends 30 minutes of a two-and-a-half-hour movie deriding his political rivals would not be doing it just for fun. Thus, one cannot believe that he did things just to please his audience. There was a calculation behind his moves. Where he failed was to capitalise on the right moment to launch himself into the political arena.

In politics, survival demands a high degree of ruthlessness. As the strategists at Toyota will tell you, "Plan carefully, and implement rapidly." The plan was careful, but the implementation never happened. The iron wasn't struck when hot, and hence the man failed to strike gold!

Budding politicians should see a clear lesson in this. Charisma goes only half the way. It is like the business card. Unless it is backed by solid planning, flawless calculation and well-timed manoeuvres, it is of no use. It is sad that Rajnikanth, who might be one of the main characters in a book on Tamil cinema, will only be a forgotten footnote in a book on Tamil Nadu's politics.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi VK,

Message under What went wrong ? Makes great sense when you make business moves.

GD Thirumala Vasan

3/17/2006 07:49:00 PM  
Blogger Subro said...

I certainly doubt he can still enter politics. HE should have done it long back, but now after displaying so much waiver in his mindset, I doubt the people will stand behind him. He was with KK a decade ago and now seen with JJ.

3/17/2006 09:08:00 PM  
Blogger Kaps said...

good analysis. i still feel that the rajini fans are working for the downfall of the PMK. Since JJ presided over the wedding of Dhanush and Aishwarya, there might be a feeling that Rajini has patched up with JJ. I somehow feel that Rajini is 51-49 in favour of ADMK even though he has issued a statement that he doesn't want to support anyone.

3/17/2006 11:17:00 PM  
Blogger Praveen said...


I strongly believe Cine image is totally different from Political Image. Some people like MGR, JJ have used the cine image to good perfection but I have always felt Rajni is too meek to survive in political field. Politics is a rough world that you need to give up your do-good-doer image you gained in cine and try to accept the corruption-blood image. Rajni has always hesistated to come into politics cuz he wanted his well coated good boy cine image to stay as such. I anticipated he would retreat this time since he had enough insults last time and moreover for the first time he has felt ,"I am not shrewd enough to even taste this political swamp" and he has felt it quite rightly. Act in a movie- go to himalayas- thats his life isnt it??? Politics--nah!!!!! Even though Rajni was given all the hype in 1996 elections i always felt he should stay outta politics cuz he is not fit for it. Politics is not all about "created image"----there is something else hidden in it on the backdrop.

3/18/2006 04:50:00 AM  
Anonymous tamizhan said...

Rajni will never come into politics. Why? Because he seems to have ideals. And ideals are actually pretty useless when it comes to succeeding in the political arena.

3/18/2006 07:09:00 PM  
Blogger Vinayak said...

Nothig personal....but why does Tamil Nadu vote diametrically opposite every 5 years???

3/19/2006 10:19:00 PM  
Blogger Karthik said...

>>>Nothig personal....but why does Tamil Nadu vote diametrically opposite every 5 years???

i think thats the only way of pointing our middle finger at both these dravidian parties. Poor us! :-(

3/20/2006 10:21:00 AM  

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