Strange bedfellows: Politics and cinema!

Where do political leaders come from? Are they born or are they made? In some cases one has to say that they are born (into the families of big political leaders; India is famous for dynastic politics). In other cases, they are made. What makes a person eligible to be a politician? Ironically, for the most important and responsible job in society there is no set eligibility criterion. Of course, that doesn’t mean that any Tom, Dick and Harry can walk in to become a political leader. But, one cannot deny the fact that politics has turned to one big party into which anyone with a few bucks and popularity can gatecrash into. If one looks at the last general elections it is easy to gauge where most of the new political entrants come from – cinema. What is it about cinema that makes one eligible to aspire for politics?

Politics essentially means public life and an involvement in the problems of the lives of the common man. In one way, cinema does inspire a person to enter politics by exposing him/her to the public view over a sustained period. Yes,

there is the familiarity and popularity factor that comes with cinema. But is that good enough? Doesn’t a person have to be more than just familiar and popular in order to be a leader of the people? Shouldn’t there be a history of long standing public service and involvement in the lives of people?

By saying this, one doesn’t want to proclaim that people from cinema have absolutely no eligibility to aspire to be politicians. Any citizen of the country has an equal right to seek a vote. A doctor, a teacher, a lawyer or anyone for that matter can aspire to represent the people. But think, how will a doctor, a lawyer or a teacher become popular enough to garner votes? It can only be sustained service to some sections of the population. A doctor might have treated people free of cost, a teacher might have educated and empowered the illiterate, a lawyer might have fought for justice for the downtrodden. Even an industrialist would have given employment and livelihood to many a people. But, what will a person from cinema have done before entering politics?

Cinema is a popular medium that gathers huge amount of attention. Like Shahrukh Khan said, ‘In India, cinema is like brushing teeth, one cannot escape it’. Even the smallest of acts by a cinema personality will be bantered about in the media at length. It is like looking at things with a magnifying lens. Public service sometimes becomes a means of publicity. It is this distorted vision that has made cinema and politics very comfortable bed fellows.

There was a time when only very few actors or actresses even tried to enter into politics. They seemed to have a genuine interest in making a mark as leaders of the people. But, over the years, the proximity between cinema and politics has increased so much that it is hard to tell one apart from the other. Almost everyone in cinema has some political affiliation or allegiance, campaigns for some party or the other. Those who don’t have any particular preferences are always keen to be in the good books of those in power. If one is in cinema, politics has become an extension of one’s career. We complete schooling, automatically enter college and seek higher education. Cinema to politics has become a similar progression, obvious and inevitable, unless one is content with a quiet life of retirement away from fame and more importantly controversy.

Politics requires courage and conviction. The job description consists of being able to change the lives of thousands and alleviating millions. It is not in the genes of every person to play such a role in society. Anyone who shies away from bold and strong decisions, who is afraid to take risks and always sticks to convention will be the most unfit person for the job. A politician should bring change into the lives of the people and change does not come by being guarded and playing safe. It comes from strong minds and the decisions that they make.

Are the heroes in our cinema bold and brave? Don’t look at the stunts they perform or the punch dialogues that they deliver. Their punch dialogues would never look good without the music director’s thumping score in the background. Look at who has shown the courage to give us cinema that we can be proud of. It is difficult to spot a leading hero in cinema who consistently defies prototypes and stereotypes to give good cinema. We look in awe at films from Hollywood like Braveheart or The Patriot. Why have we never had any like them? Why does our cinema always require a heroine (mostly skimpily clad) and a dumb act specialist comedian to entertain us? Do our heroes lack the courage and belief that a good story and their performance will sell without glamour and comedy? Cinema was their chosen field of expression, their choice of profession. If they fail to make bold and brave decisions in their chosen field of expression then how can we expect them to revolutionize politics? A doctor who cannot treat his patients, a lawyer who cannot get justice, a teacher who cannot educate and an industrialist who cannot make profits- such people can never make it to politics. So, an actor who cannot provide one great movie that makes us feel proud is not fit for politics.

There might be people around actors and heroes who keep coaxing, cajoling and imploring them to join politics just because they enjoyed on bombastic punch line on screen. Such people are no different from small children who dream that ‘Superman’ will come to their rescue, no matter what. Cinema and politics are two different arenas. If we as a society are willing to make cinema a breeding ground for politicians, then we are headed for ‘Distopia’. India 2020 will forever remain a dream.

(By Sudhakar, with inputs from Arun.)

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