Rajini’s Mass vs Kamal’s Class : Who Is the Better Deal?

With Kamal Haasan to launch his political party, how is the Rajini-Kamal factor going to influence state politics.

7 min read
Will the two heroes change the Tamil Nadu political landscape?

Rewind four decades – headlines were screaming about the close chase between the stalwarts of Tamil cinema: MGR and Sivaji Ganesan. Both were mega superstars with a huge fan following, but the latter lost out in the political race.

Today, a similar competition is brewing and the contestants in question are Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth.

After a lot of guessing games and dropping hints, the two have confirmed their entry into politics.

With Kamal Haasan to start his statewide tour and Rajini appointing district functionaries, who has the right mantra?

To understand better, let us see what sets them apart from each other.

Converting Fan Bases To Vote Banks

When it come to movies, the two superstars have very distinct styles and fan bases.

Rajinikanth’s movies have action, drama, glorification of the hero, style, charisma, fast-beat dance numbers. Whereas Kamal Haasan’s movies have offbeat story lines, and topics that are taboo and experimental. One appeals to the masses and other to the classes.

The way the two have been dealing as politicians with the people of Tamil Nadu is quite similar to their film persona.


The Big Bang Entry

On his 63rd birthday, Kamal Haasan put an end to all speculations and confirmed his entry into politics by announcing the launch of a mobile software app that will act as a whistleblower of sorts.

On the other hand, Superstar Rajinikanth made his entry in utmost cinematic style. On the first day of his six-day fan meet, he promised to give a definite answer for the big question. Keeping the suspense alive, he shared anecdotes over the next few days and on the final day, amidst all excitement, he arrived at the scene. The actor, known for his mass appeal, upped the energy quotient of Raghavendra Mandapam, with dramatic pauses, the trademark Rajini laugh and his signature ‘Baba’ symbol.

He owned his fans with his charisma.

Rajini makes the “baba” symbol, a trademark of his character from the movie <i>Baba</i>.
Rajini makes the “baba” symbol, a trademark of his character from the movie Baba.
(Photo: Twitter/@smitha_tarur)
However amiable their relationship is, Kamal Haasan has to definitely reconfigure his political plans to accommodate the Rajinikanth factor.

Who Has the Largest Audience?

Kamal Haasan has been the first to respond to every issue on Twitter – Cauvery water sharing verdict, RK Nagar elections, bus fare strike, road scam by the Chennai Corporation – but if you factor in the language he uses (to understand his Thirukkural or Shakespeare references is no cup of tea for a common man) and also the Twitter audience which is largely educated, he still aims at reaching out to the classes.

His column in the Tamil magazine Ananda Vikatan has also been one to look out for with his insights on the poor agriculture economy, need to develop villages for a better India and sharp criticism of the ruling AIADMK government.

He has also been interacting with the media and has an active social media team working out strategies to push his campaign ‘Naalai Namadhey’ forward.


When we spoke to Kamal’s publicity team we found that he has a dedicated young team especially for social media that has been constantly researching the audience that is interested in him. A source said that they have received a lot of response from other countries like Malaysia and Australia as well.

The social media team has been working on a campaign for the party. He is the biggest mascot one can have. But whatever followers he has been receiving is all organic, not because of our push on social media platforms.
Source in Kamal Haasan’s publicity group

The actor-turned politician will be announcing the party name tomorrow at Madurai after visiting the residence of late President Abdul Kalam in Rameshwaram.

He has already been welcomed with a lot of fanfare in Madurai and his team is confident the retweets will convert to footfalls at the mega function.

He has been active not just on social media, but also on local media. His articles in Ananda Vikatan has been receiving a massive response. This proves people still read newspapers and weekly magazines. All great leaders have always been reading and writing a lot. Proof that old school still works.
Source in Kamal Haasan’s publicity group

Meanwhile, Rajinikanth has been dealing with it ‘Rajini-style’. He was well aware of how much of a delay the announcement was, so he made sure his speech was one that hit the masses. He elevated the regular fans to ‘soldiers’ upon whom he rested the burden of creating a political revolution in Tamil Nadu, which is muddled in its current chaos.

He has been making a direct call to his fans on ground.

He launched his website a day after he declared his political plans. The next day, he invited media for interaction, spoke to reporters every time he was stopped and met prominent leaders like Karunanidhi.

He has stated clearly that all guests on TV interviews who claim to be ‘friend of Rajini’s’ or a ‘distant relative of Rajini’s’ should be disregarded, and that only he shall represent his party and its ideals.

He has gone a step ahead and has even begun appointing district functionaries and even a women’s wing.


Anandha, a Rajini fan, says that it is the importance he is giving them while preferring to stay behind that is making them feel confident that he will be the next chief minister

Yes, Rajini has got the star power, the familiarity, and the status of a demigod but the past has proved that that isn’t enough to win.

We have seen top Kollywood personalities like Bhagyaraj, T Rajendar and even Sivaji Ganesan not getting accepted as a political leader.

So Rajinikanth will definitely have to understand how many fans can he call his own and if all his fans will convert into dedicated party workers, supporters and voters?


The Big Question : To Alliance or Not To Alliance?

Kamal Haasan met Rajinikanth at his residence.
Kamal Haasan met Rajinikanth at his residence.
(Photo Courtesy: IANS)

Rajinikanth and Kamal's relationship goes back decades, as the duo have acted in several films together in the 1970s. The two actors, towering figures of Tamil cinema, have maintained a good friendship over the years.

Recently, Kamal Haasan met the Superstar as a courtesy call.

It is a courtesy call and not a political meet. I met him and told him about my decision. I am meeting people I like before I begin my journey. Meeting him is part of our friendship, and not about politics.
Kamal Haasan

Rajinikanth also spoke to the media following the visit. He said, "Kamal wants to serve the people of Tamil Nadu. I will pray to God that he will attain success."

When asked whether the two will join hands, Rajinikanth said, “My style and his are different even in movies.”

Earlier in February, Kamal Haasan, while speaking at Harvard University, indicated that he is unlikely to join hands with Rajinikanth anytime soon. He said that although they share a friendly bond, their politics are different, adding that “saffron is not my colour".

Kamal added, “I don’t like to take a detour. It might happen. We’ll wait for his manifesto to be out. Mine will be out soon on 21 February. If it gels, in polity, for the sake of the people, a good alliance... if it is not full of lies, deceits and tacit under the table nods... that is no good for the people. If that is not there and we are able to see eye to eye on a point – maybe. But I don’t think so because in his very first announcement he made some statements that gave him a hue – I hope it is not saffron. I hope his hue is not saffron.”


At the End of the Day, Caste Bags the Vote

In Tamil Nadu, caste weaves itself very intricately with politics.

Whatever be their approach to the landscape of politics, it all boils down to the ‘foot soldiers’ (partymen) and the public. Yes, the two are the top actors of the era in Tamil cinema, but their fan bases are drastically different.

Rajinikanth is the man of the masses while Kamal Haasan has a class crowd following.
Rajinikanth is the man of the masses while Kamal Haasan has a class crowd following.
(Photo: The Quint)

Kamal was born a Brahmin, but has openly alienated himself as a follower of any religion. He did have a little friction with a few Hindu outfits, after which he said he doesn’t deny his roots. Whatever his beliefs may be, the impression of privilege by caste plays a disadvantage for him, considering the backward class-driven politics of Tamil Nadu.

Rajinikanth started his career as a bus conductor in Bengaluru and climbed the ladder thereafter. But the tag ‘Kannadiga’ stays. Even after the Cauvery verdict, all eyes were fixed on him wondering which side the actor will support.

Thalaiva has learnt to shed that tag by singing praises of how it was Tamil Nadu and its people who gave him everything. (Brownie points there!)

Kamal is the actor of the classes and Rajini of the masses.

Rajinikanth’s delivery of speech or even a one-liner to a bugging media person is always hard-hitting and just like his punchlines in the movies.

Kamal Haasan, on the other hand, tweets about almost every pressing issue in the state, 

Clearly, the two have a lot of homework to do on how to woo the other section of people.

But at the end of the day, the two vow to keep the tainted elements far away and create a clean, corruption-free government, and if anybody is successful at that, people aren’t complaining.

A combo offer might also look good. Let’s see what else is brewing.

(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)

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