Sunday, April 6, 2008

Rajni Sena

Shiv Sena recently asked Amitabh Bachchan to look up to Rajnikant for inspiration and act like him. Act- as in real life.

Now Shiv Sena's comment is un called for and self serving. It is trying hard to re-establish itself as a "Marathi Manoos" party after Raj Thackrey took out some wind from it's wings. These latest comments are a part of the Sena vs Sena deal. This is politics and nothing else. Having followed Indian politics for over a decade very closely, nothing surprises me. Even the Sonia-asking-her-Ladla-to-become-a-Minister and the sacrificing "lal", that Rahul Baba is, so magnanimously- refusing-it sham, does not amuse me anymore

But when i read of Sena's comment, i started doing some research on Rajnikant's public profile. I also spoke to a few friends from Chennai who sort of gave me a first hand Chennai-eye-view of Rajnikant. And boy! that man is a Hero or what? Rajnikant commands such an awesome following in most of southern part of India, i was a more than a little surprised. His following they say is not only for his roles in movies, he is actually worshipped because of all the philanthropic work he has done in Tamil Nadu.
There was this incident that happened some years back in Chennai - a friend tells me. J.Jayalalitha was the CM then. She had some strict rules about her moving in the city. The roads would be closed and no traffic would be allowed to move an hour before she and her troupe used the road and one hour after she left. She would make the whole city come to stand still just so that her royal highness's entourage could move around. This was obviously causing a lot of inconvenience to ordinary mortals.

Rajnikant who was living in the neighbourhood decided to do something about it. He has this kind of magical effect on ordinary people on streets. He decided to use this "majic" in a manner that JJ would never forget. Just when it was announced Madam JJ was about to use the road and all traffic would be blocked, Rajni-The Boss decided to "stroll" on the road. Just a causal walk. And that was it. The crowd went berserk. Imagine their God on the road in white kurta and lungi. Talking to them, laughing with them and all. No police force in the world can handle this. The police could do nothing but be bystanders. JJ got the message it seems. And decided not to have her royalty hamper ordinary folks daily lives.

I thought it was a telling story of Rajni's real life antics. One of the reasons Rajnikant is so popular is because he is so close to ground. He is humble and humane. Off-screen he is like any other person. And every Chennaite can relate to him without feeling the "wall". He has such magical powers because he has none.

Shiv Sena is asking Amitabh to be like Rajni. It is wrong on so many levels. First- it is individuals choice what and how s/he wants to behave and conduct. Rajnikant by his very nature is not flamboyant. Philanthropy comes to him easily. His belief system is very different than Bachchan. Rajnikant thinks he owes everything to Tamil Nadu and it's people even though he is a maratha born in Karnataka. Mr. Bachchan does not feel that way. And is not obliged to feel that way. So Shiv Sena cannot dictate Mr. Bachchan's way of life.

Bachchan likes to move around in the "upper circle" of Ambanis and Amar Singhs. But that's his personal choice. How is it anyone's concern as long as he is honest to law and country. To ask him to do something for Maharashtra just because he is originally from UP is plain silly. Rajni is not Bachchan and Bachchan is not Rajni. Simple?
Well not so for Sena i think!

Bachchan and Rajnikant are actors. First and foremost. If Bachchan has political ambitions and looks at Uttar Pradesh for those things, so be it. He can open as many colleges in UP as he wants. He can open hospitals in UP if wants. It's no one's business where he wants direct his "social work". His obligation to Maharashtra is not binding to social work as long as he is paying taxes and is a law abiding citizen. It's like Shiv Sena saying - "See why can't you become like Mahatma Gandhi" to some one who does not want to and not obliged to.

Maharshtra and specially Mumbai has been a good platform for a lot of creative folks. But that does not mean Maharshtra needs to demand from these people to "give us back" something. It does not work that way. Long before Bachchans came, TATAs, Bajaj, Godrej, Mahindra, Kalyani, Firodias and lot many non-Marathi families made Maharashtra their home. We have not asked them "what they gave back to Maharashtra". They came to Maharshtra because this was the promised land. It provided them an environment where they could be successful entrepreneurs. And it worked both ways. These people came and created jobs. And opened new avenues. And it was a win-win.

Shiv Sena would do good not to antagonize harmless important citizens like Bachchan and shoot off their big mouth.

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