This is the last and final call for Rajinikanth

By the time you read this on Monday morning, Rajini Makkal Mandram (RMM) office bearers would be streaming into Raghavendra Mandapam in Kodambakkam. Their idol would be addressing them. They know the script, but they would feign anxiety. Insiders say Rajini would refer to his health condition and indicate the risks involved in his hitting the ground running during the pandemic and, in the end, leave the decision of launching the political party to the mandram.

If Rajini is still hesitant, he would try an emotional blackmail, yet it would be tough to get the group to tell the superstar that he can shelve his political plans and take care of his health. After all, that’s not a Rajini climax they are used to. Several Rajini movie scripts have been changed mid-shoot because the directors realised (or were made to realise) that the fans wouldn’t accept the original climax or, worse, wouldn’t leave the cinema hall in good shape. RMM members may not do that to Rajini’s own mandapam, but why take a chance, why not tweak the script here too?

We’ve rubbed it in enough that Rajini missed the political bus many times, so let’s just look at what he can do now. This is the last and final call for the star to launch his party. Agreed, at 70 and with a transplanted kidney, Rajini should not be touring the state. But he can still keep his promise of launching a party, and campaign virtually.

Imagine a virtual Rajini riding the highways, walking the hamlets, throwing a hand over a villager’s shoulder. Technology today makes this possible. A 3D hologram of Rajini waving and moving through crowds in the dust bowls may even have a better effect than the real star on a stage too far from the last fan on the treetop.

Tamil Nadu has the country’s second largest mobile internet penetration, at around 42%. This means almost every other person in our villages has a smartphone. Imagine a farmer opening his smartphone to watch Rajini saying, “Vanakkam, Karuppaiah, eppadi irukeenga?” Tech allows the same message to be personalised for Akbar, Antony and Anandavalli, with perfect lip sync. Well, any politician can do this, but when Rajini does it, we know who would get the maximum eyeballs.

All this can work well only if Rajini agrees to be his party’s chief minister candidate. If he does so, his political rivals are bound to attack him for his armchair politics. So what – it’s his last best chance, anyway. Less easy would be putting together a team which can be his representatives for the people. Besides having the usual hangers-on and a handful of wellmeaning yet unknown faces that orbit the star, Rajini will have to bring in a group of people with proven credibility and efficiency in different walks of life to show that his promise of good governance isn’t empty. This is, incidentally, something Kamal Haasan has been working on.

I am not endorsing Rajini’s politics. It’s too early for that, for he is yet to spell out his policies and programmes, some of which I may oppose. All I am doing here is stating the obvious: Poor health should not be a reason for Rajini not to take the plunge. Yes, politics is a game of rough and tumble that someone like him may not find easy to play. But we all like a stylish promise, don’t we?

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