The election season is in full swing and the Bollywood fraternity is out there in the political scene like never before.
Recently, Akshay Kumar interviewed Prime Minister Narendra Modi while, around the same time, a lot of yesteryear ‘stars’ of the 1990’s entered politics.
I think it is safe to say that Bollywood is no longer hiding its political affiliations.
However, that wasn’t always the case.
The Indian film fraternity has long been accused of being politically diplomatic and non-commital. Up until now, very few mainstream actors directly endorsed a political ideology.
Take, for example, the case of superstar Amitabh Bachchan who has always been at the forefront of politics.
There was a time when he used to be a close aide of the Gandhis during the 1980s. Wearing a grim look during former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s funeral, he allegedly asked angry citizens to take ‘khoon ka badla khoon se’ for her assassination .
Cut to the 2000s when we all got to witness the camaraderie he shared with the Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh. From there, he moved on to tell us ‘Kuch din to gujaro Gujarat mein’ (spend some time in Gujarat) and later became a Swachhta Hi Seva ambassador.
However, the Shahenshah we see today isn’t the political personality we thought we would see with age. Despite his multiple political affiliations, he never took a stand for any particular party or leader.
Winds of change?
But Bollywood, it seems, did take our criticism seriously.
Last week, Sunny Deol joined the Bharatiya Janata Party after scoring a list of duds like Ghatak 2, Poster Boys, Yamla Pagla Deewana 2 in his last few releases.
In less than 24 hours of him joining the party, they gave him the ticket to contest the elections from Gurdaspur – the hotbed of India-Pakistan cross border tension.
Perhaps his teeth-baring, earth-shattering action-man image gave him an upper hand over other seasoned party workers.
Similarly, Urmila Matondkar, who we last saw in the botched up version of the movie Sholay by Ram Gopal Varma, joined the Indian National Congress. During her press interaction, she said that her family has always been a follower of the party.
In no time, she donned a conventional politician’s attire.
In one rally, she was wearing a white chikankari kurtas and campaigning with her fellow party leader and Mumbai South candidate Milind Deora. In another, she was dancing to the beats of local Marathi tunes wearing a Maharashtrian nauvari saree while a convoy with a picture of wing commander Abhinandan Varthaman followed her.
And just like that, on the third day, the party fielded her as the candidate for Mumbai North constituency.
From Hema Malini, to Vinod Khanna, to Jaya Prada and so on, the topic of inclusion of Bollywood stars in politics is not new.
But here we get to the question – how much do our actors-turned-politicians bring to the table in terms of performance?
So, what is Bollywood’s actual contribution to politics?
The figures are rather disappointing.
For example, superstar Rekha was a member of the Rajya Sabha from April 2012 to April 2018, during which she registered a mere 5% attendance, did not participate in a single debate and asked zero questions.
Shatrughan Sinha, who was inducted into the Congress after he caused much upheaval in the BJP, mostly stays ‘khaamosh’ (silent) in Parliament. His records show that the actor did not attend a single debate or ask any question in his term.
However, I think Bollywood actors joining politics can be seen as a good sign. Now, you might ask: why should the worlds of film personalities and politics intermix?
Here’s what I think.
Movie stars work on fictitious scripts that offer, more or less, a representation of society (jury’s out on whether it’s an accurate representation or not). Hence, movies and politics cannot be separated from each other as the former germinates in polity and comments on it.
Although this rise in the number of actors joining political parties might as well be a pre-election gimmick, people do connect to political parties through individual personalities like film stars. And political parties seem to understand this pull very well.
At the same time, actors need to understand the immense power of their larger-than-life personalities off screen. They don’t need to be pawns in the hands of politicians but rather make their own political mark.
Here’s to hoping that the 2019 elections make better politicians out of actors.
Marina A. Thomas is a 25-year-old freelance writer from Arunachal Pradesh and Kerala. She mostly writes about politics, social issues, and human-interest stories.