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Bharatiraaja `misdirected' Neyveli show

By V. Jayanth

CHENNAI Oct. 13. All efforts that the Nadigar Sangam president, Vijaykant, made to `unify' film artists and take them to Neyveli for the protest on the Cauvery issue came to naught with the controversial speech by the director, Bharatiraaja, at the public meeting last night. By taking on the superstar, Rajnikant, and the DMK president, M. Karunanidhi, the self-proclaimed leader of the Kalaiyulaga Cauvery Poratta Kuzhu (protest committee) was obviously trying to please the `sponsors' of the show.

When the entire programme was running smoothly, despite the delay, and the DMK-affiliated artists also set aside their political differences and decided to go to Neyveli under ``Vijaykant's leadership'', industry sources were upset that Mr. Bharatiraaja went after both Mr. Rajnikant and Mr. Karunanidhi in an ``unbecoming manner''.

A veteran director said, ``We were all the while trying to project a united front and sending out a strong signal on behalf of the industry, when such a senior person went and spoilt the show. It has presented a wrong picture of the industry and embarrassed most of those present on the stage''.

Film artists, who turned up at the Rajnikant fast here today, were vocal on this controversy— particularly the DMK-affiliated artists. As the sangam vice-president and the Villivakkam MLA (DMK), Napolean, put it ``We have been running the association for over two years without any political colour, trying to do our best for the industry and artists. It was because we wanted to maintain dignity that some of us held back last night. We could have surely given it back. But we are not made that way''. The secretary, Sarath Kumar, DMK member of the Rajya Sabha said ``It shows the breeding'', while his actress wife, Radhika, lashed out saying ``As Mr. Bharatiraaja himself admitted on the stage, he had taken money (sponsorship?)''. Nobody was left in any doubt as to who backed and sponsored the Neyveli show.

It was one thing for the AIADMK-affiliated artists to laud their leader and Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa, and so also for the DMK actors to praise their president, Mr. Karunanidhi. But to use such a platform, to press Tamil Nadu's demand for its legitimate share of Cauvery water, to launch such a vituperative attack on Mr. Rajnikant and Mr. Karunanidhi, was unwarranted. Surely, Mr. Bharatiraaja could have found a more suitable occasion and platform to settle such personal and political scores. He only confirmed all the fears and criticism that the Tamil industry stood severely politicised.

Apart from that jarring note and the anti-climax of his speech, the show had all the glamour of the Tamil tinsel world. Unfortunately, the stars came on to the highway late in the evening for their adoring fans to have an eyeful. In contrast, the fast today was more of a political show. Many of the leading lights from the film industry did show up. But they put in a ``guest appearance'', so to say, except for a handful, led by Vijayakumar, who stayed put on the stage. It was the coming and going of political leaders all through the day that caught the cameras.

It began with the Congress Jananayaka Peravai founder and former Union Minister, P. Chidambaram, who turned up early. There were a score of leaders from the Congress, the BJP, some of the Muslim parties and of course the DMK. Apart from expressing their support and solidarity with the superstar, they were obviously hoping to hear from Mr. Rajnikant about his political plans for the future.

For some time now, Mr. Rajnikant has been ``threatening'' to enter politics, but not taking the final plunge.

Today's fast and his subtle warning last week that he would take on his political detractors at the time of the next election, has sparked fresh speculation about his possible debut in politics. The question remains - will he float a party or join one of the mainstream, national parties.

Sources close to the superstar maintain that he will doubtless remain ``a nationalist'', ``an Indian first''. Which is perhaps why both the Congress and the BJP want to keep the doors open. More than the Congress, it is the CJP leader, Mr. Chidambaram, who has been ceaselessly working to get his ``friend'' into politics, at least in time for the next elections.

Like his films and their themes, Mr. Rajnikant may want to keep his fans guessing.

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