Tamil Nadu

Kamal Haasan’s sequel : Television Returns

The news from the Kamal Haasan household is that the Television set has been mended. The cynic will say, not a surprise, for `Bigg Boss’ that Kamal will anchor for the third successive season this year, is round the corner. After all, you don’t destroy the medium that is going to fuel your bank balance, do you. 

But the return of the Television set is only a prop. The sequel to the part where Kamal broke the TV set in a fit of anger, is a piece of powerful messaging, cinematically well told. It is a story laced with pathos and emotion, the focus being on the firing in police firing in Tuticorin in May 2018 in which 13 people were shot dead. Unlike part one, where Kamal was content making a pitch for Makkal Needhi Maiam, here Kamal takes on the role of a narrator. A deceased man called Kaliappan and his wailing sister are the protagonists of this sequel.

“When I was in Ottapidaram, I was invited to Kaliappan’s house. But he was not at home. Why? Because he had been shot dead in the open firing in Tuticorin on 23 May when he was on his way to collect his salary,” Kamal recounts the story talking about his visit to Kaliappan’s home on 4 May 2019.

Ottapidaram is one of the four assembly constituencies that will vote in the byelection on 19 May and the verdict in the 22 seats (18 other constituencies voted on 18 April) will be crucial in deciding whether the Edappadi Palaniswami government stays in office or not. 

Why Kamal is talking about Kaliappan is because the counting of votes for India to get its new government falls on his first death anniversary. The pitch Kamal makes is that the people responsible for spilling blood in Tuticorin are still asking for votes in the same constituency. The MNM chief wants the people to change those who need to be changed, just like he has changed his TV set. 

The first campaign video

The question however, is whether the MNM will have the heft to influence enough voters to make a difference in Tamil Nadu’s politics. Whether they will be able to see him as a leader and not as an actor and television host who is dabbling in politics. Whether the well-acted, well-lit, well-scripted campaign video that is getting views, will convert into votes.

Apart from the political parties, Kamal’s telling of the Kaliappan story is also in contrast with the stand that fellow actor Rajinikanth took on Tuticorin. The Superstar had blamed the infiltration of anti-social elements for the violence and had advocated that anti-social elements should be crushed with an iron hand like the late Chief minister Jayalalithaa did. 

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