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Kalaga Thalaivan is a taut thriller that could potentially work for multiplex audiences. It has a complex storyline and a grand ideological premise. It grandly declares that corporates rule Indian life and that includes all political parties. KT has Thiru, aka Udhayanidhi, as the rebel whose life mission is to bring down one such corporate.

Well, that’s rich! The DMK is in the thick of everything. If corporates rule all political parties, they certainly rule the DMK, too. So why is the DMK’s heir apparent, the inheritor of all its vices and virtues, the heart of the DMK establishment trying to portray himself as the insurrectionist?

Not too long ago, another heir apparent did the same. The grand prince of Congress was the chief anarchist of the UPA regime, for a while. He showed up when tribals were fighting bauxite mining in Niyamgiri. He famously rubbished his own government for playing with the law so that Laloo Yadav, one of their allies, could escape being disqualified from contesting elections despite criminal convictions. Nonsense, he cursed before bewildered mediapersons.

Rahul Gandhi had a heart and it beat for India’s poor. His rhetoric was Leninesque. He talked about how the poor were always the ones to pay, how they were weighed down by the system.

The only problem was that Rahul Gandhi was the system. Its dirty, slimy, inglorious innards were the edifice that sustained Rahul Gandhi.

Why is the DMK’s heir apparent, the inheritor of all its vices and virtues, the heart of the DMK establishment trying to portray himself as the insurrectionist?

Udhayanidhi hasn’t yet shown up for any agitation. He didn’t make an appearance in Thoothukudi. He was invisible in Neduvasal and even Jallikattu. But this is Tamil Nadu. He only has to act it out on a movie set. That would be enough, we suppose.

Reality bites only common folk! Udhayanidhi can stay away from the grime and dust and still possibly be accepted as some kind of Che Guevara of Tamil Nadu using just grease paint.

Also Read: Kanimozhi sails past Udhayanidhi in DMK’s succession race

Udhayanidhi isn’t much of an actor either. Kalaga Thalaivan has the classic Hollywoodian climax. The hunted becomes the hunter and turns the tables on his tormentors. The ideas are there; the ruses are deftly deployed by Magizh Thirumeni. But Udhayanidhi can take no ownership for what’s happening to the villains. His face stays the same throughout the movie. A faint smile, a quiver of the lips could have conveyed much but Magizh didn’t want to risk a close shot, apparently.

The underplaying was deliberate, it seems. Giving a speech in front of the camera is not Magizh Thirumeni’s style. Even the passionate kiss from My (Mythili played by Nidhhi Agerwal) doesn’t evoke much of a response from Thiru.

But underacting works for actors. Udhayanidhi is not much of an actor though.

Films, however, are not a hobby nor are they an indulgence for him. Ever since the DMK came to power, they have become the vehicles of Udayanidhi’s political ascendancy.

His father, Stalin, may well ease in his ascent within the DMK just like Stalin’s father did for Stalin. When push comes to shove, the internal equations will all square each other out and everyone will need to defer to the top leader, Udhayanidhi Stalin.

Not too long ago, another heir apparent did the same. The grand prince of Congress was the chief anarchist of the UPA regime, for a while… The only problem was that Rahul Gandhi was the system. Its dirty, slimy, inglorious innards were the edifice that sustained Rahul Gandhi

Until that happens, Udhayanidhi will try to do an MGR. Nenjukku Needhi sought to portray Udhayanidhi as a champion of Dalits. As an earnest fighter for social justice, although only on film, he sought to position himself as an activist who wants to work for the people’s causes. And MGR was no great actor either.

The MGR story had a context. It rode on decades of political campaigning by many leaders that gave rise to the DMK. And the DMK, for its own reasons, worked on presenting MGR as the saviour on screen and do-gooder in real life. The situation was ripe for a messiah and MGR was there to become God.

Also Read: Udhayanidhi’s Kalaga Thalaivan stirs up Sterlite memories

But the MGR story is no template. No one has been able to duplicate the success of MGR. The context has changed.

Rahul Gandhi benefited little from seeking an outsider image. The Congress moved towards leftwing positions, perhaps on Rahul’s goading. But Rahul failed as a candidate to take on Narendra Modi in 2019. Revolutionary sloganeering serves little purpose if no political work has gone into it. Rahul hasn’t emerged from the woodwork yet, if that serves as a lesson to Udhayanidhi.


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