It was really heartening for us to see that one of the legends of our times was trying to learn few things from us at the Aam Aadmi Party.
Kamal Haasan is a legend and commands tremendous respect not only in his fraternity, but also among the viewers and public at large. But I am still not able to comprehend Kamal Haasan as a political leader.
Since Wednesday, I keep going back to past to my good old Allahabad days when I first saw Kamal Haasan in Ek Duje Ke Liye, his first Hindi movie. He played a young south Indian fellow who falls in love with a Punjabi girl. The tragic end of the unlucky lovers in the movie affected the young so much that many across the country committed suicide. That tragic lover was again resurrected in Sadma. These images were etched in my mind during my youth.
Therefore, a few months back, when I was asked to establish contact with him ahead of his foray into politics, I could not believe my ears.
I was a little apprehensive. Would he be able to withstand the dirty game of politics? We, as workers of the Aam Aadmi Party, saw a mirror image of our own selves, well-intentioned people upset with the system, sticking our necks out to change the system. Politics, it turns out, is far dirtier than we had anticipated.
Arvind Kejriwal, Sanjay Singh, Somnath Bharti and I were received by Shruti Haasan at the Chennai airport in September. When we arrived, Kamal was at the gate of the building to receive us. He was warm but very dignified. The lunch table was already laid and we were served a large variety of dishes. But we were surprised to see him ask for his own tiffin. He took out home-made bathua ka paratha and dahi ka raita. I was a little amused and a little surprised. He told us that he had had a stomach problem for long, and avoided eating outside. In fact, he has been advised to eat only homemade food. Very little politics was discussed on the dining table.
Later, we moved to an adjoining room meant to be a screening room for previewing films. That’s where we got talking. The conversation veered around a general discussion about the nature of politics in Tamil Nadu and India. He did tell us that there is definite vacuum in Tamil Nadu after the demise of Jayalalithaa, and people have lost trust after the way her supporters and leaders fought for power after her death. What I could gather from him was that Sasikala and her cronies would not be acceptable to the people of Tamil Nadu, and that they were looking for an alternative and this was the right time take the plunge.
He had just met Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan. At that time, it was speculated that he might forge an alliance with the Left, or that he had a soft corner for Left’s ideology. When asked, Kamal simply smiled and said he was meeting with everyone as part of his learning curve.
But by going to Kerala, he definitely hinted where his heart lay. And that it was definitely not saffron. In fact, he was one of the few film actors who had condemned the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992.
I could also sense that he was particularly upset with Jayalalithaa, and one of the reasons for getting into politics could be that he had not forgiven the way he was treated at the time of release of his film Vishwaroopam. The film was banned in Tamil Nadu. In 2013, Kamal Haasan had announced that he would burn the Tamil version of Vishwaroopam in front of Jayalalithaa’s residence.
Kamal told us that the government had made every effort to ruin him financially. He said he was almost broke at that time, but he did not succumb to the pressure exerted on him. I thought to myself: was he jumping into politics to take revenge? But then, I quickly brushed it aside. He was too much of a gentleman to make revenge his motive.
He said it was high time he gave back to his fans. He was a bit guarded about his colleague Rajinikanth; it appeared as if there was some kind of an understanding between the two giants of the Tamil film industry about not speaking against each other. He was very respectful about Rajinikanth, even in absentia.
Finally, he answered many of our questions and hinted that he would prefer to move alone and not have any kind of truck with any other formation to begin with. But he was very curious about the AAP and how we had contested elections and what issues we raised to defeat the BJP.
It was really heartening for us to see that one of the legends of our times was trying to learn few things from us. There was an instant connect between him and Arvind. Both of them looked very comfortable with each other.
There is undoubtedly a vacuum in Tamil Nadu, but the big question is can Kamal Haasan fill it? Is there a miracle waiting to happen in Tamil Nadu, like it happened in Delhi? We don’t know yet. But yes, my best wishes for his future.
Ashutosh is spokesperson of the Aam Aadmi Party.