Silver Screen’s Influence on Kerala’s Political Sphere

Dr Duggaraju Srinivasa Rao

The south Indian cinema and politics are intertwined for over several decades more so in Tamil and Telugu speaking states, where the cine heroes, heroines, script writers became the Chief Ministers. The influence of cinema was minimal despite some attempts by Kannada film fraternity, only few actors or their spouses got elected in Karnataka. The other state of south, the Kerala claimed to be different from other states in many aspects including the cinema influence on politics. This was not so despite the tall claims of LDF leaders as the communist parties also took the help of cine personalities in reaching out the voters. Though the top actors and actresses are not involved politically there are second rung actors had political connections and this time around the entry of cine actors is more open proving that Kerala is no exception in the south.
Currently at least four artists are legislatures in the Kerala assembly and there are some others who are financially involved in the cinema industry, though there names may not appear on the titles of the Malayalam screens. The current transport minister K.B. Ganesh Kumar, who also held forest and environment ministries in earlier stints is member of Kerala Congress (B) since last two decades. He was a television host and was a member of both Congress led UDF as well as LDF in different times.
Already four members of film fraternity are in the Kerala assembly representing different political interests. Mani C Kappan is a film actor, producer and director represents NCP from Pala constituency. Daleema Jojo of CPM is a cine singer and also famous for singing religious hymns of Christianity and Hindu .As a member of CPM she got into politics in 2015 through local body elections and then won 2021 assembly election. The fourth one is Mukhesh Madhavan, actor and producer for over four decades was associated with the CPM and is currently an MLA in Kerala assembly. He is now picked by CPM as the candidate for Kollam Lok Sabha seat. This is to neutralise the cine glamour of actor G. Krishna Kumar who is trying his luck in Kollam as BJP candidate.
As per Unnikrishnana, the general secretary of the Film employees Federation of Kerala directors union the cine personalities joining politics is now now and it has history of over two decades but media is highlighting this just because BJP has put up actors for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections to show that party in low light and project it as a glamour dependent party having no root at the base level. As the Left parties tried to hide its role in putting up actors as candidates in election, now the past being dug out by the media.
It is a fact that Kerala remained unassailable area for BJP where there is no candidate ever got elected form that soil till 2016 when one of its veteran leader Rajagopal created history by entering the assembly. He failed to retain his seat in 2021, thus pushing BJP to the square one. Despite many decades of work by RSS in Kerala and many groups getting attracted to the core ideology of Sangh, it never got transformed into electoral politics to win seats for BJP. Since Modi government taking over Delhi, it made sustained attempt to crack Kerala politics which are well polarised between LDF and Congress lead UDF. In 2019 Lok Sabha elections, despite being in power in the state, LDF could win only one seat while the UDF won 19 seats. LDF withstood that reversal and bounced back by retaining power in 2021 state assembly elections. Now BJP slowly trying to build a third front though its success is not encouraging.
To gain political foothold in Kerala the BJP tried many ways, including the Sabarimala temple entry verdict, Love Jihad issue, where even Christian girls are also victims. Besides them the cine glamour is also injected to wean away the young voters. Suresh Gopi, the actor, was picked up for nominated Rajya Sabha seat, then gave assembly ticket in the last elections and now nominated as the candidate from Thrissur constituency. Thrissur is the temple town and is nerve centre during the agitation against the judicial verdict on Sabarimala entry for women of all ages. Women were in forefront of that agitation and BJP hopes that Nari-Shakthi and Suresh Gopi’s cine glamour will put Thrissur in their kitty this time.
The Kollam seat is also going to be a fight between two actors. Mukesh Madhavan of CPM known for his rib-trickling roles and sitting member of Kollam assembly constituency now candidate for Lok Sabha constituency is challenged by Krishna Kumar of BJP who is through television and cinema characters. He along with his daughters used the social media platforms to become the influencers and then use that popularity in the political arena.
It is not that Malayalam voters are totally against filmy glamour into the elections. In 2014 actor Innocent, who acted over 700 films in different languages, got elected from Chalakudy constituency as an independent candidate. The LDF tactfully supported him to cash cine popularity of Innocent elsewhere. At that time actor Innocent was the Malayalam Movie artists’ association president.
Movies artist’s interest in politics in Kerala is there even in Prem Nazir time where Congress party encouraged him to some extent and then dropped him. In 1965 itself film personalities contested and won election. LDF fielded director Lenin Rajendran in 1989 elections. There are many unsuccessful attempts some cine artists.
The only difference between Kerala and other southern states is that top heroes never took a plunge unlike in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Current top guns Mammutty and Mohan Lal are totally detached from politics. But who knows when they will be bitten by political bug and turn Kerala into any other southern state where politics and cinema are happily combined.

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