Indian movie superstar Rajinikanth to enter politics

Indian movie icon Rajinikanth, an actor synonymous with South Indian cinema and star of more than 150 movies, is set to enter politics.

Speaking on Sunday in the southern city of Chennai, the 67-year-old star dubbed Thalaivar (The Leader) told fans, “I am entering politics and we will contest all seats in the next assembly elections.”

He added he would form his own political party.

Several of his colleagues from the Indian film industry took to Twitter to congratulate him, including Bollywood heavyweight Amitabh Bachchan who wrote, “My dear friend, my colleague and a humble considerate human, RAJNIKANTH, announces his decision to enter politics…my best wishes to him for his success!”

Speculation has been mounting in recent months over when the Tamil film superstar, known for his over the top action sequences and unique dance moves, would make his political debut.

Previously, he has only been affiliated with political parties in southern Tamil Nadu state.

Political instability

Tamil Nadu has been mired in political uncertainty since the death of the former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa Jayaram, also a one time film star, in December 2016.

Her death eventually led to a split in her party, the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party (AIADMK).

Addressing his fans, Rajinikanth said, “Democracy is in a bad shape right now. All the other states have been making fun of us (Tamil Nadu). I will feel guilty if I don’t take this decision now.”

“In the name of democracy, politicians are robbing us of our own money in our own land. We need to bring a change from the base…The system has to change. Democracy has been corrupted and needs to be cleansed.”

According to CNN affiliate CNN News 18, sources close to Rajinikanth have said the superstar may announce the name of his political party and its strategy on January 14, the start of Pongal, an Indian harvest festival.

“Truth, work and growth will be the three mantras of our party,” added Rajinikanth.

In 2008, when responding to a fan’s question about entering politics, the actor said it would be “foolish to think that one is successful in politics due to sheer capability, experience and hard work. It is all a question of time and circumstances. If the time is not right, nothing can help.”

Religious adoration

Born Shivaji Rao Gaekwad, Rajinikanth had previously worked as a bus conductor in the city of Bangalore before finding fame as an actor in the 1975 movie “Apoorva Raagangal.”

He has since starred in some of the country’s highest grossing movies across four decades, drawing recognition for his inimitable style and larger than life personality.

Though he has worked primarily in Tamil cinema, his fan base is spread across India, where he is among the country’s most popular icons. The level of adoration among his fans is often said to rival that of a religious figure.

Before the release of his most recent movie, 2016’s “Kabali,” his fans poured milk on cardboard images of the actor, an act of veneration usually reserved for Hindu deities.

Rajinikanth is today believed to be among Asia’s highest paid actors, rivaling leading men such as Jackie Chan and Shah Rukh Khan in box office pulling power.

Tamil Nadu’s actor-politicians

Rajinikanth is not the only Tamil superstar to enter into politics in recent months.

In November, actor Kamal Haasan announced he too would launch his own party.

The popularity of both men cuts across social and caste divides.

In the coming months, India’s two main national parties, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the main opposition Congress, will be keen on forging alliances with both actors’ respective parties.

Following Rajinikanth’s announcement, BJP General Secretary P. Muralidhar Rao tweeted, “The suspense in politics of Tamil Nadu about Sh. @superstarrajini ji’s future action is over! BJP has always welcomed persons with sincerity & commitment to join the politics so as to improve the governance and delivery to poor.”

In a second tweet, he wrote, “BJP can express its political opinion only when we come to know about Sh. @superstarrajini ji’s party’s policies and programs.”

Meanwhile, Khusboo Sundar, an actress and National Spokesperson for the Congress party, tweeted, “We know that Mr Rajnikanth believes in inclusive democracy and development. We wish him the all the best in his endeavours.. @INCIndia @INCTamilNadu”

The next state elections in Tamil Nadu are due to be held in 2021.