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Can Ambedkar, Anitha symbolism garner Dalit support for Rajini?

Express News Service

TIRUCHY: The audio release of Pa Ranjith’s much-awaited Rajinikanth starrer Kaala on Wednesday sent across the clear message that the superstar-turned-politician aims to swing dispossessed and subaltern communities’ votes in his favour, though Dalit activists claim it may not be that easy.

Most of the nine songs listed in the official jukebox have lyrics that urge the people to agitate or describe the plight of the underprivileged or praise Kaala, hero of the movie, as a messiah of the dispossessed. The song Ezuchigalai Puratchiyaakka Vaa (come to develop agitations into revolutions) is a call to protest, followed by the line, Varumai Ennum Noyai Theerkka Vaa (come to eradicate poverty). Another song has lines to the effect that “we are still not slaves to act subserviently, we will stand opposing as we are brave now”.

A song where characters call themselves poraalis (revolutionaries) shows a still of Rajini talking to people standing against the backdrop of an Ambedkar portrait.

All these go to suggest that Rajinikanth the politician looks to the oppressed classes for support unlike his fellow actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan, who seems keen to win over the educated middle class.
Though Rajinikanth appears intent on cashing in on the present wave of protests—the portrait of Anitha, the Dalit medical aspirant who committed suicide after failing to clear NEET, featured in the song Theruvilakku Velichathila Naanga Munneri varuvom Uyarathula (under the beam of streetlight, we will rise) is a clear indication—the question is: Will he succeed in garnering Dalit votes?

Punitha Pandian, editor of Dalit Murasu, said the Dalits know very well that he had never supported them when they faced atrocities or discrimination. “How does he plan to stop honour killings? Without a modicum of ideology or clear-cut ideas on ending inequality, how will he succeed here? His wish to consolidate Dalits as a votebank for his party through his films will not bear fruit,” he said.

“He might have mistaken the Dalits for a gullible mass but today they are politically more conscious than ever.” Dalit activist and professor Janaki Raja opined that the strong political messages in the songs belonged to Pa Ranjith, not Rajini’s. “Rajinikanth might have allowed the songs, hoping these songs could help him win over Dalits.

He can’t swing Dalit votes in his favour merely through a film. Did he support Dalits when the protested to protect Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act? The Dalits will support only those who stand for them on the ground.”

VCK general secretary D Ravikumar did not want to comment. “These are merely songs written for a movie character. They
reflect only on the character, not the actor in reality,” he said.

Source: The New Indian Express