While both have now made their political ambitions clear, Kamal seems to have a head start with his state-wide tour beginning February 21.
Chennai: Rajinikanth's imitable style did all the magic for him - an enviable number one position in the competitive Tamil cinema world for the past three decades - mesmerizing a wholesome audience from a six-year-old to a sixty-year-old alike. His senior in the film industry, but junior in age, Kamal Haasan also captivated millions for five decades through his brilliant and versatile acting skills earning him the sobriquet Ulaganayagan (the global star).
Except their long-held friendship, acquired during their film apprenticeship days in an institution called K. Balachander - the legendary Tamil director who single handedly sculpted both the stars apart from many others who dominate the film industry now - there is nothing common between Rajini and Kamal.
And in 2018, 42 years after Tamil cinema threw open its doors to Rajini and more than half-a-century after the then three-and-a-half-year-old Kamal donned the role of an orphan in Kalathur Kannamma, when the duo want to test their fortunes in electoral waters, again there is no commonality - except that they have been friends for nearly five decades. Kamal is a rationalist who strongly believes in Periyarism and shuns worshipping god, while Rajini is a devout Hindu who retires to Himalayas every now and then in search of peace. And even in politics their ideologies don't match. While Rajini preaches practicing "spiritual politics", Kamal wants to be polity culturist - a term invented by him to cleanse Tamil Nadu politics beset by nepotism, corruption and sycophancy.
Rajini, with a massive fan following during his heyday in the 1990s, had released many a teaser on his political outing - but the people never got to watch the main picture, as he was indecisive and never crystal clear on whether politics was his calling. His animosity with late J. Jayalalithaa was legendary after his car was stopped on the road leading to Poes Garden - an address that was synonymous with the former chief minister since she lived there - and the actor in 1996 gave a clarion call to remove her from the post.
Rajini declared that not even god could save Tamil Nadu if she came to power in 1996 and put his weight behind the then DMK-TMC alliance. And as history would have it - his first political success began and ended in 1996 since his political picnics in 1998 and 2004 bombed big time in the political box office.
Kamal Haasan, the socially conscious and outspoken filmmaker, never flirted with politicians in endorsing them ahead of polls. But like a silent killer, the actor's films spoke more loudly than he could have. Always known to call a spade a spade, Kamal Haasan ruffled feathers with all-powerful Jayalalithaa not once, but twice. But critics point out that Rajinikanth made peace with Jayalalithaa after the 1996 standoff and never crossed her political path till her death.
Rajinikanth is like M.G. Ramachandran, a mass leader, who was known as Makkal Thalaivar (People's Leader) - but he is seen as a man without guts, as a shrewd movie guy who makes some political noise just before the release of his film and falling silent thereafter. However, he has a fan following and he has been meeting them in recent months for photo sessions and making statements such as, 'we must be ready for war'.
Kamal is like Sivaji Ganesan of the good old days - brilliant actor but who could never become a mass leader. While MGR was the master campaigner and the main star attraction on the DMK platforms, Sivaji died a bitter man as his Congress party never gave him any prominence and his adventure in launching his own party came a cropper. The big question that is on the minds of everyone is whether people of Tamil Nadu are mature enough to understand and accept Kamal or would his political foray end up like his movie Guna - a good, sensitive, intelligent film that went way above the heads of the frontbenchers and flopped at the box office.
While both have now made their political foray clear, Kamal seems to have a head start with his state-wide tour beginning from February 21 and launch of his website Naalai Namadhe (Tomorrow is Ours). Rajini's party is still on the drawing board waiting for some final touches.
Kamal has declared war against saffron but has not promised alliance with the DMK even while his only visible ally as of now is Kerala chief minister Pinnarayi Vijayan, but the latter's party is a zero in Tamil Nadu. Again, the big question is where will Kamal find the money for launching his political party and take on the major parties at the elections, especially considering that the electorate has now got used to heavy bribes for votes.
While the chances are Rajini might attract bigger crowds than even Kamal's atheistic appeal to Dravidians, there is no predicting how votes will be cast at the ballot box.