Book Review: B.L. Shankar and Valerian Roderigues. The Indian Parliament: A Democracy at Work and Sudha Pai and Avinash Kumar (Eds). The Indian Parliament: A Critical Appraisal

Date01 December 2015
Published date01 December 2015
Subject MatterBook Reviews
/tmp/tmp-17081kcGg0ArxZ/input Book Reviews 291
Chiranjeevi and Vijaykanth are mentioned alongside various other film stars who ventured into politics,
like Vijaysanthi. All these narrations are spruced up with insightful observations, though not always
sound on factual details, at least in the case of Tamil Nadu.
The primary difficulty or aporia of Prasad’s work appears to stem from an invisible template
where the Indian nation is constrained to be the site of manifestation of history. Hence, there is a need
to distinguish between the north and the south, explaining why the south produced successful film
star political leaders. Even after restricting his discussion of the phenomenon to south India, Prasad
offers no convincing explanation as to why Kerala did not find the cine-political event taking place.
In trying to find a common template for the successful actor-politicians of different states, Prasad’s
gloss loses the grip on specifics of each case. For example, Prasad is more concerned about exploring
the autonomy of the MGR figure rather than seeing it as an outcome of the politics of the Dravida
Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). He does not sufficiently recognize that it was Tamil identity fostered by
the DMK, through the legacies of the anti-Hindi agitations, which helped MGR to emerge as a popular
hero, whereas in Andhra Pradesh, N.T. Rama Rao was to start the first regional party of any consequence,
Telugu Desam. Only when this distinction is seen clearly can one account for the specific historic
moment of Rama Rao’s political emergence, largely enabled by the internal fractures of the Congress
Party in Andhra Pradesh.
Prasad’s framework further fails to accommodate the role of caste configurations and demand for
caste equality in shaping politics. In other words, the role of the DMK in championing Tamil and
Dravidian/non-Brahmin identity, in addition to a ‘rationalist ideology’ which was the fulcrum of its
political engine, does not find sufficient integration in Prasad’s account of the rise of MGR. It becomes
a problem in understanding how political signification is spread over the genre conventions when
attention is not paid to the markers of political idioms in language spoken and other registers of cine-
matic expression. It further ignores the actually existing support base in caste groups. It is not clear why
cine-political order should become autonomous from the political party as Prasad appears to suggest in
the middle of his account of MGR. As long as he lived, MGR never concluded his speeches without
invoking Annadurai, whose ideology he claimed to follow more sincerely than Karunanidhi, a fact
cinematically coded in films like Pallandu Vazhga (1975), a politically adroit remake of V. Shantaram’s
Do Anken Bara Hath (1957).
It is possible that to pursue several leads that are opened up in the book, one may have to pluralize
history as well as historical subjectivities. Instead of taking the failure of Indian nationalism to ‘provide
the suture’ as the root cause, one may have to pay closer attention to the genealogies of film-making as
well as political mobilization in various sites and languages for better explanations of the...

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