Politics and films: An Indian affair
The Congress party has bought the rights to “Jai Ho”, the Oscar-winning song from “Slumdog Millionaire”, to use for its election campaign.
Although popular Bollywood song tunes have always been used after being set to new lyrics for canvassing votes, acquiring the rights to a song for election campaigning is a possible first.
Congress leaders said the song, whose title is Hindi for “Let There be Victory,” will be played during rallies in rural towns, villages and cities. But why did the party go so far as to get the song rights?
Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi cited the Oscar wins as a result of good governance and inclusive democracy under UPA rule.
Popular culture in India has politics, movies, cricket and religion as predominant ingredients and elections are a mix of all these.
The list of movie stars who have contested and won elections is a long one.
Occasionally a politician also forays into acting — like communist party leader Brinda Karat in the film “Amu”.
Sports and politics also mix well. Cricketers like Vinod Kambli and footballer I.M.Vijayan have acted in films. Former India player Kirti Azad has contested elections while former cricket captain Mohammed Azharuddin recently joined the Congress.
But the link between movies and politics is even stronger.
A simple Google search throws up various theories that try to explain why popularity on the screen transforms into votes in India.
Identifying oneself as a fan of a movie star in India is seen as assertion of one’s identity, which may be regional, linguistic or along caste lines.
Thus Indian fans are said to relate to their favourite stars at a very personal level.
The tradition of worshipping people, as in saints and teachers, is also linked to this. Indian movie stars have been worshipped in temples in some cases.
The sheer number of films produced in India and the fact that they are affordable also ensures that the stars have wide recognition.
But though cinema is popular all over India, it is only in southern India that movie stars have had the most success as popular politicians. Movies and politics have the strongest links there.
There is no clear explanation as to why?
The “Jai Ho” song is in Hindi, a language the southern Indian electorate has an uneasy relationship with.
But will that limit its electoral appeal?