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Mersal: How BJP May Have Read Tamil Nadu's Film Politics Wrong

The Tamil Nadu BJP seems to have shot itself in the foot by taking on a popular actor like Vijay over a couple of dialogues which, if they were left alone, would have passed off without raising anyone’s hackles.

Zakka Jacob | News18.com

Updated:October 24, 2017, 12:04 PM IST
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Mersal: How BJP May Have Read Tamil Nadu's Film Politics Wrong
A still from Mersal teaser. (Image: Youtube)
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The word Mersal (pronounced Mera-sull) is one of those uniquely Chennai words that has now become part of what’s called Madras Thamizh, lingo that’s usually identified as the language of the street and spoken no where else.
 
Much like the words Kasmalam and Kambanatti, Mersal too has become part of street lingo. Ironically, the phrase was initially used to describe the ‘feeling of excitement’ whenever a man’s love interest reciprocated the feeling.
 
The word Mersal was first used in popular culture in the film I where actor Vikram sings the song Merasalayitten after his love interest says yes.


 
But in this past week, in this ongoing boxing match between the Tamil Nadu BJP and actor Vijay’s fans, there is little love lost between both parties.
 
The Tamil Nadu BJP seems to have shot itself in the foot by taking on a popular actor like Vijay over a couple of dialogues which, if they were left alone, would have passed off without raising anyone’s hackles.
 
Vijay was the absolute wrong target to go after. His fan clubs are legendary when it comes to going after people who target their hero as is evident from past instances on social media.
 
The Vijay-Ajith Rivalry
 
Much like Rajini and Kamal dominated Tamil cinema through the late seventies and eighties, the nineties and early 2000s were dominated by the rivalry between Vijay and Ajith. One was called Thala (leader or chief) and the other Thalapathy (General).
 
And much like the comparison between Rajini and Kamal, Vijay was considered the mass hero with a limited acting repertoire while Ajith was the thinking man’s actor, although that has changed somewhat in the last few years.
 
Vijay has always been a quiet, almost reticent personality in his public appearances, very much unlike his on-screen image. It was carefully cultivated, a bit like Rajinikanth.
 
Religion Never Worked As a Political Card In Tamil Nadu
 
It never occurred, and never really mattered, to any of his legions of fans that Vijay was a practicing Christian with his surname Joseph, until BJP leader H Raja disclosed Vijay’s voter id on social media, which invited a huge backlash.
 
Truth is religion has never really been a successful political card in Tamil Nadu. Even after the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992, Tamil Nadu was one of the few states that was largely unaffected by the riots in its aftermath.
 
Even in 1998 after the Coimbatore blasts when BJP leader LK Advani was seemingly the target of the attack, the BJP was hardly able to make an electoral dent in the polls that followed.
 
So H Raja seems to have covered himself in notoriety after leaking Vijay’s voter ID card only to point to his Christian surname. The naked bigotry was not lost on the people of Tamil Nadu.
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