A person’s political opinion is influenced by the information available to him in terms of what he observes in his daily life. In India, movies are big source of knowledge. Thus, they are very effective in validating and reinforcing existing opinions, or in providing insights that can alter views. Films play a critical role in changing public perception among the Indian population. Therefore, cinema can be a powerful tool for political mobilization, and to indirectly communicate with voters and influence them to vote a certain way. Hence, political movies and the actors’ political affiliations can be quite crucial for attracting votes for a political party.
In India, the film industry has dominant presence in the Indian culture. Film Stars have millions of followers on social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, etc. where their opinions are often re-shared or reiterated by their fans. Furthermore, for much of the Indian population, the words ‘hero’ and ‘actor’ are considered synonyms, which shows the extent of admiration that many people have towards the film stars. In some cases, several prominent actors have found place in temples, where they are idolized and worshipped by their fans. Since actors have such powerful presence among their fans, their support of a political party can actually result in a higher vote share for that party. Therefore, when the elections are near, there is always a great deal of excitement to see who are the people, the actors in the film industry are supporting.
Narendra Modi as everybody knows, is trying his luck for a second term and is utilizing all resources available to ensure this happens. Hence, in the early part of this year, he arranged for a meeting with many people from the Hindi film Industry, to perhaps assist in his future campaigning. Narendra Modi is using the powerful influence of Bollywood films to support him, which could result in a larger voter share. Consequently, two Bollywood movies, “The Accidental Prime Minister” and “Uri: The Surgical Strike” , were released along with a trailer of a third movie, “PM Narendra Modi” –all of which paint Narendra Modi in a positive light as a patriarchal figure that India could depend upon to secure the country’s future while making digs at the opposition party.
However, the strategy of using film stars to aid in political agenda is not limited to the BJP. The Congress party also managed to enlist the help of movies and film stars. The film “My name is RaGa” is expected to be released in April. Similarly, it paints Rahul Gandhi in a positive light. Rahul Gandhi is depicted as a persona who invokes the memories of his father and grand mother, and calls them martyrs as they gave their lives for the country. The Congress has also utilized stars to represent them in elections. Urmila Matondkar recently joined the Congress party, and is the party candidate for the Mumbai North Lok Sabha seat. Being a Maharashtrian Bollywood actress, she can attract Marathi votes and those from the people of North India. Her speeches and presence were able to rally massive crowds, which further reiterate the relationship between Indian film stars and Indian Politics.
Hence, the entry of film stars as political candidates can be traced to the 1960s, when Prithviraj Kapoor of the Hindi film Industry made the first entry into the Parliament as a member of the Rajya Sabha. Shatrughan Sinha is one of the most famous actors turned politician from the Hindi Film Industry. He contested and won as a BJP candidate in 1992, and then switched parties and joined the Indian National Congress when BJP refused to take him as a candidate in the next elections. Vinod Khanna was also another successful actor turned politician. He took part in the 1997 elections as a BJP candidate and became the Minister for Culture and Tourism in 2002. Consequently, many actors like Smiriti Irani, Hema Malini, Jaya Bachan, Raj Babbar, Kirron Kher and even Rekha have utilized their onscreen reputations to ensure successful political careers. While Bollywood agents were relatively successful as political party candidates, none were as successful as Jayalalithaa, a tamil actress, who served as the chief minister of Tamil Nadu for five terms. No Bollywood actor turned politician has come close to her fan following, and even after her death, multiple film makers have announced plans to release her biopic.
In conclusion, cinemas can be used as a tool of propaganda as it has a wide reach among the masses. Movies are gaining importance as a vital part. They are being seen as agents that can influence the democratic system of the nation. This is supported by the increasing number of actors who are entering politics and in turn, assisting their political party narratives by making movies that suit their political party manifestos. Hence, with the 2019 elections, cinema is becoming a huge determinant for voter influence. So, it would be interesting to see how political parties continue to make use of this industry, especially during the elections.
Picture Credits : qz.com