Actually, film stars and politicians are not strange bed-fellows. Come election time, it is lights, camera, action for the candidates along with the ciné stars co-opted to garner more votes.

This dalliance between politics and celebs goes under the rubric of celebrity politics. This is a syndrome that ‘manifests’ itself along with the ‘manifestos’ brandished at election time in many nations. At the moment we are witness to a thrumming political dangal in Bharat to decide which neta can wrestle the opponent down.

The 18th General Election is being carried on with full force, gauntlets thrown and picked up, mud slung at each other and worse. However, the Judgement Day cometh on June 4, when the results of the grand fiesta will be declared.

There are a bunch of popular film and media folk who’ve been lured into the political ‘akhada’. Some displaying ‘atma nirbharta’ are taking a dive into the political pool or poll on their own. Perhaps, they think it’s an opportunity to shine in a kindred field which too needs acting skills.

Not to disregard the fact that there’ve been many film stars in the South who have used their mass appeal to establish political parties to make a social change, and succeeded brilliantly.

The celluloid actors are comfortable when it comes to the lens-eye focussing on them. But some of our narcissistic political players are learning fast and displaying histrionic skills that actors would tip a hat to.

Such politicians can shed crocodile tears even without glycerine. And some, like popular YouTubers, get themselves photographed or videoed constantly on land, under water, in caves and jungles. And in appropriate costumes too!

Realpolitik and ‘reelpolitik’ make a good pair. Bollywood and other regional cinemas have created a galaxy of film stars with their glamour and glitz, who provide an escape hatch from the hard-scrabble reality of the poor . So very astutely the politicians leverage the ‘rizz’(to use the Gen Z word for charisma) of film and media stars to reel in more votes.

But it can backfire if some of these stars are wet behind the ears in understanding the intricacies of politics and end up making outrageous claims for the party they are supporting.

In a digitally savvy electorate, this leads to a cascade of trolling online, as evident currently (a hint is enough for the wise). Instead of a charm offensive, it turns into offensive charm. But then even politicians make unforgivable gaffes and the unquestionable leader of this tribe is Donald Trump.

Both the politician and the film actors with their scripted spiels are dream merchants. Some naïve people are led into believing that ‘acche din’ will arrive anon. But reality can’t hide behind fantasy for long.

Another common trait the netas and ‘abhinetas’ share is switching loyalties. Depending on which way the political power- needle is pointing, both tend to leapfrog,without any qualms, into the camp on the ascendant. They are like windsocks, following the wind direction.

Yet to tar all with the same brush seems rather unfair. A North-South divide seems to exist in many metrics, including the successful emergence of film stars.

Two interesting books, ‘Cine-politics: Film Stars and Political Existence in South India’ (2013) by M. Madhava Prasad and ‘Film and Politics in India: Cinematic Charisma to Political Power’(2015) by Dhamu Pongiyannan comprehensively cover the great connection between the silver screen and politics in the Southern states.

The South has a rich reservoir of film stars who became immensely popular Chief Ministers and cult figures with adoring followers. Theirs was not a passing flirtation with politics but a deep commitment to social change through setting up new political parties. M.G. Ramachandran (M.G.R.), the iconic star from Tamil Nadu, shines in that category.

He founded Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (ADMK) and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). And his protégé, film star Jayalalitha, went on to become a mesmerising Chief Minister. N. T. Rama Rao (N.T.R.), a superstar of Telugu Cinema was the founder of Telugu Desam Party (TDP).

We have the Telugu superstar Chiranjeevi as a successful politician and a few more superstars like Rajnikanth and Kamal Hassan who set up political parties. But the former withdrew from politics whereas Kamal Hassan is still hanging in there without much luck so far.

In the North we don’t have such an embarrassment of riches in celebrity politics. Though Amitabh Bachchan, aka Big B, won on a Congress ticket, he resigned after some allegations of corruption in the Bofors scandal. His feisty wife, Jaya Bachchan carries on staunchly as a Samajwadi Party Rajya Sabha MP.

Vinod Khanna, the debonair actor who became an Osho Sanyasi, chose to grab the political nettle and finally won on a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ticket in 1998. He was the Union Minister of Culture and Tourism in 2002, and even elevated as minister of state for the Ministry of External Affairs in 2003. Sunil Dutt was inducted as a Congress minister of Youth Affairs and Sports.

We can see a lot of stardust in this election: from the formidable and feisty Smriti Irani, Shotgun Sinha, Raj Babbar, Govinda, Hema Malini, Manoj Tiwari and Ravi Kishen to name a few. And interestingly enough Arun Govil, who acted as Lord Rama in the storied TV serial ‘Ramayan’, is canvassing for BJP with his Ram costume from Meerut in Uttar Pradesh hoping for ‘The Temple Effect’ to take effect!

Charlie Chaplin, the British comic actor, an icon as a tramp through his screen persona, once said: “I remain just one thing, and one thing only, and that is a clown. It places me on a far bigger plane than any politician.”

This quote has immense dramatic irony in contemporary politics. The heroic leader of the Ukrainian people,Volodymyr Zelenski, whose land faces an existential threat from Putin’s Russia was a comic actor once.

In him the clown and the politician segue to rise to a noble plane. But then we have Donald Trump who has diminished the politician into a buffoon with his shenanigans.

The dice can fall any which way. So voters have to be aware, alert and awake to sift the facts from the deep fakes. The rest is in Lord Rama’s hands.

Ushi Kak aka Kashpundit, is an author who revels in wordplay and satire couched in humour. At times she deviates into gravitas. Views Expressed are the writer’s own.