Kamal also told his liberal listeners he will adopt a village in every district of Tamil Nadu and develop them. He did not specify if he will choose a village only if it does not have a saffron hue. But that is unimaginable. ‘Secular’ politicians and secular actor-politicians cannot believe India’s villages are populated with hardened Hindus.

Of the two actors, Kamal is without doubt more the politician. Also a chameleon – switching from red to green depending on what hue he is wooing, the ‘secular’ or the Muslim. Kamal looks at the world with coloured glasses but, true to the ‘secular’, he accuses the other of being ‘coloured’ – communal.

Kamal and Rajini go a long way back. They have been competing for audience-attention for their films for three decades and more. Their portrayal of characters has been different in style. If Kamal was the ‘actor’s actor’, Rajini was the ‘people’s actor’. Kamal has always given the impression of ‘elite’ in some vague form, even when he played rustic, oppressed and common man roles. Some might even label his roles ‘realistic’.

The larger-than-life roles were Rajini’s preserve. Everything about Rajini’s characters – the majority of them – has been bordering fantasy, the fantasies of the man on the road, woven round the possible. His action-scenes did not mirror reality – villains flying helter-skelter with a single roundhouse kick or a left uppercut followed by a right to the chin of one hapless villain.

It was all unreal, and surreal. But Rajini’s fans loved it and their numbers proliferated. It is a toss as to who between the two has the bigger fan following. But it has always been the Rajini fans who cornered the glory, and the attention. The Kamal-fans, keeping to their idol’s rather aloof personality, elite to some of the more discerning watchers, have kept a relatively low profile. If they were vociferous, to the non-Tamil outsider it was not conveyed.

Now, filmy-fans don’t come in hues – red, green or saffron. But Kamal-the-politician has been painting them in different hues – Red in Kerala to Green and Colourless-secular in Tamil Nadu. Kamal is not sure if Rajini is saffron but he is sure enough that he probably isn’t. With ‘saffron’ Kamal is conveying that Rajini, if he is saffron, must be communal. That is in keeping with the media and secular narrative, popular or not. Kamal has red-flagged Rajini and his politics. The question is: has he with that succeeded in driving a doubt/wedge in the minds of Rajini’s non-Hindu and secular-Hindu fans?

J Jayalalithaa’s death left a vacuum in Tamil Nadu politics, which none of Jaya’s non-filmy underlings could fill. They were just not up to it. One of them landed in jail. A couple of others formed a partnership to run the government and another set the whistle on a pressure cooker and won her seat. None of them, however, succeeded in filling the gap!

Enter Kamal and Rajini to do an MGR! The two have met twice or thrice after throwing their hats in the ring but Kamal did not voice his saffron-doubt on any of those face-to-face meetings. Maybe he was chewing the thought. Could be he was mulling the ‘misfits’ the both of them were together.

The question has been asked of him before but Kamal never seriously answered, if at all he reacted. But in Harvard he let it slip out. “Our approach is different… His (Rajinikanth’s) very first announcements came in a particular hue. I hope it is not saffron,” the actor-politician told Harvard’s liberals.

Kamal was waiting to be in foreign climes, before an international audience, to sow the seed of doubt, limit Rajini’s universal appeal. It could not have been more opportunistic, more ‘communal’. Rajini’s first “announcement” was that he will practice “spiritual politics” but it was natural for the ‘secular’ to take a leap and substitute ‘spiritual’ with ‘religious’, worst of all, with ‘Hindutva-religious’.

That is what Kamal did on Saturday last – he let it out to the Harvard liberal that he had his doubts but Rajinikanth is more than likely a bigot, a fascist, afflicted with the incurable Islam-o-phobia. Kamal spoke the language the left-liberal worldwide understands and propagates. The ‘Kamal’ was telling the tainted saffron Lotus lot wallowing in the dirt that he, Kamal, is lilywhite – driven like the snow, pure in the heart! (IPA Service)