Legendary actor-director Kamal Haasan is now a full-time politician. He launched his party Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) on February 21 at a grand public meet at Madurai. Ever since, he’s been actively touring and meeting the Tamil public across the state. Through his media interactions, he’s consistently spoken up about issues concerning the public. In Tuticorin, he joined those protesting against Sterlite to show solidarity towards their cause.
Haasan will have yet another grand public meet in Trichy on April 4. Before that, he took the Vaigai Express train from Chennai Egmore to Trichy where he was seated among regular travellers in the A/C chair car coach, C3. A lot of media personnel were also invited to cover his 5-hour train journey. I was also extended an invite and I gleefully grabbed this opportunity to see the star in the thick of his campaign.
Unsurprisingly, the public excitement and media frenzy was huge and when Haasan walked into the train, the atmosphere was electric. Things took a while to settle down and I managed to get a seat in coach C1, a couple of compartments away from ‘Nammavar’ Kamal. I was excited but also tense about my impending appointment with the man. I was raised on a rich diet of Kamal movies as my dad was a huge fan. I’ve been following his film career very closely from the 90s. His move to politics took me (like most others) by surprise, but so far the way he’s gone about forming MNM has raised the optimism levels of quite a few naysayers.
With many journalists waiting to meet him, there was a lot of speculation about whether he would individually meet all of them. I keenly observed the conversation that veered into a comparison between Haasan and Rajinikanth‘s political prospects. Finally, word spread that Haasan would meet journalists in separate batches, and that he’ll be spending about 5 to 10 minutes with each.
The hard-working MNM volunteers told me I would get my turn soon; I was also asked to prepare a couple of questions relevant to my social media background so that the meeting wasn’t just a mere photo op. As luck would have it, I was the lone representative from social media and so I managed a solo interview with Haasan.
I made up my mind to ask Haasan about his judicious use of social media, how he intends to create internet based jobs for the youth and, finally about the public perception that his thoughts and language are beyond the realm of understanding of the common man.
My moment finally arrived. I introduced myself and started the conversation without fumbling, thankfully. Haasan politely said that he’d keep sipping his coffee while answering my questions. His intellect, awareness of history and current trends, and command over the English language blew my mind. At 63, he looked impeccable with his well-groomed handlebar moustache (reminiscent of his Thevar Magan days).
Kamal advocated the usage of media in every form in the current times, citing how Mahatma Gandhi used telegram effectively in his time. He spoke passionately about how the youth should be productive on the internet and develop their skill sets. He referred skill set development as a movement as important as the Satyagraha movement.
When I asked him about being perceived as a leader ‘ahead of the times’, Haasan replied that he also belonged to the same species as all of us and that it’s imperative to keep pace with the times and race ahead. “Maybe my vocabulary is limited”, were his closing comments on the supposed gap between his ideologies and the common man’s. Those seated around instantly started laughing at his witty remark. I finally requested him for a photo which I then promptly posted on social media. I got a lot of genuine positivity from my circle for this experience of a lifetime which made me feel like a hero through the day.
Haasan also made time to meet students who were traveling on the train and obliged their photo requests. When he finally alighted at Trichy, he was welcomed with thunderous applause by fans and supporters. I was soaking in this festive atmosphere and also managed to grab a vantage point near his car as it was leaving the station. The man stood up and waved from his car, driving the crowd wild. It was a perfect end to an unforgettable day when the ‘fanboy’ in me got his first up-close meeting with the ‘Ulaganayagan’. I proceeded to celebrate my day in a bar.