Film icons bring star power to India’s monumental elections, Latest World News - The New Paper

Film icons bring star power to India’s monumental elections

This article is more than 12 months old

COIMBATORE, INDIA On a humid evening in India's south, drummers and dancers heave to Kamal Haasan's blockbuster hits, whipping a huge crowd into ecstasy just as the moustachioed megastar himself steps onto the stage.

There is a red carpet, confetti and coloured lights rippling over the sea of jiving fans screaming Haasan's name, but this is no concert - it's an Indian political rally worthy of a superstar.

The path from celebrity to politics is well-trodden in the state of Tamil Nadu and Haasan - an icon of South Indian cinema - is one of many stars on the hustings ahead of the national election starting next week.

Thousands of candidates are contesting the election - the biggest in history, with 900 million eligible voters - but not all have the X-factor of Haasan and other stars on the campaign trail.

The 64-year-old launched a political party last year to much fanfare and excitement in Tamil Nadu, where he is a household name after decades as a leading man on the silver screen.

His rallies more closely resemble movie sets from his career than the boilerplate campaign functions hosted by India's political hopefuls.

The man himself is not even contesting the election, but is fielding 40 candidates to vie for seats for his party in the national parliament, in New Delhi.

"All the candidates are my faces, and I will be the chariot puller," he thundered at a recent rally in the southern city of Coimbatore, assuring the crowd of where their votes would be going. - AFP