Salim Kumar, Jagadeesh, Dharmajan Bolgatty and now Ramesh Pisharody! There goes the list of Malayalam actors who have openly declared their allegiance to the Congress in Kerala. Curiously enough, they are all better known for their comic roles. As Pisharody too joined the league at a Congress rally recently, political rivals have unleashed a much-expected derogatory campaign on social media. The Congress and the UDF led by it are fast becoming a comedy show, the cyber warriors of the rival parties write all over social media.
Pisharody himself addressed this criticism at his maiden political speech in Haripad. “Those who claim to stand for the dignity of labour should not treat acting in comic roles as a menial job,” he said, clearly aiming at the self-proclaimed Leftists and Marxists in the state.
The open declaration of the affinity towards Congress by the actors and other celebrities during the run-up to the upcoming assembly polls must be a part of the Congress's perception building exercise. However, it would be too naive to assume that politics is just a joke for these so-called comedians. Politics to Salim Kumar, for example, is as important as his breathing air. “I will be a Congressman until my last breath,” he said recently as a controversy erupted over his exclusion at the inaugural ceremony of the International Film Festival of Kerala over alleged political motives.
Salim Kumar calls himself a born Congressman. His father was one of the few Congress supporters of his neighbourhood at Vadakkekkara in Paravur which was a CPM stronghold. Having to grow up in a Congress family in a Marxist fortress, Salim Kumar was afraid of Left activists during his childhood. “Only the Marxist party used to win in our area in elections. During victory celebrations they would crack a lot of firecrackers in front of our house. Seeing all these, I was kind of intimidated,” he told Onmanorama. However, Salim Kumar said his fears were out of place as there was no clash between rival party workers in his area. Salim Kumar grew up to be a strong Congress supporter. However, he is not a partisan who thinks only his party is right.
“I'm someone who believes that the Communist party should never perish in Kerala. But they should be defeated in polls,” the actor said with his signature laughter. “They (Communist party) have their own space here. They have done a lot of revolutionary things and I will never belittle them. It's just that they do things in their own way and we have our own ways,” he said. Asked what was the Congress ideology that he stands for, the national award winner had a clear answer. “Ultimately, both the Congress and the Communist parties stand for the welfare of the people,” he said.
He said ninety per cent of his friends in and outside film world were Leftists and he often engages in heated debates with them on political matters. “There are many Congress supporters in film fraternity who are reluctant to air their political views openly,” Salim Kumar said when asked why most of the artistes and cultural activists were Left supporters.
Dharmajan Bolgatty, another actor from Kochi, recently came out as a staunch Congress supporter. Dharmajan, who has openly declared his ambition to be a candidate in the assembly polls, also said that politics was not something new to him. He climbed the ladders of the Congress starting from the Kerala Students Union, the party's student wing. He was also a functionary of the feeder organisations like the Youth Congress and Sevadal.
“I felt that Congress had suffered a setback recently. I have to contribute something to my party which is on a revival path. That is why I decided to enter active politics now. My image as an artist will definitely help the party,” he said in a recent interview.
With Dharmajan being active on political front, there was little surprise in Pisharody following the suit. The duo shares a warm friendship since their television comedy show days. Unlike Dharmajan, Pisharody does not have a strong political background. He said his father was a member of the INTUC, the Congress's trade union. In fact, like many of his film colleagues, Pisharody had campaigned for actor Mukesh when he contested as a Left front candidate in Kollam in the 2016 assembly polls.
The actor-film-maker said that it was the moderate attitude of the Congress that attracted him to the party. “Congress is a party that has leaders who are approachable. It's the biggest democratic movement in the country. Its survival is a must to retain the pluralistic nature of the country,” he believes.
In a TV interview, he said it was wrong to assume that an actor who does comic roles cannot have social commitment. Along with Pisharody actor Edavela Babu also attended the Aishwarya Kerala Yathra led by Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala as the rally reached Haripad in Alappuzha. Babu, again known for playing comedy, said he has been a Congress supporter since his college days.
Jagadeesh, the Congress candidate against LDF's actor-politician K B Ganesh Kumar in Pathanapuram in 2016, did not comment when contacted to know how he became a Congressman.