Star wars in Andhra Pradesh
Sunil Kumar in Hyderabad
Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party president N Chandrababu Naidu has roped in a battery of comedians -- Rajendra Prasad, Brahmanandam, AVS and Babu Mohan -- to convince voters about the 'good work' done by his party.
In this celluloid campaign for the Lok Sabha election, the Bharatiya Janata Party is not far behind, with Rajya Sabha member and Naidu bete noire Mohan Babu, 'rebel star' Krishnam Raju, actress Gautami, noted villain Giri Babu and several others jumping on the saffron bandwagon.
If the Telugu Desam suffered a jolt when Mohan Babu agreed to campaign for the BJP after Naidu showed him the door, the latter scored a victory of sorts by stealing the stars from N T Rama Rao-Telugu Desam chief Lakshmi Parvati.
Among these stars is well-known comedian Babu Mohan. The chief minister also reportedly ensured that the 'angry young man of the Telugu screen', Dr Rajasekhar and his actress-wife Jeevitha deserted Lakshmi Parvathi.
NTR-TDP sources said a Naidu-backed film industry lobby threatened to boycott Babu Mohan and Dr Rajasekhar, forcing them to desert Lakshmi Parvathi.
Babu Mohan had unsuccessfully contested the Amalapuram seat in the 1996 election and tried to enter the assembly, again on a NTR-TDP ticket, from Mummidivaram constituency. But the electorate made him bite the dust.
The Congress, too, suffered major reverses in these star wars. With 'rebel star' Krishnam Raju bidding goodbye to the party and joining the BJP a couple of weeks ago, the Congress hardly has any star presence. Krishnam Raju contested the 1991 Lok Sabha election on a Congress ticket from Narsapur constituency, but lost.
Superstar Krishna, who had joined the party 'inspired' by the late Rajiv Gandhi, won in the 1989 Lok Sabha election from Eluru.
After his defeat in the 1991 election, Krishna has been lying low. He told Rediff On The NeT, that the Congress had cheated him. "I was used by the party. I have nothing to do with it now," Krishna said.
His actress-wife Vijayanirmala, who also directs films, too, steers clear of politics.
Yet another yesteryear star who is disenchanted with the Congress is Jamuna. The actress had successfully contested the 1989 Lok Sabha election from Rajahmundry. But, like Krishna, she lost the election in 1991, forcing her to virtually desert the Congress.
Film producer T Subbirami Reddy is the only film personality associated with the Congress now. Representing Visakhapatnam in the dissolved Lok Sabha, he has been fielded again from the same constituency.
The TDP has the highest number of film personalities, including Rajya Sabha member Jayapradha who has been nominated to contest the Rajahmundry Lok Sabha seat. T Sarada, member of the 11th Lok Sabha, has been fielded from Tenali.
Character actor K Satyanarayana, who represented Machilipatnam in the last Lok Sabha, has been renominated from the same constituency.
Actor-producer Murali Mohan, who is also the AP Film Development Corporation chairman, is currently making a two-hour video film, featuring Rajendra Prasad, Brahmanandam, AVS and Babu Mohan.
The film is being made at the Ramoji Film City, near Hyderabad.
"More stars will be roped in. A decision will, however, be taken later as to whether all these actors should go directly to the people," Murali Mohan told Rediff On The NeT.
Noted playback singer S P Balasubramaniam and Mano have already extended their 'support' by singing some songs for the TDP's audio cassettes, which was released last week.
The TDP's two audio cassettes feature 20 songs, pouring scorn on the 'corrupt' Congress and the 'communal' BJP.
''Eight of these songs will find a place in the video film,'' said Murali Mohan.
Mohan Babu, who fell out with Naidu some time ago, initially entertained thoughts of launching a regional party. But after the November 19 car bomb blast at Jubilee hills in Hyderabad, he gave up the idea.
Mohan Babu has since agreed to campaign for the BJP.
Another star Vijayashanti, too, was expected to launch her own party. She was then supposed to join the BJP, following a meeting with BJP president Lal Kishinchand Advani in Delhi. But the star has since kept away from the political arena.
Actor Ranganath, who has acted in more than 200 films including Chaduvu Samskaram and Intinti Ramayanam, joined the BJP a week ago. Actors Giri Babu and Prasad Babu, too, have lent their support to the BJP.
Though there was talk of 'mega star' Chiranjeevi joining politics, the actor has decided against taking a plunge. "Not now," was the actor's cryptic reply to a specific question as to whether he would join politics.
Noted actor-producer-director Dasari Narayana Rao, who was all set to launch a regional political party, the Telugu Talli, developed cold feet after announcing his plans at a media conference. He says he will now launch the party in May as he was more interested in fighting the state assembly election than the Lok Sabha poll.
Meanwhile, the BJP has sparked the reverse flow with its leader in the Andhra Pradesh assembly, Vidyasagar Rao, who acted in the recent Collectorgaru, produced by Mohan Babu.
Vidyasagar Rao, who played a politician in the film, is expected to be fielded from the Karimnagar Lok Sabha seat.
Another politician associated with the celluloid world is Chittoor TDP legislator V Doraiswamy who produced Annamayya which was well received.
Several stars have been in politics in the state even before N T Rama Rao launched the Telugu Desam Party in 1983, when actors Narsing Rao and Madala Ranga Rao campaigned against him.
Sarojini Naidu's actor-brother Harindranath Chattopadhyaya won the Vijayawada Lok Sabha seat in 1952 as a Communist candidate.
Character actor Jaggiah won the Ongole Lok Sabha seat in 1967. Former Maharashtra governor Kona Prabhakar Rao left films to enter politics.
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