Sharat Kumar is known as the supreme star in Tamil Nadu. He has been acting since 1983 and has starred in over 100 movies. He has a strong fan base and is the secretary of the South India Film Actors Guild.
Though he is acting in seven movies at present, he has also launched a political party called Anaithu Samuthuvam Makkal Katchi (All society people's party).
The first state conference of the party will be held on February 10 in Madurai.
Sharat Kumar is not new to politics. He first canvassed for the Dravida Munnetra Kazagham in the 1996 Lok Sabha elections. He later joined the party and contested the Lok Sabha elections from Tirunelveli. He lost by a narrow margin of 6,000 votes and later became a Rajya Sabha MP.
Just before the last state elections he left the DMK saying that he was being sidelined. He joined the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazagham but left in three months. When he joined the AIADMK, his wife Radhika was also given a party membership card. She accepted it reluctantly. Radhika who is known as the Ekta Kapoor of the Tamil television industry is known to be close to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi. When she attended a function of the chief minister, AIADMK chief J Jayalalitha sacked her from the party without notice.
This upset Sharat Kumar who immediately quit the party. A month later he had announced the formation of a new party.
Sharat Kumar, a Nadar, is being projected as a leader of that community. The Nadars make up sizable numbers in Tuticorin, Tirunelveli, Kanyakumari, Sivakasi and Virudhunagar districts. They can make or break a candidate in this area. They are also a powerful and cash-rich trading community.
If Sharat Kumar can get the Nadars to rally behind him and hold onto his fan base then he could be a serious contender in Tamil Nadu politics.
He spoke to rediff.com's A Ganesh Nadar in an isolated village in Ramnad district where he was shooting for his latest movie 1977.
Is your political party meant for the Nadars?
We were planning a memorial for Kamaraj on a 30-acre plot near Virudhanagar. That is a community-based initiative. The political party I started has nothing to do with the community. We have a community base, even Kamaraj belonged to a community. But he was a mass leader. Our party too is for all. We will follow Kamaraj's ideals. We will follow his principles and his administrative ideas. We will also follow (former President A P J Abdul) Kalam's ideals.
Politics requires a lot of money. Do you have it?
Politics no longer requires a lot of money. People are aware of what is happening around them. Money is not the criteria. There is a silent revolution taking place. People are not going to be turned on by money. They will exercise their franchise in a proper manner and make sure that the party of their choice comes to power.
How are you going to develop your party while shooting for seven movies?
Our first political conference will be held at Madurai. I will be touring every district in the state to meet the people. My office bearers are already touring. I will go every fortnight between my shooting schedules. My office bearers, who we have nominated, have been coached. They have been told what to say to the people. We have given them guidelines.
How was your experience in the DMK?
I canvassed for the DMK alliance in the 1996 elections. I joined the DMK in 1998 and was an MP too. I had great exposure to politics for which I am grateful to the party leader.
And the AIADMK?
I had a very small stint with the AIADMK, only three months. I had just left the DMK. I joined the AIADMK because it was a party formed by MGR (former Tamil Nadu chief minister M G Ramachandran). MGR is my mentor where movies are concerned. I left because there was no democracy in the party. My wife did not join the party but was given a party card. Then she was thrown out of the party without any show cause notice. They could have at least phoned me. She was ejected because she attended a conference of chief minister Karunanidhi. Radhika was surprised when she was offered a party membership card and she was shocked when she was removed.
You think you have enough experience to start a political party?
I have 11 years experience in politics. I believe in development politics than politics for the sake of politics per se.
Tell me your party's aims?
India has the largest youth population in the world. We will work to take that youth forward. Our aim will be to create employment, especially in rural areas. We have to adopt the rural areas and stop the migration of people to the cities. Seventy per cent of this country lives in the villages.
We have to improve agriculture. We must have alternate crops. We must make dry land cultivable. We must come up with revolutionary ideas. All my fans will definitely join my political party. Our party is already recognised throughout Tamil Nadu.
Our statements are very clear and authentic. Like when we opposed the titanium plant in south Tamil Nadu. We are not against industry. We are not against the plant. We did not want the government to buy land for them. We wanted the company to buy land directly from the people. And that is what is happening now.
We did not just start protesting. We first asked people what they wanted. We took the consensus of the people before we started any action. We are the only party that does that. Other parties joined us later.
You are very blunt, politicians have to be diplomatic?
Before saying anything on any topic I always think it out. I like to speak the truth. It is high time people knew what is really happening. Politics is not only about capturing votes. You should be genuine. We should remember that we are here to serve the people and not rule. I don't have to be diplomatic about what I say, I will always be forthright.
Will your children become politicians or film stars?
I will give my children a good education. I will not advise them to join films or politics. They can do what they want. I will guide them.
Was the Tamil Nadu government right in giving religion-based reservation?
The government has given reservation to Muslims and Christians. This is nothing new. There is already a 30 per cent reservation quota for them in the OBC quota. They have just assured 3.5 per cent reservation for them.
Are reservations necessary?
That is a very difficult question to answer right now. I don't have the details about how many people have benefited from it. But we do need reservation for the weaker sections. I don't believe in appeasement but you cannot call everything that we do for the minorities as appeasement.
Do you think privatisation of education has helped?
I don't think private self financing colleges help the people. They help only the rich. Free education at all levels would be ideal. The government should open more professional colleges. At least they are cheaper than the private ones.
What do you think about the government selling liquor?
For the government selling liquor is a good avenue to make money. They should find some other money making scheme and leave this to private sellers. They should also raise taxes on liquor and cigarettes so people are discouraged.
What about the decision to ban lotteries?
Banning the lottery was a mistake. They should have controlled the lottery and made sure they are honestly run and people actually win.
Do you enjoy a good relationship with (former Union minister) Dayanidhi Maran?
Dayanidhi Maran and I were colleagues in the same party and we were in Parliament together. We have had our differences of opinion but are on good terms now.
You are an actor, the head of the film association and the leader of an infant political party, how will you balance the three?
Of the three roles, running the party is the most difficult.
Who are your friends in the film industry?
In filmdom all are my friends as I am the head of their association. I cannot afford to have favourites. I don't have any favourite heroines too.
You have produced some movies?
I have produced a few movies. This one I am doing now 1977 is my home production. I did direct half a movie when the director left midway. It was easy as I had to just follow where he had left off. The experience was good. I have seven films in hand after completing them I will think about how many films I want to do. In politics, we will decide after the elections what our prospects are.
Which is your best movie and which is your favourite song?
I like Arivandan the most among my movies but it did not run. 'Roja poo .' is my best song on screen. I loved it.
Anything message for the people?
What I want to say is that we have the largest number of young people in the world. We must make sure they have a better lifestyle than us. We must work for our future generation and make this a developed country as it is Kalamji's vision.