Will the real Sarath Kumar stand up?

Chennai, Feb 6 (IANS) Is he an actor? Or is he a politician? Two-time MP Sarath Kumar, 54, is trying to be both.

Chennai, Feb 6 (IANS) Is he an actor? Or is he a politician? Two-time MP Sarath Kumar, 54, is trying to be both.

To prove his point Sarath is acting in a film on reincarnation, 'Vaitheeswaran', which he hopes will give him two lives at least: one as an actor defying his age and the other as a politician whom neither the DMK nor the AIADMK wants.

Sarath, therefore, is holding a mega meet of his still fledgling party, the Akila Indiya Samathuva Makkal Katchi (AISMK), on Feb 10 in the temple town of Madurai, the seat of power of the DMK's M.K. Azhagiri.

In his next film, 'Vaitheeswaran' by new director Vidhyadharan, Sarath plays a psychiatrist. Meghna Naidu is his female lead and the cast includes Shayaji Shinde and Santhanam. Srikanth Deva has scored the music.

The opening scenes take place in the famous temple of the healer god, Vaitheeswaran, in Kumbakonam. So far, the film is scheduled for release Friday, just about the time the AISMK mega meet takes place.

Ahead of the release, Sarath has said: 'it is a film to reckon with, in my career.'

The actor's career is at crossroads; at least his political career is, if not his cinema one.

Sarath's career on screen began as a second fiddle to Vijaykanth, who for years was also the president of the Nadigaar Sangam, or the South Indian Cine Actors Association.

When Vijaykanth retired from the association, Sarath Kumar took over at the prestigious star union's helm, even as he graduated to lead roles.

In 1996, he joined the DMK. Belonging to the Nadar community, he contested the poll from the Lok Sabha constituency of Tirunelveli in 1998 and lost. The DMK sent him to the Rajya Sabha for two terms. He joined the AIADMK in 2006, which he quit within a few months.

Following in Vijaykanth's footsteps, in August 2007 Sarath Kumar floated his own party. Last year, he was also finishing the film 'Nam Naadu'.

Sarath was re-elected president of the South Indian Cine Actors Association but he quit the post, saying he was too busy with politics. He was persuaded to continue, however. The union is yet to find his replacement.

He spearheaded the '75 years of Tamil Cinema' celebrations in the US last year, and ended 2007 with the film '1977'. Early in January, he was hurt while shooting for the film in Malyasia.

Wife Radhika Sarath Kumar, who owns the hugely successful soap opera production house Raadan Media Works, is the woman behind the AISMK gala show this weekend.

Meanwhile, Sarath has been busy taking on AIADMK leader and former chief minister J. Jayalalitha -- over MGR's legacy.

He says that if M.G. Ramachandran, M. Karunanidhi and Jayalalitha, all from Tamil Nadu's tinsel world succeeded as politician, 'why can't Vijaykanth and I?'

Recently he also attacked the AIADMK chief for saying that MGR's legacy rested with only her and her party.

The back cover of the glossy invite for the Madurai meet has a mosque, a church and a temple, obviously in order to project a secular image. Inside, there are pictures of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Subhash Bose and Dalit icon B.R. Ambedkar.

He has been choosy about leaders from Tamil Nadu.

Poet Bharathi is there as is Periyar, the Dravidian ideologue. Thevar leader Muthuramalinga Thevar, freedom fighter V.O. Chidambaram, Muslim leader Quaide Millath and C.N. Annadurai also find a place on the invite.

Sarath has promised to return 'Kamaraj (read Nadar) rule' in Tamil Nadu although this has long been the Congress cry. So K. Kamaraj's picture is prominent on the card.

Sarath is himself shown wearing dark glasses, like Karunanidhi, giving the impression that his legacy lies here.

And to tell one and all that he too is heir to MGR's political legacy, there is one picture showing MGR looking through a camera's viewfinder on one side of Sarath, flanked on the other side by the actor himself, looking through the camera's viewfinder.

With such mixed signals emanating from Sarath Kumar, actor-turned-politician, Tamil Nadu may be waiting for a clearer picture from him.

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Sarath Kumar Thumbnail

Sarath Kumar

Shayaji Shinde Thumbnail

Shayaji Shinde

M. Karunanidhi Thumbnail

M. Karunanidhi

Srikanth Deva Thumbnail

Srikanth Deva

Meghna Naidu Thumbnail

Meghna Naidu

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