With hours to go for the launch of his political party in Madurai, actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan said there was "no politics" involved in his visit to the former President late APJ Abdul Kalam's residence in Rameswaram on Wednesday, or his proposed visit to a school, which did not fructify as the administration denied him permission, where the former President had studied.
"Kalam is an important person for me... I was attracted by his patriotism and aspirations.. There is no politics in the visit to his house," he told a press conference. "There was no politics in the school visit also. They can stop me from going to school but not from learning," he added. Referring to the lyrics of a song from one of his films, Haasan said he was prepared to learn if he had to do so "by breaking barriers".
He said Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu spoke to him last night and advised him to prepare a list of public welfare initiatives rather than spelling out policies. The veteran actor said he had lived in the hearts of fans but now wanted to live in people's homes in his new role.
Haasan is all set to make a plunge into Tamil Nadu politics, which has been in a turmoil since the demise of erstwhile chief minister J Jayalalithaa. In the evening, on Wednesday, Haasan will "unfurl his party's flag" and declare his political ideology. Addressing the press in Madurai on Tuesday, Haasan said: "Tomorrow I will launch my political party but before that in the morning I will visit Rameswaram. In the evening, I will unfurl party flag and declare the ideas and ideology of my political journey."
Haasan is also scheduled to address public meets later in the day at Manamadurai, Paramakudi, and Ramanathapuram before the grand launch in the evening.
In November last year, Haasan had confirmed his political entry by announcing the launch of a whistleblower app. The 63-year-old actor has named his state-wide political tour as Nalai Namathey (Tomorrow is ours).
Here are the top developments around Haasan's political plunge:
1) 'Kamal Haasan is our lifeboat': Haasan also addressed members of the fishermen community at Rameswaram. Kamal Haasan, addressing the media and assembled members from the fishermen community, said: "Thank you for coming here and encouraging me. My best friends (people from the fishermen community) are here on stage with me. I will come back and sit with all of you, one-on-one. I didn't come here to ask them to join me, I want to join them."
Speaking to the fishing community in Rameswaram, Haasan said that it was one of the most important industries in Tamil Nadu. He would be back to listen to the suggestions made by the fisherfolks.
The fishermen community placed their difficulties and problems before the actor-turned-politician, saying their livelihoods were being taken from them. They complained that their boats were being captured by Sri Lanka's Navy even as politicians had been assuring them that they would solve their problems.
According to TV reports, a fisherman present at the press meet said, "Kamal Haasan is our lifeboat. I hope he can help us. We don't belong to any political party, we are just fisherfolk."
A fishermen community leader, according to TV reports, said, "He (Haasan) is an actor par excellence. He has taken our problems in his hands. He is curious and concerned about us. He is our fisher-friend."
2) Visiting President Kalam's house: Hours before launching his political party, veteran actor Kamal Haasan on Wednesday visited the residence of former President APJ Abdul Kalam in Ramanathapuram, Tamil Nadu, and interacted with his family members. Haasan visited Kalam House at Rameswaram in the district, and was warmly received by the family members of the former President. The actor briefly interacted with Kalam's nonagenarian brother Mohammed Muthumeera Lebbai Maraikkayar while being flanked by other close relatives of the former President.
The actor slightly tweaked his schedule for the day, cancelling his visit to a school, after the local administration reportedly denied him permission to visit it.
3) 'Entering politics only because AIADMK is bad': On Tuesday, Haasan explained why he was entering into politics. The actor has decided to take up the politician's role "only because the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) party is bad".
4) Friend Kejriwal by his side: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal will reportedly attend the launch of Haasan's political party in Madurai on Wednesday, the actor's camp said on Tuesday. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) supremo is also likely to address the meeting, sources close to Haasan said.
"Kejriwal will attend the evening public meeting in Madurai tomorrow," they added.
The Delhi chief minister had called on Haasan in September 2017, when the award-winning actor had started dropping hints of taking the political plunge.
Kejriwal had then said it was "important at this point when the country was facing strong forces of corruption and communalism, all like-minded people should talk to each other on these issues and work in tandem."
5) Dravidian brand of politics: On Monday, Haasan expressed confidence that he would succeed with his Dravidian brand of politics. "You will know when I make it a success," he told reporters when asked about the presence of Dravidian parties in Tamil Nadu and how he could succeed with the same ideology.
The top actor has time and again expressed his appreciation of the Dravidian ideology. Last month, he had batted for unity among Southern states under the "Dravidian" tag to leverage ties with the Centre. "It (Dravidian) is our identity, and it will give the southern states a leverage with the Centre," the actor had said.
The Chief Ministers of all southern states -- Kerala, Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh -- were all 'Dravidians,' and there was no need to stake a claim that only Tamilian was 'Dravidian.' When the Dravidian identity is "celebrated" across South India, it would lead to a united "chorus" that would reach New Delhi, he had said.
6) The people he likes: On Sunday, Haasan met DMK President M Karunanidhi and superstar Rajinikanth, and said he was calling on those "whom I like" before the formal launch of his party on February 21. After meeting the fellow actor earlier in the day, Haasan called on 93-year old Karunanidhi at his residence.
Karunanidhi's son and DMK working president M K Stalin received Haasan and greeted him. Emerging from the brief meeting with Karunanidhi, Haasan told reporters he called on the former chief minister to get his blessings and inform him about his political foray.
Replying to a question, he said he admired Karunanidhi's political acumen, proficiency in Tamil and concern for people's welfare. Asked whether he would have a tie-up with the DMK, the actor said it was for that party to decide after it understood his ideology. "DMK's ideology is known. If my ideology suits them, they can think about it."
Incidentally, Rajinikanth had also met Karunanidhi last month, days after announcing his political plunge, and sought his blessings.
7) Gaining from experience: Last week, Haasan called on former Chief Election Commissioner T N Seshan "to gain from his experience". Haasan visited Seshan at his residence in Chennai. He held discussions for about 15 minutes with the former CEC, who is credited with launching a number of electoral reforms and giving more teeth to the Election Commission.
Speaking to reporters, Haasan said he visited Seshan to enquire about his well-being and also to "gain from his experience." "What was really soothing was that he told me that he would have joined my party if his health was good," Haasan said.
The actor said he asked the former CEC if he could visit him whenever he needed any advice or had doubts, to which Seshan replied that he could come anytime.
8) Views on Cauvery, other key issues: Haasan has also been commenting on crucial issues that impact the state as a whole. Last week, Haasan had expressed shock at the Supreme Court's verdict on the Cauvery River water dispute that reduced Tamil Nadu's share in the disputed waters. "I am also shocked at the reduction in the supply of water."
"I have to get more details about the actual judgment but I think the Supreme Court firmly said that water cannot be owned by any state. That's a consoling factor," Haasan had said at a press conference.
In its verdict on the dispute earlier the same day, the Supreme Court allocated an additional 14.75 TMC of river water to the state of Karnataka and reduced Tamil Nadu's share from 192 TMC to 177.25 TMC. The parties to the dispute were the states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala, which challenged the 2007 order of the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal (CWDT) on the sharing of Cauvery, the Ganga of southern India.
9) Caste, the biggest enemy: Last week, Haasan had said caste was the "biggest enemy" for students and farmers. Caste was being "protected" for electoral gains, he added. Though the actor did not blame anybody for such a scenario, he said that "they (an indication of the political class) are trying to create diversity in our unity".
10) Back to the village: Kamal Haasan also hit out at Tamil Nadu governments -- past and present -- for neglecting villages, the farm sector and putting the farming community in a crisis. Haasan, who earlier said he would adopt a village and make it into a "model village", revealed last week that his recent visit to the US was aimed at achieving "his goal" by tapping the technology and knowledge of Indians who have migrated there.
In his latest weekly column in Tamil magazine Ananda Vikatan Haasan, the superstar said he met K R Sridhar, the founder of Bloom Energy that makes the Bloom Box -- a generator of clean power based on fuel cell technology. Haasan said he discussed with Sridhar the possibility of Bloom Box being used in Tamil Nadu villages, adding that Sridhar foresaw the days when the state would become a major consumer of such technology.
According to the actor, his political journey was all about adopting a village, turning agriculture into a profitable activity and (promoting) industrialisation in nearby areas without polluting the environment.
Haasan said one person in the US mentioned that 'Ulaga Nayagan' (global hero) was now becoming an 'Ulloor Nayagan' (local hero).
With agency inputs