Will he or won't he is the million dollar question in the minds of common man in Tamil Nadu on prospects of Superstar Rajinikanth taking the political plunge.
With stalwarts like the late Jayalalithaa and the ailing Nonagenarian DMK supremo M Karunanidhi out of the picture in the current scenario, Rajinikanth's fans believe he is the only one who can effectively fill the political vacuum.
Rajinikanth's latest vague statements on the possibility of his political entry have triggered a firestorm in various circles, though this is not for the first time such broad hints were dropped.
A similar hysteria was witnessed in 1996, when he openly defied Jayalalithaa, asking people not to vote for her. The following election saw Amma losing the assembly elections and the DMK-TMC combine registering a landslide victory.
The actor has come a long way from his first outburst in 1996 when he said "even God can't save Tamil Nadu" if AIADMK was elected again. In the ensuing political developments, he backed the DMK-TMC (Tamil Maanila Congress, led by the late G K Moopanar) combine, which also cashed in on the severe anti-incumbency against the ruling AIADMK.
However, the combine could not keep the momentum on as AIADMK staged a good comeback in the 1998 Parliamentary polls. However, he was on good terms with Jayalalithaa in the recent past and had even 'regretted' he had hurt her back in 1996 by being critical of her. In the meantime, the actor continued to give some hints of a political entry via his film 'Baba' (2002), which also saw the Dr S Ramadoss-founded PMK go up in arms against his on-screen smoking.
The film primarily deals with the protagonist's transformation from a carefree atheist into a believer. But a subplot details the actor's brush with a wily politician. In the film, Rajinikanth bats for a particular 'clean' politician. But the man is killed soon after. Later, in the film, Rajinikanth is shown approaching the people, hinting he would lead them.
However, whenever his fans have been vocal or proactive about his political plunge, the actor has either remained silent or distanced himself away from the topic.
Twice his supporters and actors have come out in the open, floating some party or outfit in a bid to pressure Rajini to enter politics. It is not uncommon for his fans across the state to frequently put up posters urging him to save Tamil Nadu.
Even party flags had been launched by some fans in the past, but the actor had either remained silent.
Many political parties, barring the AIADMK, have been wooing him. In his latest comments, Rajinikanth had said he had no desire to joins politics, but if he did, he would show the door to all "money-minded" people.
He was often dragged into political debates despite stressing that he was "neither an influential political leader nor a social activist." "My name has been dragged into politics for the past two decades. I am pushed to clarify during every election that I'm not affiliated with any political party," he had said early this week. Incidentally, in his film 'Muthu' (1995), he mouthed lyrics in a song saying "Why should I launch a party now, (but) it's only time will tell that."
Tamil cinema has always had close links with politics. Matinee idols like the late MG Ramachandran (MGR) and J Jayalalithaa, besides script writer M Karunanidhi, have ruled the state.
Rajini fans are eagerly waiting to see if their Thalaivar (Leader) will do an encore like MGR. Meanwhile, the Bhartiya Janata Party (whose leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, are said to enjoy good relations with the superstar) has welcomed the idea of the actor joining their fold.
"We welcome if he comes to politics. We will also welcome if he comes (joins) to BJP," state BJP leader and Union Minister of state Pon Radhakrishnan said recently. Incidentally, Modi metRajinikantht at his Poes Garden residence in 2014 when he visited Chennai.