For months, Rajinikanth has been cryptic about his plans to enter politics. (PTI)
Chennai: The suspense and anticipation could well rival that for one of his blockbusters as superstar Rajinikanth prepares for a political announcement on the last day of 2017 in Chennai. Addressing fans in the Tamil Nadu capital earlier this week at the beginning of a six-day outreach, the 67-year-old gave the strongest indication yet of his plans. "I am not new to politics. I'm there since 1996. I don't say I am entering politics. I will announce my stand on politics on December 31," he had said. Over the week, he said, he planned to meet some 1,000 fans daily across 18 districts.
Here is your 10-point cheatsheet to Rajinikanth's political announcement:
Posters have come up in Chennai that say if Rajinikanth takes the political plunge, he will be the next chief minister. "From 12-12-2017, we are all not his fans, we are all his cadre," Abdul Mallik, a fan, told NDTV.
Addressing a large hall packed with his fans on Tuesday, Rajinikanth kept the suspense alive by confessing: "I am hesitating about joining politics since I know the difficulties. If we go for a war we ought to win. Valour alone won't do. We need strategy". Pointing to his biceps and then his temple, he added: "Not this (muscle), but this (strategy)."
The death of Jayalalithaa in December last year is seen to have left a vacuum in Tamil Nadu politics, especially the ruling AIADMK, and left the field wide open for new faces.
Earlier this week, Ms Jayalalithaa's party, the ruling AIADMK, failed to retain her RK Nagar seat and lost it to sidelined rebel TTV Dhinakaran, the nephew of Jayalalithaa's closest aide VK Sasikala.
Both were shafted by the AIADMK in a power struggle that started days after Jayalalithaa's death. By snagging Jayalalithaa's constituency, Mr Dhinakaran and Ms Sasikala have scored a big upset for the ruling faction led by Chief Minister E Palaniswami or EPS and his deputy O Panneerselvam or OPS. The AIADMK turbulence has added fuel to the buzz over Rajinikanth's possible political avatar.
Rajinikanth, who has towered over southern films like a colossus for four decades and enjoys almost demigod status among his legion of followers.
For months, the superstar, whose fans call him "Thalaivar" or "Ultimate Boss", has been cryptic about his plans. His pronouncement in May led to a frenzy - "If God wills it, I will enter politics tomorrow". In October, it was his wife Lata Rajinikanth who predicted that a "lot of change" would happen when her husband joins politics.
The other actor in Tamil Nadu mulling a new day job, Kamal Haasan, had made the announcement last month. His first step was going to be a whistle-blower app that he had declared would be ready for launch by January, around the same time that he begins his tour to different parts of the state.
In sharp contrast to Kamal Haasan who has made it clear that "saffron" wasn't his colour, there has been speculation about Rajinikanth skewing towards the BJP. He also has an open offer from the BJP. Party chief Amit Shah has said Rajinikanth was welcome to join the party and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had met him during a visit to Chennai last month.
In 1996 Rajinikanth had asked the people to support the DMK government and not its charismatic opponent J Jayalalithaa, famously declaring, "Even God can't save Tamil Nadu if Jayalalithaa comes back to power again". The DMK swept the state polls in 1996 but later the superstar later described as "a mistake and an accident".