Even going by Tamil Nadu's tradition of matinee-idols-turned leaders, Kamal Haasan, at 62, was a relatively late entrant to the political scene by February 2018. Yet, his Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) has been one of the earliest among all state or national-level parties to have hit campaign mode this poll season. Yesterday, it launched the next phase of the drive amid intense speculation that the Congress is exploring a tie up with it following hiccups in its seat sharing with major partner, the DMK.
A little over two months after he flagged off MNM's poll campaign from Madurai, Mr Haasan hasn't slowed down despite a medical surgery and even after fellow traveller Rajinikanth's anticlimactic fall by the wayside.
Yesterday, he chose Alandur, a highly symbolic locality in state capital Chennai, to launch its second phase. The Tamil word puratchi or revolution has resonated with generations of Tamil voters, ever since AIADMK founder and one of Tamil cinema best-known faces, MG Ramachandran, launched the party in Alandur in 1967. He went on to represent the Assembly constituency, earlier known as Parangimalai, twice. The title, Puratchi Thalaivar or "Revolutionary Leader" remained with the two-time Chief Minister till it passed on to his protege, J Jayalalithaa, Puratchi Thalaivi.
Yesterday, Mr Haasan, 65, sought to strike that note of nostalgia when, at a roadshow, he said, "It's from here that a part of Revolutionary Leader MG Ramachandran's political debut began. We are on the brink of a change in history and that power is in your hands."
Earlier, he also released his party's key promises for women and youth, including salary for housewives, assistance for single mothers, guaranteed jobs for youth with creation of five lakh jobs, and free shelters for women in distress.
The question remains, though: Could Kamal Haasan's debut have a bearing on the main opposition alliance?
The DMK-Congress talks on seat-sharing seem to have hit a deadlock with the Dravidian party adamant on offering only 18 seats while the Congress wants twice of that. Grapevine has it that the Congress may look at Mr Haasan's MNM as an alternative.
The thespian, however, said, "I'd refrain from guesswork. If it (any alliance) happens, we'd let you know." A Congress leader claimed that reports of his party's disenchantment with the DMK were not true.
Addressing this season's first public meeting at the Mylapore constituency in Chennai, Mr Haasan, meanwhile, tacitly targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Taking on the latter's penchant for public reciting of Tamil poetry, he said the era when people voted someone spoke in Tamil was gone.
"Our language and culture are not for sale. You impose NEET and Hindi. Our children and education are not for sale. We will only award marks for recitation of Thirukkural," the political debutant said.
He also slammed the ruling AIADMK, with which the BJP is in alliance, over the Rs 5 lakh crore debt the state has reportedly accumulated. "There is a Rs 65,000 debt on every child yet to be born in Tami Nadu," he said.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Mr Haasan's MNM received only around 4% votes, but it did capture 10% of all urban pockets. This may explain his city-town focus in the second round.
But will the early bird get the proverbial worm - or is it too late, anyway?