Chennai: The disappointment of Sivaji Ganesan's fans over the absence of Chief Minister E Palaiswami wasalmost forgotten today as both Rajinikanth and Kamal Hasaan shared the stage at the inauguration of the Tamil superstar's memorial in Chennai. But Kamal Haasan, who has recently announced his intention to enter politics, touched upon the issue with a dig at the Chief Minister.
Without naming Mr Palaniswami, he said, "We need not pressure anyone to respect Sivaji Ganesan... Every government ought to respect him". The actor, who was seated in the audience and had been invited on stage by minister D Jayakumar, added, "I would have come here even if I was stopped".
After months of buzz following his stinging criticism the Tamil Nadu government, Mr Haasan said last week that he would launch his own political party.
The memorial of Sivaji Ganesan -- who died in 2001 after starring in more than 300 films - had generated a controversy after the Chief Minister bowed out of the inauguration pleading prior engagements and deputed minister D Jayakumar in his place. After a huge protest by the actor's fans and family, he said the inauguration will be done by his deputy O Panneerselvam or OPS.
Political rivals alleged that he had shown disrespect to the actor, who was one of the founders of the opposition DMK. Even the statue at the memorial, inaugurated in Chennai's posh Adyar today, had been built when the DMK was in power.
Rajinikanth, whose entry into politics is also eagerly awaited by fans, today stoked anticipation with a joke.
Sivaji Ganesan's losing an election in his own constituency shows one needs something beyond celebrity status in films to succeed in politics. "What that is only people know, I definitely don't know," he said.
Maybe Kamal Haasan knows, the actor continued. "Had I asked him two months ago, maybe he would have told me... Now if I insist that he tell me, he would say, 'Come with me, I will explain'."
Two weeks ago, Rajinikanth had called on his fans to support Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Clean India campaign, leading to speculation that he was leaning towards the BJP.