May 7, 2009 / 6:19 AM / 10 years ago

Just vote, Bollywood stars ask fans in Indian poll

MUMBAI (Reuters Life!) - Just like in Hollywood, its hard to keep the politics out of Bollywood, but at this year’s Indian election, the stars are just appealing to voters to go to the polls, spurred, in part, by the militant attacks on Mumbai.

Voters line up to cast their votes at a polling booth in Nandigram, about 150 km (93 miles) southwest of Kolkata, May 7, 2009. Millions of Indians began voting in the fourth round of a general election on Thursday, including the possible swing state of West Bengal where the ruling Congress-led alliance hopes to win crucial seats. REUTERS/Jayanta Shaw

Several members of India’s prolific, and influential, film and TV industry have helped inject glamour into the month-long general election whose results will be out on May 16.

But instead of campaigning or contesting, many superstars such as Aamir Khan and Aamir Khan feature in public service adverts urging people to shrug off apathy and cast their votes.

“We are not endorsing any political party; we are only asking voters to make an informed choice,” Khan recently said at the launch of an information campaign on the elections.

“If as a celebrity, I can help spread awareness about this, I consider that a worthy cause.”

What has prompted these appeals for vote is a growing apathy among urban, educated youth toward politics which they see as corrupt and inefficient, analysts said. This has been reflected in low voter turnout in cities.

“There is by and large a feeling of cynicism about political processes, politicians and democratic institutions among younger people,” said Anjali Monteiro, a professor at the Center for Media and Social Studies in Mumbai.

Many like the actor Khan say they have been moved to do something to choose better political leaders after last November’s attacks in Mumbai in which 166 people were killed and which exposed security inadequacies and mis-governance.

A tight race between the two main political parties has sparked fears of a weak coalition government coming to power as the country grapples with the aftermath of the attacks, the global economic crisis and heightened tensions with Pakistan.

Analysts say celebrities and cinema stars were jolted out of their complacency because the attacks targeted, among other places, two luxury hotels frequented by them.

“When the Taj Mahal hotel, the bastion of celebrities was attacked, it made them even more aware,” said Surendra Jondhale, professor of political science at the University of Mumbai.

Bachchan, India's best known actor, is encouraging people to vote on his immensely popular blog (

“Colleagues of mine propound the importance of how every citizen must exercise their vote,” he wrote.

In celebrity-obsessed India, a successful cinema career has often progressed into politics, a trend set in the 1960s when the then superstar of the Tamil language movie industry, M.G. Ramachandran, created a party and won power in his state.

While politicians mostly rope in actors to capitalize on their immense popularity rivaled only by the country’s cricketers, nearly a dozen actors and former film stars are actually contesting the election.

Writing by Krittivas Mukherjee; Editing by Miral Fahmy

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