By Subhash K Jha
MUMBAI: Actress Nagma, who has been fielded by the Congress as its candidate from the Meerut parliamentary seat in Uttar Pradesh, speaks about why she entered politics. Here are the excerpts:
First of all, congratulations. What prompted you to take the plunge into politics?
It isn’t as if it’s an overnight decision. I’ve been in it for ten years. I became interested in politics since 2003. I feel all educated people in the country should be part of the process to bring about change. We keep complaining that nothing is happening.
You’ve been inching into politics for a while now?
I joined the Congress I in 2004 when it was not going through the best of phases. At that time I was busy with my film career and I couldn’t campaign actively for the party because active politics requires a hundred percent of your energy. But I started working for the party in 2004. I also became the AICC member twice over. I put my claims for a new constituency from Mumbai in 2009. I thought it would be easier for me to work for my party from Mumbai. But that didn’t happen.
I was asked to stand elections from UP, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. From 2009 I started touring these areas extensively and started working at the grassroots level. In 2010 for the assembly elections I personally visited over 150 constituencies in UP and Punjab. That gave me a lot more experience and insight. My party wanted me to contest the elections from UP only for quite a while.
Could that be because of your connection with the Bhojpuri movie industry?
I don’t think so. Bhojpuri is more popular in Eastern UP. I think it’s more to do with my pan-India image. I’ve done films in 9 languages. They (the Congress I leaders) thought I could carry this off because I’ve an all-India reach. Of course it will be a tough contest in UP. And it would be a tough ground to fight on. Maybe they feel I’d give my opponent a good contest.
Your journey from being a sought-after actress in Bollywood to the top actress in the South and then the queen of Bhojpuri cinema has been quite eventful. How do you view your journey ?
You forget I’ve done films in various other languages, including Punjabi, Marathi, Bengali. Finally I did Bhojpuri films with the very clear intention of getting familiar with UP-Bihar territory. You see, I was the star-campaigner of the Congress. Looking at the party’s vote-percentage in UP and Bihar I thought it would be a wise move on my part to work and familiarize myself the spoken language in that area.
So you did Bhojpuri cinema to add weightage to your political career?
Yes! I was offered a chance to contest elections from even before I did Bhojpuri cinema. But I wanted to get comfortable with that belt. And even when I did Bhojpuri films they were all produced by Bollywood filmmakers like G.P Sippy, Dilip Kumar Saab, Tinu Verma. I never looked at it as a regional stint. And I made sure that the standards of the average Bojpuri film went up. Audiences really appreciated me in Bhojpuri cinema.
They called you the Hema Malini of Bhojpuri cinema?
Ha ha. They called me the Madhuri Dixit of Bhojpuri cinema. But I think I forged my own identity in languages in many languages.
What plans do you have for you chosen constituency Meerut? It is a very volatile area.
It is. There is a lot of scope for infrastructural development. Once there was a sports industry in Meerut and UP, even stronger than in Punjab. The education of the young and job opportunities are major problems in the area. We need to work on that. Then the connectivity between Meerut and Mumbai needs improvement. There are lots of problems plaguing the farmer community. The government has allocated Rs 66,000 crore for them. But it hasn’t reached from the government to the farmers. Issues regarding small-scale industries need immediate attention.The law and order situation and of course problems related to women and children need immediate attention.
Are you ready for the battle ahead?
Now do you know why I needed to divert my entire concentration and energy on my political ? I need to plan. And I don’t have enough time. My polling date is April 10.I believe in one thing: you can’t learn how to swim unless you jump into the water. And I’ve always swum against the tide. I know it’s not going to be easy. There are many issues that I need to raise in parliament. Law and order is a major issue in Meerut. A High Court bench needs to be established in Meerut. It is a long uphill struggle ahead.
There is a deep sense of disappointment among people with politicians who offered a change?
There is. On top of that Bollywood actors are looked on with added suspicion. But what about the actors who have done well in politics like Jayalalitha, Karunanidhi, Sunil Dutt, Chiranjeevi, Sunil Dutt, Shatrughan Sinha and Jaya Prada? I think actors who have delivered in politics outnumber the ones who haven’t delivered. I think individuals from the entertainment industry are better than lots of crass politicians roaming around. I think we should invite young and talented people, who want to make a difference, from all walks of life into politics. Rahul Gandhi is doing exactly that. He is inducting any young person who wants a change in our nation’s politics.
Are you done with your film career?
No, I can never say that. Films have given me everything. I am what I am today because of cinema. Even now I’m getting good offers. I was recently offered a very good film which had Rishi Kapoor in the lead, an ensemble cast with a good role. But it clashed with my election plans. At the moment I’m very happy giving all my attention to my political plans. I have to very careful not to slip up. When you are from the entertainment industry people are very sceptical of your political ambitions. They’d be monitoring me day and night. I’ve to really do the ground-work properly. It would be impossible for me to do a film at this juncture. But I am not closing my film career. Never say never again. Not to cinema. Not to anything in my life. But I am in politics for the long haul. Let’s see how it goes.
I wish you become another Jayalalitha?
(laughs) It’s too early to think that big. But I’ll work as hard in politics as I did in movies. I started my acting career with Baaghi opposite Salman Khan. That was 1989. So you can make your calculations. I worked so closely with so many co-stars when I was doing movies in so many languages , a big hue and cry was made over my closeness to this person and that person. But when one works long hours for many months with the same people there’s bound to be a proximity.Now I am sure I’ll experience the same team spirit in politics.
You sound defensive?
I feel very close to Jesus Christ. I was born on 25 December. Even he was betrayed by one of his own disciples. I have had my share of betrayals. Name me one person who hasn’t encountered upheavals in life. Every crisis has made me tougher. Every day is a new challenge. Life is as beautiful as you make it.