Popular Tamil actor Vijay entered politics With the launch of his political party Tamizhaga Vetri Kazhagam (TVK) earlier this week. ‘Thalapathy’ (meaning commander in Tamil) Vijay, who is at the peak of his acting career, joined the long list of South Indian actors who floated their political parties.
After taking the political plunge, the 49-year-old actor expressed gratitude towards fans for their support and encouragement and said TVK would contest the 2026 Tamil Nadu State Assembly elections.
South Indian politics have a history of actors making the leap from cinema and transforming into successful politicians. Big names include MGR and NT Rama Rao, who have shaped the politics of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh over decades, respectively.
- Marudur Gopalan Ramachandran or MGR–Referred to as Makkal Thilagam (People’s King) by fans, popular actor and filmmaker MGR began his political journey with the Congress party. Later, after a brief stint with Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK, from which he was expelled, Ramachandran founded the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) in 1972. He went on to serve as the chief minister of Tamil Nadu for 10 years from 1977 to 1987.
- NT Rama Rao or NTR– An award-winning actor, producer, and director, NTR launched the ‘Telugu Desam Party’ in 1982. He served as Chief Minister of undivided Andhra Pradesh for seven years over three terms. At the national level, NTR was instrumental in the formation of the National Front, a coalition of non-Congress parties which governed India from 1989 until 1990.
- Upendra Rao– One of Karnataka’s most popular actor-directors, Upendra Rao launched his political outfit Uttama Prajaakeeya Party (UPP) in 2018. Before UPP, Rao launched another party Karnataka Pragnyavanta Janata Paksha (KPJP) in 2017 but left it over differences with other party leaders. UPP contested the 2019 Lok Sabha polls but did not win any seats.
- Vijaykanth– Actor turned politician Vijaykanth, who passed away last month, founded his political party Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) in 2006. Praised as ‘Karuppu MGR’ (black MGR) by his fans for his generosity, Vijayakanth sowed the seeds of hope among his supporters on the possibility of a real alternative to the Dravidian majors, the DMK and AIADMK.
- Pawan Kalyan–Younger brother of Tollywood megastar K Chiranjeevi and a superstar himself, Pawan Kalyan began his political career in 1996. He launched his outfit–JanaSena– in 2014. On 14 September 2023, Kalyan announced that the Jana Sena and TDP would jointly contest the 2024 Andhra Pradesh legislative elections.
- Kamal Hassan–Actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan launched his political party Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) in 2018. Haasan, who is currently at the help of his party’s affairs, plans to contest the upcoming Lok Sabha elections from the Coimbatore constituency.
Other politicians who have had links to the film industry include former Tamil Nadu Chief Ministers CN Annadurai, M Karunanidhi, and J Jayalalithaa. While Annadurai and Karunanidhi used to write scripts for movies, Jayalalithaa was a megastar.
Apart from that, superstars K Chiranjeevi and Rajinikanth also had a brief political stint and floated their parties before retiring.