More stars than ever are set to shoot for success in the coming Lok Sabha polls. A sampling of the constellation from film industries across the country
The Maharashtrian stage
Hema Malini: One of the most successful actresses that the film industry has seen, Hema is a BJP member of the Rajya Sabha. She is likely to be pitted against NCP chief Sharad Pawar's daughter Supriya Sule in Baramati constituency.
Smriti Irani-Malhotra: With a dedicated fan-base of soap opera addicts, she shot to fame with her role as a demure housewife Tulsi in the mega TV serial Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi. An active member of the BJP, she may contest from Mumbai or against Supriya Sule in Baramati. There is also talk of her being fielded from Vadodara.
Govinda: The Congress MP from Mumbai North has reportedly indicated that he is not averse to contesting the Lok Sabha polls. However, he is currently under the radar of the Election Commission for distributing money to fans.
Nagma: The actress who has done both Hindi and South Indian films is likely to be fielded by the Congress. She may be nominated either from the Mumbai suburbs or even from Uttar Pradesh.
UP's cinematic hotchpotch
Everyone from Bollywood superstars to Bhojpuri bigwigs are giving it a go here.
Manoj Tiwari: The SP candidate from Jaunpur started off his career in village Ramleelas before moving into Bhojpuri cinema and TV shows. He is also an accomplished singer and has released a few albums as well. Even though he would not be considered 'mainstream' by all, he does have a massive fan base and often travels abroad for live shows. At a recent awards ceremony in Goa, Shah Rukh Khan got seven minutes to speak whereas Manoj Tiwari was given 17 minutes. Incidentally, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha had offered a ticket to Manoj, which he has refused.
Ravi Kissen: The Bhojpuri and Bigg Boss star is keen to win a Congress ticket. If this doesn't happen, he is also willing to campaign for the party. "I agree with the ideology of Congress which has a clean and transparent image," Ravi Kissen admits. He will be meeting the party high command soon. "I have seen success and fame. Now I want to do something for my people and therefore I am entering into politics," says Ravi Kissen who has worked with stars like Amitabh and Abhishek Bachchan. Incidentally, the rumour mills had it that he was romantically involved with Naghma, who is also vying for a Congress ticket.
Raj Babbar: A Samajwadi Party MP until last year, the actor who peaked in the '80s has now joined the Congress. He has been named the party's nominee from Fatehpur Sikri.
Sanjay Dutt: The controversial Bollywood star, known for his drug problems and TADA arrest, is all set to contest the polls on a Samajwadi Party ticket from Lucknow.
Jaya Prada: Since she started her acting career in 1979, she has acted in more than 300 films in eight languages. Ironically, even though the Telugu actress could barely speak Hindi as a young star, she became an MP in the Hindi heartland. She started her political career with the TDP but left after to join the Samajwadi Party after a feud with Laxmi Parvati, the widow of late Andhra chief minister NT Rama Rao. After joining the SP, she contested the Parliament in 2004 from Rampur constituency in UP and registered a record victory. She is again in the fray in Rampur on an SP ticket.
Telugu star warriors
Chiranjeevi: He is likely to contest from two Assembly constituencies. The film star and president of the Praja Rajyam Party (PRP), has already zeroed in on Tirupathi, where he launched his party last year. Campaigning has been a family affair. Chiranjeevi's youngest brother, film star Pavan Kalyan, is the star campaigner, while Nagendra Babu is quietly going about doing the groundwork in promising constituencies. Chiranjeevi is into the fourth leg of a gruelling campaign tour, which includes road shows and public meetings.
Nandamuri Balakrishna: The son of legendary actor N T Rama Rao, swashbuckling and bewhiskered Balakrishna has a fan following that rivals Chiranjeevi's. He has been Telugu Desam Party president N Chandrababu Naidu's link with the NTR clan, with whom Naidu fell out after his coup against his father-in-law N T Rama Rao. By placating Balakrishna, Naidu has managed to re-establish relations with the NTR family and has managed to rope in all the family's film stars for campaigning, including NTR Junior and Taraka Ratna. It is widely believed that he will contest the Lok Sabha elections.
Jayasudha: Extremely popular in the '70s and '80s, Jayasudha joined the Congress last year. Besides adding glamour to the Congress campaign, Jayasudha is also hoping to get an Assembly ticket this time. Though a novice to politics, she has taken on PRP's Pavan Kalyan after he started shooting off his mouth, using unparliamentary language and making personal allegations against Congress and TDP leaders.
Vijayashanti: After several electrifying performances - including the blockbuster Karthavyam in which she plays a tough cop modelled on Kiran Bedi - Vijayashanti, who joined the BJP in 1997 is with the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) now. She was appointed the general-secretary of the party after she merged her fledgling Talli Telangana party with the TRS. She is expected to contest the Lok Sabha elections.
Roja Selvamani: She sizzles on the screen as well as off it. The president of the TDP's women's wing Roja is courting one controversy after another these days with her comments on leaders and film stars of other parties. While she lost to the Congress from Nagri Assembly constituency in 2004, she is hoping to contest again.
For the coming general election, some of the screen names that are making the rounds in the state are that of Sarathkumar or his wife Radhika, Napoleon and J K Rithesh:
Sarathkumar: He has acted in over 100 films and his latest flick 1977 has just been released. His political career is also dramatic. He made his debut in 1998 with the DMK, but that didn't work out. Shortly before the 2006 Assembly election, Sarath left the party along with his wife Radhika, a leading actress and TV soap producer, and joined the AIADMK. Soon after the 2006 election that led AIADMK to the Opposition benches, Radhika was expelled for keeping ties with the ruling party. Sarath followed her soon, floating the AISMK, which faced - and lost - elections for the first time during the January bye-election to Thirumangalam Assembly constituency. There are rumours that Radhika or Sarathkumar may contest from a Nadar-dominated seat in alliance with a larger outfit.
Napoleon: He has acted in almost 100 films and is also a well-known businessman, having founded the Jeeven Group. He won the 2001 Assembly election under the DMK banner and contested unsuccessfully against another veteran from the film and theatre, S Ve Shekar in 2006. While he has not been very active in politics since, his name is doing the rounds as a possible candidate now.
J K Rithesh: This newcomer has only two released movies to his credit so far. But what could work in his favour are his family connections: his grandfather Suba Thangavelan is the present Minister for Housing. He is also an overt supporter of MK Azhagiri, Karunanidhi's elder son who is in control in the Madurai region, another 'advantage'.
Tollywood and Trinamool
Mamata Banerjee has often banked on the popularity of several Bengali film stars such as Madhabi Mukherjee and Nayana Das to woo voters. For the Lok Sabha polls, she has roped in two top thespians (along with artistes from other disciplines). Aparna Sen reportedly turned her down.
Tapas Paul: He's been a popular star in the state for almost three decades. He has been nominated for the Krishnanagar seat. He is currently an MLA from Alipore Assembly constituency in Kolkata, winning the seat twice. "I am very keen to contest the polls and win the Krishnanagar LS seat that Mamata didi has given me to fight," says Paul.
Shatabdi Roy: The critically-acclaimed actress has been active in the film industry since the late 80s and is still going strong. The Trinamool Congress has announced that she will contest the elections from Birbhum. "I have been in touch with didi for years and follow her ideals. She is trying to bring a change in the lives of the people. When she contacted me and asked me to contest the Lok Sabha polls, I could not refuse," says Roy.