Tamil Features

Breaking Free: Vijay at 41

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Actor Vijay votes in Lok Sabha Elections 2014The critics may not agree with Vijay’s particular brand of acting, or even the stories he continues to pick; but of late, they’ve been geared to make sure he reaches a new found goal – that of a leader.

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In his 41st year, there are many things that Vijay has accomplished. He has become a part of that elusive group of actors – A star. One who commands legions of fans; and with it, the very best of directors. An enviable lot, indeed. Soft spoken, unassuming, and yet possessed of that elusive quality that separates him from the rest.

You’d think that blessed as he is, with his pick of stories, he’d use some more discretion when it comes to his films. There’s no running away from the fact that Vijay has an ‘image’ – that all important defining characteristic that determines the kind of films that he does. After a taste of the superstardom that came with hits such as Thiruppachi, Sivakasi and Thirumalai, Vijay has steadily been playing the everyman that triumphs. Not necessarily a bad thing, but considering the kind of work he has done in the past, it is slightly disappointing.

When Vijay started out, he displayed a certain abandon while picking films that is not visible of late. For every Love Today, he did an about face with the Vasanth directed Nerukku Ner. He played a man with split personality in Kannukkul Nilavu, another cursed with an overly generous heart in Poove Unakkaga. Interesting movie choices for the man that recently played to the gallery with Kaththi.

Fashion choices aside, here is a man, whose vaanganna shtick has held good for countless years. In his fortieth year, opting to be a part of a film such as Puli, is a sign that Vijay wants to do something different, insiders say. His decision to work with Chimbudevan, whose sensibility is at direct odds with the other filmmakers Vijay has chosen of late, speaks of a willingness to experiment. As I write this, the first look of the movie has been released, with Vijay dressed to the nines as a warrior. There’s Sridevi in her best Maleficent look, Kichcha Sudeep and an energetic rendition of the Puli theme as accompaniment. Original it may not be, but consider this. The most ‘different’ thing that he has done in recent years is to play a college age genius (that too in 2011). By that standard, this new role in Puli is set to be a revelation of sorts.

Actor Vijay in Kaththi Movie PosterIn a society increasingly on the lookout for the next big unique thing, this is a smart move indeed. PT Selvakumar, longtime spokesperson of Vijay and his family, says that the actor has been trying hard to ‘break out’ of his image for a while now. “The problem does not lie with Vijay sir. He has always expressed willingness and interest to try out new roles, new stories. He always directs his team to bring interesting stories to him. But as he grew, his fans’ expectations did too. It is not only himself he has to think of anymore. There are millions of people out there who would love to see the man they’ve grown to idolize in roles they find suitable.” It’s a delicate balance, one that Vijay does not wish to disturb too much.

After a series of similar themed films – Thiruppachi, Sivakasi, Thirumalai, etc, Vijay did try in earnest to accommodate the wishes of his fans with his interests. This was followed by a series of movies such as Azhagiya Tamizh Magan, Velayudham, Kaavalan and even Nanban. The massy undertones were very much present, but along with it, a certain unique element. With ATM, it was extra sensory perception, and with Velayudham, that of a vigilante. While they were not particularly well made (ATM in particular was much reviled), they proved that Vijay was on the right path. Around the same time Kaavalan released, murmurs of the star’s political aspirations began to rise. In a Kaavalan promo event, Vijay seemed to acknowledge the same and went on to say, “I want to do good for the people, and for that I need power. But this is not the right time for such a thing. Time has brought me here, to the level of a star. I have trust that time will take me to the same position.” Diplomacy at its very best.

Vijay’s consequent films seemed to hint at his political ambitions – his films now became major ‘mass’ vehicles, fuelled by firebrand dialogues. Thalaivaa’s tagline – ‘Time to Lead’ – was taken by many as the strongest indication yet of his ambitions. Vijay’s thoughts on films too, took on a different turn. In an interaction, Vijay described his (then) upcoming film as ‘having everything – comedy, two heroines and lots of action’. An indication that he’d decided to put his little experiment to rest – for now.

Actor Vijay in Puli Movie Stills
Actor Vijay in Puli Movie Stills

Around the same time, every Vijay film release was hit with trouble – ‘politically motivated’, reports said. The trouble seemed to have made the star cautious too, for his plans to join the political arena were quickly abandoned. Since no major declaration had been made, the process was all the more easier. PT Selvakumar says that at present, Vijay is ‘committed’ to his film career. “He is a man who has many social responsibilities. SAC sir raised him to be like that. Right now every good deed he does is misconstrued to be something with hidden meaning. That’s why there is so much confusion.”

With the situation as it is, it leaves Vijay free to do the ‘experimenting’. In an interview from his early years, Vijay confessed that he would love to do anti-hero roles. “I want to do films like Sigappu Rojakkal, Baazigar, Darr. Because I find that those roles have more potential. A hero is always the do-gooder, there are very few things he does because he has to be within that circle of doing good things to people. But when you are the villain, you can do anything.” Maybe it is time for the famously humble actor to up the ante and do a completely negative role. With even the likes of Superstar Rajinikanth turning to Pa Ranjith for his next venture, Vijay can very well look to the latest crop of directors to fulfill his desires. Or perhaps even direct one himself. Whatever his path may be, rest assured, his fan base would support him all the way. The critics? Oh well, that’s another story altogether.

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