Tamil Features

A Birthday Tribute To The Young Commander, Vijay

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Vijay at the Vijay59-Atlee Movie Launch Photos

It is Vijay’s birthday today, his 45th. Preparations for the day have been on for months now, and it’s not a surprise that five of the top Twitter trends in India today are about Vijay, including the first-look of Thalapathy 63, now titled Bigil, which is taking social media by storm. Director Atlee, with whom he is working for the third time for Bigil, released the first-look of the film saying it was a birthday gift.

As a tribute to Vijay, here’s a look at his three decades in cinema, his rise to stardom, the most-loved Vijay films and ones that defined his career.

As a child actor in the 1980s, Vijay started out by playing supporting roles in Vijayakanth-starrers such as Kudumbam, Vasantha Raagam, Sattam Oru Vilayaattu, and with Rajinikanth, who he was a die-hard fan of, in Naan Sigappu Manithan. These were films directed by Vijay’s father SA Chandrasekhar. At 18, Vijay was the lead in Chandrasekhar’s Naalaiya Theerpu, written and produced by his mother Shoba Chandrasekhar. He played a hero who fought for a youth-led revolution in the film, a role strikingly similar to his more recent ones, and although Naalaiya Theerpu earned nothing close to what Vijay’s movies make at the box-office today, it suggested early on that Vijay wanted to make claim as a socially conscious hero.

In the 90s, Vijay acted in a series of romantic films, and his first hit was the Vikraman-directorial Poove Unakkaga in 1996, starring Vijay as Raja who helps settle enmity between a Hindu and Christian family so their daughter and son, Nandhini and Lawrence, can marry. The film was a break-through for Vijay, it was dubbed in Telugu and Hindi and its songs were hugely popular.

The next year he acted in the Kadhalukku Mariyadhai, directed by Fazil and co-starring Shalini in the lead. It also centered on a Hindu-Christian couple trying to elope and marry. Vijay played a quiet, emotional lover and Shalini’s performance was a stand out.

Vijay followed this up with romantic hits like Priyamanavale and Kushi in 2000, and films such as Kadhalukku Mariyadhai, Priyamudan and Thulladha Manamum Thullum.

It was, however, not until Ghilli in 2004 that Vijay came to be known as an action hero. The punch dialogues largely began here (All area laiyum aiya Ghilli da), and the film, co-starring Trisha, is still popular for its comedy scenes and Prakash Raj’s performance as the villain Muthupandi.

After the success of films like Ghilli and Tiruppachi, Vijay acted in Sivakasi, co-starring Asin, the Diwali release of 2005. It was his second collaboration with Tiruppachi director Perarasu.

In the film, Vijay leaves his home at the age of eight because of a fall out with his brother (Prakash Raj) and father, and returns to meet his mother much later to stay and help regain their lives.

After a series of films that didn’t do well including Vijay’s 50th movie Sura, he made his comeback with Kaavalan (2011), a romantic comedy which, while not high on action or a ‘message’,  was a success due to Vijay’s screen presence.

Thuppaki the next year, his first film with AR Murugadoss, created new box-office records. Vijay starred as an Army Intelligence officer in an entertaining action-thriller, and in one of the first promos of the film before release, his response to the villain’s threats with the dialogue “I am waiting” went viral among fans. With this film, Vijay also became the second Tamil actor after Rajinikanth whose movie entered the 100 crore club worldwide.

Bairavaa First Day Show Celebration At Kasi Theatre
Bairavaa First Day Show Celebration At Kasi Theatre. Photo by Sriram N

This trajectory of him as a lover, an action hero and later a superstar has culminated in films that have all of these elements today. His recent films Kaththi, Theri, Mersal and Sarkar have all taken strong political stands. In 2015, Vijay’s Bairavaa and Mersal spoke about medical malpractice, and Mersal starred him in a triple role, with more fights, songs, punches, and also stronger women characters.

Theri FDFS Celebration At Albert Theatre
Theri FDFS celebration at Albert Theatre. PC: Dani Charles
Mersal 100 Days Celebration At Rohini Theatre
Mersal 100 days at Rohini Theatre. PC: Dani Charles

Vijay was in full form, and the film directed by Atlee took a dig on issues that made the headlines then from BJP’s schemes, demonetinsation to Jalikkattu.

Vijay was choosing films with care; Theri was about crimes against women, Kaththi was a pro-farmer film speaking against MNCs and displacement, and his latest Sarkar, criticised the ruling AIADMK’s freebies and other policies, and had the party up in arms before and after release.

Vijay as Sundar Ramaswamy, an NRI ‘corporate criminal’ realises that his vote has already been cast by someone else, and uses this to enter politics and contest as a pro-people, non-partisan candidate. The film had all the markings of an actor aspiring to enter politics, while being a Vijay-Murugadoss’ commercial film.

Outside his films, however, Vijay has maintained a low profile without taking any political stance even when his movies are mired in controversies. Rumours about him entering politics have been getting stronger with each new release, and in many ways his roles in these films are similar to that of Rajinikanth. Their characters offer solutions to Tamil Nadu’s many problems.

It is no coincidence that his fans and others call him Ilaiyathalapathy – the young commander. When Vijay entered cinema, it was believed that he had potential similar to Rajini from Thalapathy, and fans started referring to him as Ilayathalapathy. His father also wanted to further this political image, and used Ilayathalapathy to refer to Vijay in the opening credits of his 1994 film Rasigan.

Sarkar First Day First Show Celebration At Rohini Theatre
Sarkar FDFS celebration at Rohini Theatre. PC: Dani Charles

Vijay’s father, with whose backing he entered cinema, had actually wanted him to become a doctor. It was his wish since the death of his younger daughter Vidhya at the age of two. Vijay, who was also very fond of her, started his production house VV Creations later in his career as an ode to Vidhya.

Vijay always wanted to be part of films, and this even drove him to leave home at one point when his father refused to let him pursue acting. “My wife and I searched everywhere and I eventually landed up at Udhayam theatre. The watchman recognised me and said your son is inside watching a movie,” Chandrasekhar had said to Scroll, in an interview.

In his four decades in the film industry, Vijay has acted in over 50 films and has many fans inside the industry and outside by all.  Wishes for his birthday have also poured in from his colleagues. In a surprising move, even Ajith’s fans (the Vijay-Ajith rivalry is a long-standing constant in Tamil cinema) have begun trending the hashtag #HBDEminentVijay – temporarily (or perhaps moving towards a long term peace) burying the hatchet.

 

Meanwhile, Vijay’s Bigil with Nayanthara in the lead features him in a two roles – as a footballer named Michel and an older character, speculated to be his father, Bigil (a Tamil colloquial form form of  whistle). The second-look poster released hours later. Vijay’s fans have begun celebrations.

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