Vijay is all set to be Kollywood’s next style-mannan
If imitation is the best form of flattery, actor Vijay perhaps is the most flattered person in Kollywood today. If Simbhu made it evident by imitating Vijay’s mannerisms in Saravana, Vishal has been repeating the ‘Vijay formula’ in all his films. It has the perfect blend of comedy, valour, romance and music in the right proportion.
“If there is any other actor who has enjoyed a reputation of creating imitations, it is Rajnikant,” says film-maker R. Revathi. “Only Rajni had made his fans and the next generations of actors imitate his style. Vijay, of course, has a long way to go. But surely among the current generation of heroes, he is showing strong signs of becoming the next superstar of Kollywood.”
Says Suresh Kumar, an eighth standard student: “Whenever there is a major day of releases like Deepavali or Pongal, we pray that the films of Vijay and Rajni are not released together. We get confused about our loyalties-after all, both Rajni and Vijay are our thalaivars (leaders).”
For Vijay, it has taken over 45 films and a decade to become the leading contender in the race for superstardom in Kollywood. Films are in his genes, as his father, S.A. Chandrasekhar, is an acclaimed director while his mother, Shoba, is a producer and playback singer. “I guess I developed a liking for it when I frequented shootings of films directed by my father,” he says. “I had lost interest in studies and films became an obsession. Soon I was pestering my father to launch me in films.”
But the family put up stiff resistance and it took years for Vijay to convince his parents that he was serious about films. When the initial hurdle was crossed, more were waiting. His first film Naalaiya Theerpu, directed by Chandrasekhar, bombed . “I was back in college, back to square one.”
His parents, however, were now determined to see him succeed. “They opposed only till I took the plunge. Once they saw my determination, they supported me to the end,” says Vijay. Two years after Naalaiya Theerpu came Rasikan. It was Vijay’s first major hit. “Finally I was accepted. I wanted to keep doing films and keep earning decently. I never expected to get this big,” says Vijay.
His major break came when director Vikraman cast him in a totally different role in Poove Unakkaaga. Vijay played a romantic whose love is not reciprocated. Yet, he helps his lady love marry the person of her choice. A string of romantic films followed. Kaadhalukku Mariyadhai, directed by Fazil, helped break Vijay’s image as a carefree college boy.
It was another struggle for Vijay to become an all-round entertainer. “When I was too full of soft roles, I thought it was enough,” he says. “I wanted to turn to action. The period was yet another struggle for me. A couple of films flopped, too. But eventually, I succeeded.”
Gilli where Vijay played the role of a kabbadi player who tries to save heroine Trisha from the clutches of a lecherous Prakash Raj earned him laurels. The film, directed by Dharani, was a remake of the Telugu film Okkadu.
Thiruppaachi showed him as a loving brother and in Sivakasi he was an obedient son who saves his mother, and is ill-treated by his elder brother, again played by Prakash Raj. Both films were directed by Perarasu.
“Today, there is something for everyone in my films,” says Vijay, with justifiable pride. “Be it women, the youth or children, they have something to enjoy-romance, comedy and dance numbers.” He is considered one of the finest dancers in Kollywood.
Though Aathi in 2006 did not fare well, Vijay asserted himself with the success of Pokkiri released this Pongal. The film, directed by choreographer Prabhu Deva, is again a racy entertainer. “Working with Prabhu Deva was amazing. Pokkiri was a remake film and I thought I knew what was going to be shot, but Prabhu Deva came up with the unexpected. You just cannot afford to be lax in his films.”
Vijay, however, shies away from calling himself the next superstar. “I am glad when I hear people say that,” he says. “But I just cannot think of myself as one. Personally for me, there can be only one superstar and that is Rajnikant.”
Vijay is all praise for his contemporaries. “I am astounded at the efforts put in by Vikram and Suriya. Ajith, too, is a good actor. Even newcomers like Vishaal and Bharath have fire and energy in them,” he says.
Despite his admiration, Vijay would not think of experimenting with roles like Vikram and Suriya. “Not that I cannot,” he clarifies. “If I want to do experimental roles, I can put in my best and come out with the best. But I only want to be known as an entertainer.”
In the pipeline is Azhagiya Thamizhmagan directed by newcomer Bharadhan. Interestingly, Vijay has no problems in accepting offers from new directors. “I keep listening to stories whenever I have time, he says. “If I find them interesting, I don’t mind acting in the films of new directors.” The gamble has paid off. The new directors, launched by Vijay, have put his skills to best use.
His parents and wife, Sangeetha, are his best critics. “At times I get irritated as they keep pointing out mistakes and never appreciate my skills. Eventually, I would discover the truth in their words. My fans, too, react the same way to those scenes.”
As a top hero, Vijay has paired with almost all the leading heroines in the industry. Yet, his favourite remains Simran.
The duo had rocked the dancing scene of Kollywood and left fans screaming for more. “I think she was the best when she was around. Among the current crop of heroines, my favourites are Trisha and Asin.”
“He does follow Rajnikant step by step,” says film critic Devi Bharathi. “Though Rajni was also an acclaimed actor, he chose to tread the safe path of style, action and comedy. His films provided wholesome entertainment and made him a superstar. In striking contrast, Kamal Haasan experimented. Today, Vijay follows the Rajni path while others like Ajith, Suriya, Vikram and Bharath emulate Kamal. Vijay is almost successful and it is only a matter of time before he moves in to fill the vacuum that Rajnikant would create. It still remains to be seen who would occupy Kamal’s place.”
“He may not be sophisticated like Suriya or Ajith,” says Revathi. “But there is something about him that endears him to people. While other heroes are heroes, Vijay is one among us. His rusticity has a mass appeal. That is his success.”
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