He can dance like a dream, effortlessly beat up a band of baddies, bring down a giant wheel with a rope to save those trapped in fire, perform surgeries for Rs 5 and can even turn a toy tiger into a real one through his magic. He has now been giving tough time to the party in power at the Centre. A few dialogues on GST and demonetisation in the climax scene in his latest movie Mersal has irked the BJP and his take on medical practitioners has enraged the doctor fraternity. Mersal, however, is just another stepping stone for the 43-year-old actor who has always harbored political ambitions.
In a state where politics and cinema are strange bedfellows, after Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth, the next in the line who wants to make a mark in politics is Vijay. It is no wonder then that he has been carefully crafting his fan base like Vijayakanth did.
For the past one decade, the actor has been meticulously building up his image off screen. In 2009, Vijay’s fan clubs were turned into Thalapathy Makkal Iyakkam—a social welfare movement to help those in need. On screen too, the actor has always been playing the role of a 'leader' or 'saviour'.
In Mersal too, Vijay is portrayed as a leader of the masses—a man who wants to reform the society. “It takes a year for a child to be born, three years for a graduate to come out, but it takes a long time to make a leader,” was one one of his dialogues from the film.
There was also a fight scene in the film in which the actor was shown walking parallel to MGR whose movie is being played in a theatre, sending the fans in to a frenzy. Mersal opens with the actor doing push ups with MGR's photos in the background. The film and all the three characters Vijay played may have been developed by the director, Atlee, but there are enough things in the movie to remind the movie goers about the actor's activism over the years.
Not just Mersal, in his earlier films like Thalaiva, Thuppaki and Kaavalan among others, Vijay always showcased himself as a leader in the making, someone who will stand with the masses and fight for them. He also lauds the Tamil pride and its culture through his dialogues. Most of his recent films had at least a few dialogues that clearly told the audience about his political ambitions.
“BJP’s criticisms have only catapulted him to yet another level. The dialogues in Mersal, more than Thalaiva impress a fan like me,” tells Ranjith Kumar, a Vijay fan.
Not just in films, in real life too, Vijay had expressed his political inclinations in the past decade. From flying all the way to Delhi to meet with Anna Hazare during his anti-corruption crusade, meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Coimbatore during an election rally in 2014 to meeting with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, Vijay has been dropping enough hints about his political ambitions.
In January this year, when the jallikattu protests was raging in Chennai's Marina beach, Vijay walked in to express his support. When every politician in the state was crying foul over the death of Anitha in Ariyalur over the NEET issue, the actor called on the bereaved family to express condolences. The pictures of both these incidents have gone viral.
While many other leading actors in the state, who have been contemplating politics, talk about corruption and welfare of people, Vijay has been trying to gain the empathy of the people. “He does it through actions—he doesn’t issue press statements or audio clips, like jallikattu and NEET issue. He only acts, doesn't talk,” says Ranjith.
In fact, Vijay’s fan club, unlike any other actor in Kollywood, is huge. Launched amid much fanfare on July 26, 2009, in Pudukottai district, to carry out his philanthropic activities, his Thalapathy Makkal Iyakkam reportedly pledged its support to Jayalalithaa in 2011 elections, saying they want a change in the political scene in the state. His father S.A. Chandrasekhar then called on Jayalalithaa and expressed support. However, Vijay did not campaign or talk in favour of any political party.
In fact, Vijay’s indecisiveness over entering politics over the years has put him in trouble. Vijay’s activism on one side and his films projecting him as a leader of the masses on the other side is looked at as a reason for many of his films getting into trouble before their release. Many of his films, including Thalaiva, Thuppaki, Puli and Kaavalan faced trouble prior to release.
“...I cannot tell anything about his ambitions. But I want him to be a leader. A leader can be anyone even without power,” says his father Chandrasekhar. Chandrasekhar has directed several films which had strong political messages, including Paalaivana Cholai, Sattam Oru Iruttarai and Naan Sigappu Manithan’ In fact, Sattam Oru Iruttarai was the political launch pad for Vijayakanth in the 90s.
However, nobody knows what Vijay is capable of as the actor hasn't said a word about his ambitions. He is extremely careful while giving interviews and interacting with his fans to ensure that his public image doesn't take a beating. Of late, he is seen talking about farmers and other social issues.
The actor, however, is still an onlooker in the world of politics, but the many hurdles he faces may push him into the ring.
Mersal, meanwhile, has been raking in moolah. The film has already made Rs 200 crore.