1. Naalaiya Theerpu(1992): Vijay’s first film as an adult actor was an emotional mother-son story featuring the great Srividya as Vijay’s mother. Vijay who never speaks to the media once told a co-actor that this is the only film of his career where he cried genuine tears. The film about an abused wife and a devoted son, made Vijay an instant star. It was produced and directed by Vijay’s father S A Chandrashekar and written by his mother Shoba. After watching the film recently I wondered why Vijay didn’t more emotional films .He is good at the rona-dhona but according to his fan(atics) even better at villains ko dhona
2. Thupakki(2012): A soldier’s duty is never done. Sounds familiar? Akshay Kumar too played the role of the army soldier who cracks a terror attack during his holidays.But it was Vijay who nailed the part. In a huge rush of adrenaline he re-defined the super-hero’s space without the cape or the mask.Some Islamic organizations objected to the film which trotted on to become a big winner.
3. Mersal(2017) : Vijay fans were very happy. There are three Vijays in his new film, all shaped contoured and moulded into red-hot come-see-about-me avatars.So 3 stars for the eminently enjoyable new Vijay starrer, 1 each for the 3 roles that the superstar embraces like lovers who won’t be parted till kingdom come.Or apocalypse dodged.Indeed Vijay’s self-love is celebrated by the rest of the besotted smitten cast who in true Tamil-Telugu tradition of hero-worship keep anointing eulogizing, glorifying and iconizing the super-hero to a point where no criticism is permissible or even plausible.While the entire vast cast that includes three lovely leading ladies(all three so serene and surrounding in a haze of idolatry numbness),can’t stop singing Vijay’s praise he himself seems to be a fan of the legendary M G Ramachandran. How do I know? He has MGR’s pictures on the wall and he even visits a theatre showing an MGR film.Jayalalithaji—God bless her departed soul—would have surely approved of this,Vijay’s most fiercely political statement to date.Indeed Rajiniknath and now Vijay are the two inheritors of the Tamil political cinema that MGR patented in his heydays. In Mersal Vijay takes on healthcare with a blood-thirsty vengeance .There are aggressive contemptuous references to the Establishment’s failure to provide medical facilities for the poor and needy .And we have Vijay wagging his disapproving finger at the Prime Minister with the words—and I translate poorly—“In Singapore the ill get free treatment although they charge 7 percent GST whereas in India they charge 29 percent GST and still don’t provide free healthcare.”I dare any Bollywood superstar,to be so openly critical of governmental policies.It takes guts for a matinee idol to talk politics.
4. Bigil(2019): Bigil which means ‘whistle’ in Tamil lives up to its title. There were wolf whistlers and banshee shrieks of orgasmic exhilaration in the theatre every time Vijay came on screen.I couldn’t hear the dialogues. I suspect we are not meant to.Considering he has two roles , Vijay is on screen almost the entire running-time of three hours. He plays an angry football coach, not unlike Shah Rukh Khan in Chak De, except that Khan never danced, sang and fought goons(in the one fight sequence in Chak De he let his hockey team to beat up the goons).Vijay never stops. The career dilemma for a superstar who must deliver what his fans want, is here resolved by positioning Vijay as a star with human frailties on display. He is a football coach and prone to bouts of identity crisis because of a troubled relationship with his father which is opened up like a wound in a flashback.As his own father Vijay is not too convincing. His body language suggests no age. Only suppressed rage. The son Bigil ( a.k.a Michael) is Shah Rukh Khan’s Chak De avatar reborn .There are flashes of genuine warmth in Michael’s interaction with his all-women’s football team which, though representational(one acid victim , etc) manages to make a large statement on why women are left behind in the field of sports.Director Atlee doesn’t allow Vijay’s stardom to diminish even as sections show the actor struggling with issues that go beyond patriarchal arrogance. It would be too much to expect humility in Vijay’s performance. But he comes closer to vulnerability in this film than any other.
5. Master(2021) : It takes a Vijay to bring them back to the theatres. Covid be damned, Master has proven a monster blaster at the boxoffice in the South. Now two weeks later it comes to us on the streaming platform. But the fire-and-brimstone impact of a demi-god striding across the screen as he takes on the vile villains ,is lost at home.To enjoy a Vijay starrer you have to watch it with his fans as they shriek their approval every time he breaks a bone or breaks into a dance. This time I have to admit the script supports the Tamil superstar’s iconic image with twists and turns that are frenetic but neither incoherent nor disjointed.There is none of that disdain for rules of storytelling that we’ve seen in the other recent Vijay starrers. On the contrary I’d say this is the superstar’s first genuine stab at a socio-political relevance.At one point Vijay smirks and says, “Some here may not like me. But there are millions out there who do,” drawing attention to his popularity that threatens to seep into politics. Vijay plays JD(no idea what it stands for) a college lecturer hero-worshipped by his students even though he is notorious for his drinking habits.After 6 pm, he is out of his senses, boast his admiring fan-pupils speaking of him in folklore fashion, as though alcoholism was a form of meditation. Which if you are Vijay, it probably is.
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