Tightening his hold on Tamil cinema

A string of flops at a time when you are rated among the top five heroes in Tamil cinema could have unnerved  any actor but Ilayathalapathi Vijay never let his confidence sag.

Vijay in a still from his recent hit, ‘Velayutham’.

Having successfully stemmed the tide, he has bounced back with a bang with two back-to-back hits, Kavalan and Velayutham. First facing the camera as a child star in S A Chandrasekhar’s (his father and director) films, Vijay went on to don the hero’s garb in Nalaya Theerpu, released way back in 1992. His career graph had been registering a steep climb since then, with a number of hits, before the slump that almost cost him his career.

This soft-spoken actor has always been criticised for never venturing out beyond his comfort zone in films. His films have always provided the staple fare of dance sequences, stunts and similar story lines. In fact, many of his films that have flopped belonged to the same genre. Even his die-hard fans have found that if they had seen one film, they had seen it all. The actor, however, refutes this allegation and avers that he has never signed films that feature him in repetitive roles.

Vijay has never had a dearth of offers ever since his debut, and the first film that really brought him into the public eye was the Vikraman directed Poove Unakkaga, where he played the typical lover boy pining for his beloved. The actor has never shied away from doing films with borrowed themes and he has been fairly successful in this respect.

Ace Malayalam filmmaker Fazil remade his runaway Malayalam hit Aniyathi Pravu with Vijay, rechristening it as Kadhalukku Mariyadhai. With Shalini as the female lead, Vijay had a very definitive role with endearing shades. Siddique, another Malayalam director, has also given Vijay hits like Friends and Kavalan — both remakes of Malayalam superhits.

Kavalan, the remake of the Dilip starrer Bodyguard , proved to be the hit that would catapult the actor to centre-stage all over again. The remake of the Telugu blockbuster Pokkiri, directed by Prabhu Deva, also provided a fillip to his career. Director Dharani cast Vijay as hero in Gilli, a remake of the Telugu film Okkadu, and here again the film proved to be very
successful at the box office.

Velayudham too was loosely based on the Telugu hit Azaad. Vijay played the role of a milkman in the film, which was directed by Raja, the elder brother of popular hero ‘Jayam’ Ravi. The highlight of the film was the emotional bond between a brother and sister — Vijay and Charanya Mohan. Charanya, who played the sister, gelled well and wooed the audiences. The chartbuster music and some well choreographed dance sequences added glamour to the film and paved the way for its success.

Some of the major films that have enabled him to gain a foothold in the industry include Thullathe Manamum Thullum (Kadir), Kushi (S J Surya), Thirupaachi and Sivakasi (Perarasu). Vijay also had the opportunity to act with Tamil cinema’s greatest actor Sivaji Ganesan, in the film Once More, which only did moderate business. The films that almost cost him his career by nose-diving at the box office were Azhagiya Thamizhmagan, where he played both the protagonist and antagonist, Kuruvi, Villu, Vettaikaran and his fiftieth film (and perhaps, the worst), Sura.

The past, however, is behind him and the actor’s morale is on a high all over again. The kind of films he has on his plate now are certain to see him reach dizzy heights of popularity. Heading this list is Nanban, the remake of Three Idiots, directed by the ‘man with the Midas touch’, Shankar. Vijay will be reprising the role of Rancho, played effectively by Aamir Khan in the original. The film’s shooting has already been completed and the grapevine has it that Shankar, whose films rarely fail to click, has another winner on his hands.

More happy news for Vijay’s fans is that two more brilliant directors have cast him in their ensuing projects. Gautam Menon, who has had  hits with Surya like Khaka Khaka and Varanam Aayiram, is all set to direct Vijay in Yohan — Adhyayam Onru. The 7am Arivu director, A R Murugadoss, has signed him up for Malainerathu Mazhaithuli. Another film that he has committed to is Thuppakki, where Vijay will play a dashing cop.

Despite his massive fan following, Vijay prefers to keep a low profile. He has acted with most of the big heroines in the industry but has always managed to steer clear of link-ups. His co-operative yet aloof nature has never dented his popularity or the professionalism that he brings to his work, and has only earned him praise from his peers. With some of the biggest names in Tamil cinema eager to work with him, the actor who shares an easy camaraderie with the other top stars in the industry is definitely on a sound wicket.

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