Thursday, 21 June 2018

Vijay's Super Six - A Throwback

Almost 33 years ago, when Vijay was simply actor Vijay, one would not have thought he will turn out to be one of the massive stars of the subcontinent after three decades.

It all started with Vetri (1984) when Vijay had done an extended cameo as a child artiste, and later became a hero in Naalaiya Theerppu (1992). It then took five long years for Vijay to evolve into 'Ilayathalapathy' Vijay in Kaadhalukku Mariyaadhai (1997) and 20 years from there to become 'Thalapathy' Vijay in Mersal (2017).

In these 33 years, he has witnessed successes and flops among the 61 films he has acted in. With the actor's birthday falling tomorrow and the most anticipated first look of his 62nd movie Sarkar having released today, here is a throwback on the top six movies of this Thalapathy of the masses. For me, having a puny favouritism towards Vijay is for being the only 'Tamil', unluckily turned out to be a superstar of the Tamil cinema industry.

Poove Unakkaga - 1996

Accepted unanimously by any movie buff as the first blockbuster of Vijay, Poove Unakkaga ran for 250-plus days and grossed well at the box office. Having the actor in a very subtle, one-side lover Raja's role, this movie was made by the director of dramas, Vikraman. Though Mersal's post-release period saw a mass Hindu-Christian issue triggered by the actor last year, Poove Unakkaga had it all in its plot delivering a very strong message on inter-religious marriage. The pre-climax preaching of Vijay in this movie is still afresh in everybody's mind when it comes to a social debate.

Kaadhalukku Mariyaadhai - 1997

Similar to his first blockbuster, Vijay had the same inter-religious romance plot in Kadhalukku Mariyaadhai, which came the very next year after Poove Unakkaga. However, unlike Poove Unakkaga, the movie had Vijay play the role of lover in the Hindu-Christian pair. The subtlety of the role lies in the very name of his character, Jeevanantham, one of the renowned activists and social reformers of the country. The movie was a Tamil-Malayalam bilingual with Shalini playing the female lead in both languages. However, it was the Tamil version of the movie that was more popular among the two.

Ghilli - 2004

When Vijay was continuously seen in romantic roles in movies like Khushi, Shajahan, Thulladha Manamum Thullum and Friends, it was Ghilli, that fetched him mass appeal, showing him in the shade of an out-and-out action hero and a kabaddi player. It was also Ghilli, the first movie of the actor to get stuck in a controversy before release - which even made the movie get postponed - the tradition that follows him till date. However, as always, the Vijay-factor carried the movie to break the box office record with over Rs 70 crore-plus collection. Directed by Dharani, the movie was a remake of Mahesh Babu's Okkadu in Telugu. However, compared to the original version, this movie was a bigger success at the box office, giving an opening to the actor in Kerala and the north.

Pokkiri - 2007

Remade from a Telugu movie of the same name, starring Mahesh Babu, Pokkiri was the first Vijay movie to join the Rs 75 crore club at the box office (which was a bigger margin of its time). Playing the role of an undercover cop, Vijay had multiple villains, including Prakash Raj, Mukesh Tiwari, and Anand Raj. Balancing all the antagonists, Vijay's role as Tamil (later as DSP Sathyamoorthy, IPS) was strong, rugged and bold - an amalgamation of a rouge and cop. With Asin as his love interest and Vadivelu as Body Soda, the movie never failed to balance action, comedy, and romance that turned out to be its USP. Giving a grand opening for dance-maestro Prabhu Deva as a filmmaker, Pokkiri was a milestone for several actors and technicians including Asin who was invited to Bollywood after this.

Thuppakki - 2012

Joining hands with ace director AR Murugadoss for the first time, Thuppakki was all about terrorism and sleeper cells. It was an eye-opener for the people as it detailed a lot about how extremist organisations work at the ground-level. For Vijay, this movie was a major breakthrough and gave him a different colour from being a commercial movie actor to a performer in a near realism plot. This even brought him accolades and best actor awards in various award festivals. The movie was internationally recognised in various countries, including Russia. Being a Rs 180 crore grosser at the box office, Thuppakki also led the director-actor duo to have future collaborations including Kaththi and Sarkar.

Mersal - 2017

For Mersal, 'Ilayathalapathy' Vijay became 'Thalapathy' Vijay, and spoke raw politics and took up social issues to create a buzz among various political factions. Touching upon GST, demonetisation, jallikattu, medical scam and Tamil nationalism, Mersal was a package of ideologies. Tying up with filmmaker Atlee, this was the first time Vijay was seen in triple-action. Playing the roles of an illusionist, doctor, and rural philanthropist, Vijay showed he was a performer who can do versatile roles. Apart from the political shades and critical reception it had received, Mersal became the first Vijay movie to join the Rs 200 crore club at the box office.

Special mention (Author's picks)

1. Love Today - 1997
2. Priyamudan - 1998
3. Thulladha Manamum Thullum - 1999
4. Kushi - 2000
5. Priyamanavale - 2000
6. Friends - 2001
7. Thirumalai - 2003
8. Tirupachi - 2005
9. Sachien - 2005
10. Kavalan - 2011
11. Nanban - 2012
12. Kaththi - 2014
13. Theri - 2016

- Santhosh Mathevan,
Chennai, June 21, 2018.