Kaushik L M



Taking stock of Ilayathalapathy Vijay - The Survivor


In my long running love-affair with cinema as a hardcore movie-buff, I have seen so many movies and have seen many actors trying to make it big. While a few have succeeded and gone on to become stars, others have fallen by the wayside. Either they lacked the skills or got dumped by the public due to their foolish overconfidence and over-estimation of their own capabilities.
Very few can sustain for a long time and it takes more than just skill to sustain in the industry for long. Dedication, discipline, punctuality, love for the craft, guts to be different, overwhelming support from the public and of course, success are among the few factors which decide the lifespan of a star.
Among the current generation, we have the legends such as Kamal and Rajini who have been in the business as leading heroes for close to four solid decades and are still in demand. The other seniors such as Prabhu, Karthik, Sathyaraj, Sarath Kumar, Vijayakanth have either graduated to playing character roles or have taken a sabbatical from cinema. 
Now coming to one of the dominant players of the current generation - Vijay, he recently entered his 22nd year in the industry as a lead hero and is in the spotlight yet again. He is still going strong and his popularity has been increasing exponentially with every passing year.
From Naalaiya Theerpu to Jilla, Vijay has come a long way as a bankable star and he is now capable of singlehandedly carrying a movie to the winning post, thanks to his vast reserves of experience and screen-presence. Nearing 40, he still maintains his physique, ‘V’ shape, agility and it seems he is defying age with his ‘college dude’ looks. After Rajini, it is Vijay whose body looks more or less the same right from Day 1. His underrated and underused singing skills come to the fore now and then, while his dancing is supreme as ever, as Thalaivaa recently proved. 
He had loads of criticism coming his way in his initial days regarding his choice of movies and some media houses openly ridiculed his looks. His 9th movie as a lead hero, Poove Unakkaga turned around his fortunes big time and endeared him to the family audiences and the ladies in particular. After some more failures, he quickly followed up with more family friendly movies such as Love Today, Kadhalukku Mariyadhai and further cemented his position as a young darling in Tamil households.
Between 1998 and 2001, Vijay predominantly catered to the family audiences and notched up many career defining successes such as Ninaithen Vandhai, Thulladha Manamum Thullum, Kushi, Friends, Badri and Shahjahan. Starting from Kushi, 5 of Vijay’s movies were commercially profitable in succession and this created a big splash in the early 2000s. 
It seemed as if Vijay was on top of his game after experiencing several failures prior to this phase. He was also coming across as a more stylish and well-groomed personality on screen, with Kushi being noted for his urbane and chic makeover. The ‘King of Chennai’ image post-Badri endeared him to the youth of the state and he was a mass hero in the making. 
But through 2002 till the end of 2003, he went through a big low with 5 of his films tanking in succession. Though a few of them earned the average status, much more was expected out of this young star. Thirumalai came towards the end of 2003 and turned around his fortunes. The stubbled look that he sported in this movie has stayed on and has made him look perennially young and dashing. 
Ghilli in 2004 was a big game changer and pushed Vijay right to the top. He was next only to the Superstar then, in terms of business and mass fan following, at the young age of 30. Reports that even the 100th day tickets of Ghilli were being sold in black, made Vijay a media sensation. Hits like Thirupachi and Sivakasi followed and took Vijay right to the C and D centers in the state. His on-ground popularity was unquestionable and beyond compare.
2006 through 2010 gave a major low for Vijay as save the blockbuster Pokkiri and the just-about-average Vettaikaran, the rest were major failures at the box-office. Fans and the media didn’t shy away from ridiculing Vijay and some of his gravity defying stunts in movies such as Kuruvi and Villu. The star was surely at a crossroads and needed to act quickly.
Vijay did exactly that and sensibly decided to shun away from unabashed mass entertainers and instead focussed on working with good directors in sensible commercial movies. Post a reasonably successful 2011, 2012 was a landmark year for Vijay as Thuppakki turned out to be another Ghilli-like success for the Ilayathalapathy. Nanban was another success for Vijay in early 2012 and made him the numero-uno star yet again, as 2013 dawned.
This year has been lowkey for the star thanks to the controversial Thalaivaa and the star silently decided to let his work do the talking. Jilla is ready and with a project lined up with his Thuppakki director, 2014 looks like another memorable year ahead for Vijay and his huge loyal fan base. With his prime competitors also lining up a great fare in 2014, Vijay will surely be up to the task and offer a good fight with his movies. The trade is already licking its lips in anticipation as Vijay and Ajith kickstart the new year with their royal mass clash ‘Jilla vs Veeram’.

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