The Passing of a Legend: Vijayakanth (1952-2023)

Actor and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Vijayakanth passed away on Thursday. Vijayakanth is known as a people’s leader in Tamil Nadu. He was born on 25 August 1952 in Madurai.

Actor Vijayakanth died on Thursday. His fans mourned his untimely passing.

After Rajinikanth, Tamil Nadu’s dark-skinned actor paved the way to stardom with his realistic act and comic sense.

In 1979, Vijayakanth made his debut as an actor with the release of his debut film, Inikkum ilamai. His modest appearance combined with his strong acting skills made him a hit among the audience. Vijayakanth’s first break came in 1981 with Sattam oru iruttarai, which was directed by his father, S. Chandrasekhar, and he went on to work with SAC in many projects such as Nenjile thunivirunthal, Needhi pizhaithatham, Pattanathu rajakkal which made him a well-liked newcomer.

Manivanan directed the film and it was released in 1984. It was Vijayakanth’s first movie to run for over 200 days. After the release of this film Vijayakanth came to be considered as one of the biggest stars of Tamil film industry along with Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan.

If you want to know how real and humorous Vijayakanth is, then you have to watch this movie. If you want to know what makes Vijayakanth tick, then you must watch this movie.

Naane Raja Naan Mandhiri ( 1985) is the movie you need to watch if you want to understand Vijayakanth. This film is about a wealthy village boy, Rangamani. He gets his way with power and money. It’s hard to love him, but it’s also hard to hate him. That’s where Vijayakanth hits the sweet spot with his performance in this film.

Other works of Vijayakanth from this period are Amman kovil kizhakale, poondhthotta kaaval kaaran, and cooliekaran. After the release of Cooliekkaran, Vijayakanth started using the name Puratchi kalaingar.

While Vijayakanth is well-known for his role as a cop in the 1990s, he was a very versatile actor in his early years. At 34 years of age, he played an aged police officer in the 1986 film Oomai vizhigal (which turned out to be a hit). He played a homeless man in the 1984 film Vaidhegi kaathirunthalal (the image of him sitting outside the temple singing ‘Rasaathi unna’ will remain in Tamil mainstream’s memory for a long time. Vijayakanth won the state award for ‘Senthoora poove’ in 1988 and the national award for ‘Thyagam’ in 1996.

The Emergence of Captain

In the 1990s, Vijay made a noticeable change in the type of films he was making. He started playing the police character more and more in his films. He started playing this role in his first film Pulan Visaramai. After the success of Chatriyan in 1990, another feather in the cap of Vijay’s career came with the release of captain prabhakaran in 1991. This film catapulted him into superstardom and gave him the nickname ‘Captain’. The character of the Captain stuck with Vijay for the rest of his life. Other notable police films made by Vijay in the 1990s include SethupathiIPS in 1994, Maanagara kaaval in 1991, Rajadurai in 1993, Thai Mozhi in 1993, and Honest Raj in 1994.

On one hand, Vijaykanth has established himself as the police hero of Tamil cinema. On the other hand, he was targeting the rural audience with rural dramas, which appealed to the hardcore rural audience. The film ‘Chinnan Gounder’ (1992) is one of the most iconic films not only in Vijaykanth’s filmography but in the history of Tamil cinema. Even though the title of the film had a caste name attached to it, the film went on to impress people all over the state. While the romanticisation of the ‘Panchayat Justice’ that is alleged in the film may not appeal to modern audiences, the film has mostly won hearts due to the drama and rural sentimentality. Vijaykanth continued to target this audience throughout the 2000s, with films such as ‘Vivanthai Pola’ (2000), ‘Thavasi’ (2001) and ‘Chokka Thangsam’ (2003).

However, for the modern Tamil film aficionado, the actor will be remembered for his performance in the movie ‘Ramana’. At a time when he was mainly associated with saffron masala films such as ‘Vallarasu’ and ‘Narasimma’, ‘Ramanayakanth’s’ director proved to be the world’s best performer. Ramana became the actor’s biggest hit after decades. But at the same time, it also came at the time when he was shifting his focus to the political arena in Tamil Nadu.

After Ramana, the actor went on to act for six more years before quitting the film bowing out in 2010 to focus on his political aspirations. He later made a brief appearance in ‘Sagaptham’ (2015) which was his final film.

Political Stalwart

Vijayakanth shifted his focus from entertainment to politics and formed the DMDK party in 2005. Vijayakanth’s entry into politics marked a new era in Tamil Nadu politics. Tamil Nadu is ruled by the DMK and the ADMK, and Vijayakanth was seen as an alternative to these two giants. He has contested several elections and left an indelible mark on the state’s political discourse.

From social justice to anti-oppression, he styled himself as the face of the oppressed. Eliminating poverty and safeguarding the interests of farmers were some of his guiding principles. Vijayakanth assumed the post of Leader of Opposition in Tamil Nadu’s legislative assembly in 2011 and held the post until 2016. Because of Vijayakanth’s declining health, he was unable to play his best political role in the later years of his career, which impacted on DMDK’s electoral prospects.

Legacy of Captain Vijayakanth

When Vijayakanth is remembered, he will be remembered for his innocence, which we have seen in so many of his movies, and also for his courage; an odd but endearing combination. We cannot forget the warning he gave to the ADMK MLAs in the state assembly before the all-powerful former Chief Minister J Jayalakartaa. The Captain is also remembered for his entertaining and sometimes infamous interactions with the media. From joking with them to storming out of a press conference Vijayakanth was always open about his emotions.

He may also be the last superstar to win both at the box office and in the political arena. Tamil film industry’s relationship with politics has deteriorated with the new political regime. Rajinikanth’s exit from politics and Kamal Haasan’s misfortunes are just two examples. In such a situation, the last big political actor in Tamil film industry might end up winning at the box office.

Some might call him Kapu MGR or Black MGR for the same reasons. But you don’t need to talk about him to talk about another leader because he was unique.

Let the Captain rest in peace.