What Vijay has managed to do, probably no other in the Tamil film industry has accomplished.
I write this for three reasons. One - for him. Two- for his loving fans and Three – for the world to know that we live at a time of this genius artist and a humble human being, who has managed to mould the portrayal of human emotions and actual human deeds into one paper mache and made millions feel, follow and live a message that every reformer dreams of. Such is the power of his smile, the twinkle in his eyes and his silence. Emotions chock me as I write, not because I cannot sufficiently explain but because there are superabundant explanations transmitting between my mind and typing fingers that, I fear a failure to commence them in the most respected manner. Like a thud, like a bad thunder falling on my mind’s heart, Vijay, as an actor, has been ridiculed eternally. Ridiculed when he began, ridiculed in the interlude, ridiculed during his glorious soft realism days and continuing the procession of ridicule that snakes on even now - after Nanban. Inspite of all the poisonous arrows dipped in hurling words, what he has managed to do, probably no other in the Tamil film industry has accomplished.
Sivaji Ganesan, Kamal Hassan and Vijay. To three of my most revered artists, I pledge my psychological skills. To two of them, I pledge my deep understanding of the human condition, and to just one of them I pledge my internal transformation as a person - Vijay. In this piece of a personal dedication and a public article I will explain how and why Vijay is an actor not in par with his contemporaries but a world apart from them; how he is in par with Kamal Hassan and why I cannot help but experience the similarities between him and Vijay. For some, this might look impossible but for me it is essential to draw the parallel. To make the unconscious foray into the conscious minds of the viewers. To silence the critics’ shallow understanding of this brilliantly talented kind soul. Vijay.
What kind of an actor is such a perfect all rounder? An actor who is extremely passionate about his work and has a higher purpose – to communicate. Kamal Hassan is not just an actor but a social being. Some one who holds conversations with the public. Acting is his job, but the world, is his work. All his works are testimonies towards this. Heyram, Alavandhan, Kurudhipunal, Dasavatharam, Virumandi, Vasool Raja MBBS and every other movie of his is a medium to communicate a message. A message that is required, a message that we would carry, a message that would make us re-think our values and judgements. He continues to define the world, dream for it and struggles to undo some of the monstrousness that it sleeps with. In a similar pathway, dearest Vijay not only communicates a message of love, of brotherhood, of victory, of winning over struggles to the people who require it the most but lives it. The power of his belief in love for human beings is not only evident in the manner in which he portrays the many characters he plays but also through real work of educating and motivating youngsters. Sometimes, work without talks has the Everest capability of creating change in the way people think about their own lives. This is precisely what Vijay does.
Many do not see that his own victory was slow, with several patient chapters woven together to produce an effect that sets a girl like me break all adversities life can throw. He does not ignore the people ignored all the time. As a next door boy who stands for love during all hardships, he calmly, passionately inspires the youth to value love, not as a transaction but as a virtue. Between him and Kamal Hassan, he is of the compassionate reformer archetype and Kamal the compassionate angry citizen archetype – both trying to examine similar issues – poverty, crime, love, brotherhood and by that examination create harmony. Shouldn’t this kind of a careful passion be studied rather than be ridiculed?
One cannot miss the perfection in Kamal Hassan’s acting. One should not miss the perfection in Vijay’s acting. The manner in which he finishes an act is spellbinding because, he makes sure that the entirety of an emotion is acted out. From the beginning to the end. Pick up a random scene from any of his movies and you will witness it. For example, there is a scene between him and his police friend in Thirupachi. Look out for a perfect synchronization between his lip movements and body language. Like a perfectly rendered song his acting is in complete sync with the character. You seldom realize, it is acting. He even manages to bat his eyelid for realism. That is acting. Just like Kamal Hassan, or even better than him, he makes it appear absolutely effortless. That my friends, is REAL acting. Not just his face, but his entire body dances to the tunes of any concentrated passion. The ‘last thing’ he requires are props and a million different getups. He believes in his characters so much that you will not see him acting, you will only see him emote and live it. This belief is the sole reason why Vijay stood as a contrast to the western style that we believe is what style is and made thousands celebrate Tamilness without intellectually preaching it. He vehemently chose to do a particular genre of movies that the ‘elite’ refuse to understand. How can anyone miss the hope and energy his characters pour into his viewers? At the end of the movie, you do not know, but you are transformed.
Small endings that could go unnoticed too are given very high importance by Vijay. In the song, Sandhosham Sandhosham in Youth, you could easily miss it. Towards the end of the song, you can easily miss that he snaps his fingers to the beats of the song earnestly even when that act did not require screen space. That, friends, is Vijay for you. A ruler of subtlety, he is a pioneer in it. Personally the only Tamil actors who converge in that arena for me are Sivaji Ganesan, Kamal Hassan and Vijay. The way Kamal Hassan cries in between words, the manner in which he holds your attention to every nerve that can act is seen in Vijay currently. There is so much to learn from this brilliant performer. He would not tell you he is doing something, nevertheless, he will be doing it and it will be one big movement, actually broken into many parts that you could miss. Somehow, at the end of it, you will realise its beauty. In Kamal Hassan’s acting you will see it separated, but in Vijay’s you will not. In that perspective, in my opinion, he outshines Kamal Hassan himself. Look at this song for example – Kangala, Minnala? from Endrendrum Kaadhal. After a kissing scene what do you generally expect an actor do? Look towards the actress? Look into her eyes perhaps. The way the scene was directed required Vijay to look away, perhaps out of shyness. Or an internal satisfaction. Vijay nails even that microscopic part. Using his hand he touches his cheek, and smiles away, in a very subtle fashion which is a clearest example of refinement, making you think it never happened. After all, making the audience forget it is acting that is unfolding happens to be the biggest job of an actor. There is not a better one to do it other than him.
Whatever Kamal Hassan did, he excelled in it. So does Vijay. He is the only actor who can pull off action, dance, comedy, drama, tragedy, romance, and even singing. He is our own Muses, Thalia and Melpomene. What kind of an actor is such a perfect all rounder? He can pull off all genres of acting with the highest degree of perfection and finesse making you re-think your understanding on what acting is. Making you unlearn and create new definitions of what it is to connect with the audience. Never have I experienced such amounts of energy and positivity so that I run in the 5 degree cold Melbourne night without a sweater before I come home shivering. Such was an effect of Ghilli - transcendental. He takes the audience to a place where they can see only opportunities and not barriers. Every movie of his, every single movie of his, is worth mentioning. Pardon only a couple of mistakes in his career, everyone have had their share of mistakes- haven’t you? The underlying message in all his movies is to live life respecting it, the people involved and giving paramount importance to your loved ones. His real life silence mirrors his simplicity, intensity and groundedness which are so rare among celebrities. The power that claps and adulations provide is intoxicating. But here in Prakash Raj’s words – “You have remained the same, from the beginning of your career, until now”. No amount of claps and cheer takes away from him who he really is – Ilayathalapathy? No. Superstar? No. But Vijay. Just Vijay? Yes. That is how he sees himself. And hence, all remain celebrities and he a ‘thalaiva’.
He does not require an award from a world that does not understand him. Rather, watch the crowd. The awards come from a million fans which maketh every other actor think. If you have not spoken to the audience, touched them, influenced them in a personal way, you are not Vijay. Unlike an artist who demands attention by calling out, he keeps quite. He makes the others talk about him. That is success. You could be a frog in the well, singing your own praises and people paying no heed. But here is Vijay, a Travelling Soldier who proves to this world, that which ridicules him, “If you want to know, who I am, you have to wait and see”*. And thus, Thalaiva, you are great.
What Vijay has managed to do, probably no other in the Tamil film industry has accomplished.
*Travelling Soldier- Song from Vijay’s movie, Badri (2001, Wikipedia).