I was paralysed for an entire night and in the morning when day light woke me up, I knew I was sad for some reason. But as though I had woken up from a forgotten tragic dream my mind did not give away the reason for my complete dejection. What was it? What had happened last night? Then as dawn increased in size I remembered Vijay anna’s Melbourne trip was cancelled and I had been quite devastated last night. But now here I am making my peace with it. If it was true that he could not make it because of an injury, I pray my atheistic prayers for him to recover soon. Because of a love for him that is so strong that I would not want anything bad happening to him. Although he is ‘only’ an actor, although I do not know him personally, although this world itself is a fine drama theatre.
I sometime refer to him as Anna to most of your dismay because Sir would make it impersonal, Ilayathalapathy would make it assumed in comparison, and Dr. would make some of you impassioned and mostly because that is how thousands relate to him. ‘Relating’, psychologists and sociologists say, is the bottom line of the human species. I have been writing about Vijay anna for three years now, ever since I was convinced that he was a genius artist. And shortly thereafter, ever since I was convinced that he is more than a mere actor. For a psychologist and a keen art devotee this is a heady and humbling mixture. Perhaps heady is too frivolous a word. But you get it, right? My writing about him has happened everyday or most of the days for the three lonely years I still spend in Melbourne. Initially, there was a time when I found joy in comparing his acting with other Tamil actors, I had ridiculed him, called him a flat-actor and pinpointed him as being incompetent. But for the recent three years it has been a revolutionary, enlightening and life changing experience for me as I found out why by thousands he is loved, why although some of his films have ‘flopped’, his fans have remained loyal and why he is not an actor alone, but a man passionate about his work, and a man who loves people. And why he made me a better person through his movies, through his silence and philanthropy.
We are so stuck up with what art is or what movies should be made of. We have definitions that imprison our own creativity, imagination and our inner dancers. And in that sphere Vijay Anna is a rebel. He is sort of a rebel who will not rebel but a rebel nonetheless because he will go about his work as he believes in the power of acting and in his own words, “I see my world through my fans’ eyes”. Not many actors admit to the fact that, irrespective of how successful they have been it is the fans that moved them up there – through an interesting/often misunderstood kind of love that exists between a fan and his/her actor. And here is a man who gets paid by crores, but who will step down to take photos with his fans, ever obliging, smiling and accepting. He will embrace them, have his hands around them for the snap and engage with them in the most non narcissistic manner that we are too unfamiliar with. That requires not just simplicity but an enlightened soul who knows that success never takes place in a vacuum, without people and without caring for the most important thing in the world apart from art and intelligence – humanity (genuinely).
If you should come to a conclusion about his acting skills it has to be done only after watching the 54 movies he has acted in. He has the precision of a tiger and yet the softness of a flower. I love to call him a pioneer of soft realism in Tamil films. It was making of an era – Poove Unakaaga, Love today, Nerukku Ner, Kadhalukku Mariyadhai, Ninaithen Vandhai, Thulladha Manamum Thullum, Kannukkul Nilavu, Youth, and Vaseegara. An era that was defined not just by young boys’ acquired dressing sense from him but most importantly an era where Tamil Love, a pure unadulterated love set about by a need to worship warmed the hearts of thousands. Love, the child of Tamil cinema, has had its torch bearers. Sivaji Ganesan portrayed its complexities, Kamal Hassan its idealism, and here is our hero, the Ilayathalapathy who portrayed its true, natural form that is often experienced between lovers. You, I and the friends we know could be silently in love, looking into the eyes of the loved, not uttering a word, but radiating a warmth, or yearning to be loved or just worshipping. Vijay’s eyes did it, his body did it and his entire being played to the tunes of that focused passion- enveloped in his gentleness and occasional words that described a million emotions that could never be emoted dramatically. Such is a power of less. Vijay defined that kind of acting like nobody else did in Tamil cinema and you will still find movies like Thulladha manamum thullum run houseful in places where there exists an unselfish, noble love or places it is needed the most – hearts of people. It is quite a logical conclusion that the film makers knew that he alone could deliver something so poignant, or he knew it himself-hence choosing the movies he did.
After about an epoch in the natural realism genre, I experienced the precision of the tiger in him that I have not witnessed in any other action hero of my time at the least. The often autopsied action flicks of Tamil. It has been so severely autopsied that some of us cannot look that side. I do respect people’s likes and dislikes but I also have a big need to put forth what I think about such movies vis-a-vis Vijay. What lies in these movies are the collective anger of human beings. It is a general statement but I will still point out what we may be missing to see. Vijay’s tremendous portrayal of a super hero that we all carry in a corner of our minds is just the super hero we love. It is the super hero we all want to be. It is a metaphor for what we want to do but what we cannot possibly do in the cinematic sense. In a weird way it gives us so much strength. Not to beat up the goons or our bosses but to move on. To relook at our unmanageable situations, to break the ice that we cannot break, to push our boundaries a little more, to seize the devastating situations we live in and by hitting all of it. This is also where you will see Vijay making a master’s impact. A definite impact. If you re-access Thirupachi, Sivakasi, Thirumalai, Ghilli, Madhurey, Adhi, Pokkiri, Vettaikaran, and Velayudham you will be astonished by the time bomb in him. Such power, such mastery over the language, timing, and care to details , for example he says ‘Azhuva’ as opposed to ‘Azhuga’ in Thirumalai to suit the road side mechanic he plays. Some believe such characters he plays are invalid. If you would walk in Pudhupettai or look around you will see several human beings winning a battle to make their life a better one, fighting laziness, the society that blocks them away and a self centred world that reveres wealth over certain other humaneness that neither cars, or bikes or books can buy. And, Vijay speaks directly to them. Through his movies, through his asides and punch dialogues. Reflective asides have put me into focus, have given me might and have lifted up my spirits in an indescribable manner- very similar to what Kannadasan and Bharathiyar did to me. “Naa oru dhadava mudivu pannitena, En pEcha naane kEkamaaten” (If I decide once, that is it, I do not relook at my own opinions against it). Such a brave statement can be understood only by someone who goes by intuition, who has lost a hundred times, but who has won the other hundred times. And that some one are people including those reading this and Vijay himself.