This was precisely the moment I was petrified about ever since I had the guts to dream about writing something on Ilayathalapathy Vijay. Would he read it? Will I ever make justice to the over powering emotions and metaphors that conjure in my head that I inherently desire to match with my understanding about this phenomenon known as Vijay? Because, every time the lightning (read understanding) struck, gratitude overwhelmed in my heart. And because gratitude ebbed, fear followed. Neither my cognizance nor my writing skills might ever match up to what he does. But I had to let it out of my system for one reason- the world must know. I must know that I made an effort for the world to know. About him.
Everyone, in most of the places I knew mocked. That means Family, Friends, Chennai, Melbourne, and even Facebook. Some sort me out to jibe, taunt and sneer. You are a Vijay fan? Like I had sinned against cinema or still worse, sanity. Thanks to all that, it ends up in an article. Up until now, you would have noticed, I speak about me and not him. But how could I possibly explain who he is, without stating what he did to me? Now that is what I call an introduction.
Imagine a world in which you will not have fast dance, a charisma that melts people’s hearts, a smile that can at least momentarily remove your sorrow, and someone who makes you reflect at yourself, without asking you to. I would do anything to have an effect like that. Most of us, ask, for things to be done. Ilayathalapathy Vijay’s birthday arrives and people celebrate it. How? By blood donations, by contributing money to orphanages, buying food for the children there, and contributing books for them. It is not asked. It is done. How? Why? The case point of him being an actor does not stand strongly here because there are other actors too. There is something different about him. Something so unique, yet so ordinary. Something exclusive, yet so universal.
So why does Ilayathalapathy Vijay stand apart? What gap has he filled that others strive hard to reach? To me, Vijay Anna is a simplified Kamal Hassan and more. Not simple. But simplified. I recollect how I feel when I see Heyram, Anbe Sivam and Virumandi. The way my gut wrenches and how tears are involuntary. Leaving aside the directorial labour pain by Kamal Hassan, I am demanding your attention to the artist, the psychologist and human in Vijay. It is the same damn thing. It is the same essence. It is a similar work – the work of a genius who understands what the movie character needs, carefully and painstakingly matches it with what the people need, actualizes it with a conviction and says it with a personal voice that carries what he believes in as well. Like a potter who carves his pot with his parental touch, mixing his sweat with the clay and then leaving his finger prints –his personal stroke on it. Very similar to Kamal Hassan in this aspect – sometimes making it hard to differentiate between the actor and the person (with pleasure of course). This you realize once the movie is over. But during the movie, unlike some artists whose personal voice over rides the character, Vijay Anna seldom does it. For eg, Kutty of Thulladha Manamum Thullum, Shiva of Youth, Bhupathy of Vaseegara, Muthappa of Sivakasi and Sivagiri of Thirupaachi, all carried an authentic, original sense of the character but was never over ridden by Vijay himself. A perfect balance of the character and the person was so evident that it made me shed tears of joy. I am sure a character like Shiva (Youth) required a very high level of personal maturity to handle its nature - a letdown groom who brings back the same girl who let him down, from tragedy to life -by his characteristically divine, humble and matured charm that I can’t get enough of.
Where others have failed, Vijay Anna has won. The supreme satisfaction of an artist from the people who watch him/her is to follow his/her message. And in Vijay Anna’s case alone, for now, millions do it without being told. A message of love and brotherhood. A message that Bob Marley conveyed, a message that Kamal Hassan strives to every time, and many others. In his case, things flow. The invisible bond is extremely strong, that people who are inspired do not need the noise from a mike. Largely because he models what he believes in rather than preach. If the fact that him not using English like a Westerner, him not dressing up like the way you want, him not presenting the world market on your face, are the reasons you cannot stand him, it is absolutely fine. But my request is do not claim to completely understand that acting like music knows no boundaries. Because, I took an Australian lady with me to watch Velayudham. She knew nothing about Vijay nor does she know Tamil. But she screamed, clapped and cried just like me with some kind of madness I thought I only possessed more when compared to her. Emotions, love, anger, hope, triumph - are all universal. And thus Vijay too. Bangladeshi, Iranian, Pakisthani and Australian – his fans. Remove what you already think the ‘non-cool’villager and the ‘non-cool’ city dweller is. Watch his movies with an open mind. Then you will see Tamilness reflecting on him and universalism radiating out from him- In the name of appreciation of art in its most humble and proud form, from Mongolia to India.
And this work of 6 hours is my birthday present. Happy birthday Vijayna...