Still the `Captain'
24 years and 144 films, some mega hits and a huge fan club... not a mean achievement for the now `Nadigar Sangam chief, Vijaykant. The star talks of his roles in the recent Cauvery issue and his forthcoming Diwali release "Ramanaa".
WHEN HE started his career, Vijaykanth was derisively referred to as "the poor man's Rajnikanth". Today the trade in awe says, "He is the Raja of B and C centres". Vijaykanth has hold not only over rural Tamil Nadu box office but also is the Nadigar Sangam chief, the undisputed leader and trouble-shooter of the Tamil film industry. During the recent Cauvery issue and the subsequent Neyveli rally, it was Vijaykanth who stole the thunder from director Bharathiraaja who conceptualised the protest. He is cool, composed and a perfect diplomat who mouths politically correct statements. And perhaps the only film personality in the good books of both Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi. At a time when superstar Rajnikanth is throwing broad hints of his entry into politics, Vijaykanth has a well-oiled fan club and a good following that is the envy of other stars and even politicians. On the career front, in spite of his last three films doing only average business, he is still the hot and happening star with the distributors. His forthcoming Diwali release "Ramanaa" carries excellent pre-release reports in the trade circles. "Captain" as he is popularly known in the industry after that super hit of the 90's "Captain Prabhakar" is reticent and guarded initially but opens up slowly in this interview.
How successful has been the Neyveli rally?
The Tamil film industry's protest at Neyveli against Karnataka Governments refusal to release Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu was a great show of strength. After seeing the turnout at the rally, I am confident that we can press our legitimate demand, provided Tamils remain united in their quest for water.
But the rally also exposed the divisions inside the film world and the unbridled comments of Bharathiraaja have created anguish. Please comment.
(Frowns) All that I can say is that film personalities should be above politics and those who are members of any political party should not hold positions in cine associations. I do not want to talk any thing more on this matter.
Please tell us something about the secret of your longevity at the box office?
(Laughs) I have been around for the past 24 years and done about 144 odd films. I had my share of hits and flops, ups and downs and still continue to act. There is no secret; all I can say is that, it is hard work, devotion and some good luck.
Your last three films had a lukewarm reception at the box office. What went wrong?
Nobody can really gauge the pulse of the audience. In cinema and particularly in a star's career, sometimes you hit the bull's eye and at times it goes awry.
They say that your films with lot of political messages like the recent "Rajiyam" have bombed but on the other hand your rural-based movies like "Vanathepole" have been mega hits. Please comment.
I agree that "Rajiyam" was not appreciated maybe because the story went haywire. At the same time "Vallarasu", a film like you said which had political dialogues was a super hit. So you cannot say that I can only do a particular genre of films.
But it is films like "Vaidehi Kathirunthal", "Chinna Goundar" and "Vaanathepole" that made you the "Raja of B and C stations". How did you achieve this?
Don't forget that I came into films from rural Madurai. My father was a prosperous rice mill owner and all my close friends came from the lower strata of society like rickshawallahs and ordinary labourers. I know their pulse more than a city bred person. I observe such people even now at close quarters, which has helped me build the characters in my films. My audience are the common toiling masses who come to see my films for pure entertainment. My producers tell me that my films are profitable as they do in B and C stations five times the business the film does in A stations.
What are the most essential elements in your films?
Story is of prime importance and the rest is all how well it is packaged with sentiments and good-action scenes.
But your critics point out that you are not a good dancer?
I am not too comfortable doing dance numbers. So there is no emphasis on song sequences in my films.
Tell us something about your Diwali release "Ramanaa"?
To be frank, it is the most difficult role that I have done in recent times. I play the role of a college professor in the film, who upholds high moral standards. There is a fire within that character as he tries to solve certain vexing problems of the student community. There are no stereotype villains in the film but has all the commercial elements to make it a great entertainer.
Any plans to join politics?
No. I am very happy doing films and will continue to act as long as the public likes me. Do they talk about retirement in Hollywood, where Clint Eastwood is a hero even at 72!
But the grapevine insists that your fan clubs are a launch pad for your political career?
My fan clubs are associated with a lot of social and philanthropic activities. Yes, they have designed a flag, which may have started these rumours. I can list out a lot of good work that they do for the poor and underprivileged.
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