Vanitha Vijayakumar: Give me Tamil Nadu, I can run it without problems
The actor-producer doesn’t mince words as she reflects on her three-week stint in Bigg Boss Tamil Season 3
Vanitha Vijayakumar, it can be said, has brought back all the hype to Bigg Boss Tamil after its rather underwhelming second season. Her loudness in voice and personality, her opinionated nature, and her devil-may-care attitude when it comes to interactions with fellow housemates has lent to many conflicts in the show, much yelling, and for the audience of the show, much entertainment. There are those who like her not being meek, but then there are also those who think that she’s judgmental and authoritative. In this conversation, as you can imagine, she has much to say...
Excerpts from the conversation:
Your stint in Bigg Boss Tamil Season 3 has ended now. How are you adjusting again to the normal world, away from all the surveillance?
Honestly, I don’t think I ever needed a microphone (laughs). I was initially worried about being captured on video in the mornings. How would my face look, I thought. And in general, I have always lived in big spaces. Even our washrooms were as big as some bedrooms. I get claustrophobic easily too, but I adjusted. All the cleaning duties were never a problem because though it is true that I grew up in luxury, as an actress, I travelled to shooting locations which did not have hotels.
Was it a relief to be forced away from phones and television for close to a month?
It wasn’t a problem for me as I’m not much of a tech person. I’m talking to you now and I have no idea where my phone is. Being away from my children was much harder, and some legal issues surrounding my daughter’s custody have been going on as well. Bigg Boss knows all these details. (laughs)
Were you shocked by the early eviction?
Yes, but this week, I had a hunch. We had all packed our belongings and on some level, made peace with the possibility of eviction. I am relieved to get my phone back, see my children. I see social media posts that say the show will be boring, now that I have come out. I am glad people are missing me. It means I have entertained you.
Did you get what you came into this show for?
I’m confused really. Vijay TV has been trying to get me to be part of this show during the first two seasons too. I watched those seasons and liked the show, but no, I don’t think there’s much to take away from it. People are falling in love in two-three days, after all. I think Vijay TV wanted me on the show because they knew I’d be a controversial personality, and by ‘controversy’, I mean a person who’s blunt and honest at all times. If I am part of a conversation and there is a problem, I can’t turn a blind eye.
Have you had an opportunity to watch the episodes, see the events as we have seen them?
I have seen a couple of episodes so far, including the one that has the spat with Tharshan. I wish Vijay TV gave people a chance to see the programme live any time they want to. So much happens during the day, but cramming it all into an hour does it no justice. Upon seeing these episodes, it’s clear that you guys just get snapshots. For instance, I would have had a pleasant conversation with someone after a disagreement, but you will never get to see it, leading you to form incorrect opinions.
In previous seasons, contestants have complained about misrepresentation due to the editing. Is that what you are saying too?
No, no. I am not blaming the channel. After all, they didn’t make me act. The world knows who Vanitha Vijayakumar is. They know I’m the mother of three children; they know I don’t back away from conflict. I have gone to courts and argued my own case; that’s how much I know about the law, how comfortable I am at addressing crowds. If the audience expected me to fall in love with someone there though, I guess they were mistaken.
Why do you say that?
Don’t you see? In each season, by the third or fourth day, you have got people falling in love. It was Kavin and Abhirami initially…
Kavin and everyone, no?
(Laughs) He’s a regular guy who has grown up around many women. We live in a multi-gender, multi-cultural society. Nobody can say men and women cannot talk.
Are you suggesting that being part of a love angle helps your longevity in the show?
It looks like it. I don’t even know if people look at this as a reality show or a game show. Kamal sir mentioned that after the first week, people would forget there are cameras and become their true selves. I think the opposite happened. They were natural during the first few days, but as the days went on, they put on a mask.
You stood up for Abhirami when Madhumitha insinuated that she wasn’t a ‘Tamizh ponnu’, but then used that same insult against Tharshan.
His height and his unexpected outburst shocked me into speaking the way I did. I agree my reaction was wrong. And look, I didn’t go there to fakely portray myself as some perfect person. People know that Vanitha is fire, and they will be burnt if they get too close. People are saying I’m arrogant, but any person with capacity to lead people, to run families, will seem that way. I won’t suck up to anyone. Many are talking about the MeToo movement, but the way I conduct myself has given me protection from dangerous men. I can proudly say that I have never once been at the receiving end of such improper advances.
I disagree with your insinuation that MeToo victims could be held responsible for what happened to them.
Look, I am just saying that I create a shield around me with the way I am. I told Sakshi this too when she and Kavin were getting a bit too cozy. She claimed that it was all friendship, but then all the hugging made quite a few housemates uncomfortable. She’s an actress and she shouldn’t want future directors or producers to think she has weak morals.
Isn’t it the fault of those directors or producers if they draw such conclusions?
I know single mothers who lie that they are married, to save themselves from potentially uncomfortable advances by men. This is just advice from me, from one woman to other women.
Madhumitha made a comment suggesting that the way women dress makes them more prone to sexual abuse. Kamal Haasan came down heavily on this comment too. What you say seems a bit like victim-blaming too...
Our society cannot handle authoritative women. Social media is full of comments like ‘bajaari’ and ‘sandai kozhi’ when referring to me. We talk about women empowerment, but we cannot refrain from abusing a woman who doesn’t flinch from giving her opinion on a reality show. People seem to have forgotten that our ex-chief minister was among the strongest people in the world. In fact, I tell everyone: Give me Tamil Nadu. I can run it without problems. I’ll show you. That’s Vanitha Vijayakumar.
Did all the social media criticism come as a shock to you?
What viewers don’t understand is, almost all the participants behave like children. They fall in and out of love easily; they play pranks; they are like toddlers. As the mother of three children, it is my instinct to take charge of them. That’s what happened. The respect I earned there came automatically. Tharshan would be shocked to see how social media has interpreted our disagreement. He’s a boy I fed with my hands; he said that after our disagreement and we laughed about it.
Has your stint at Bigg Boss helped you understand yourself better? Do you think you need to change anything about yourself?
Absolutely not. I don’t have to change. I was 2000 times Madhumitha some years back, but I changed myself after my second daughter, in order to survive in this world. I have been beaten up and abused but didn’t have the courage to go to a police station. I realised that a new Vanitha needed to be born and that’s who you see today. My parents have taught me that only those babies who cry will be fed milk. It’s true of our world. It’s also true of Bigg Boss. We would keep begging for things. In a sense, you could call it Beg Boss.
The real shock is seeing how seriously people have taken the events of Bigg Boss. People remember words and gestures so vividly. We didn’t realise that our actions and words would have this much weight. We lived as a normal family; we fought, we laughed, we cried.
How do you plan to leverage your Bigg Boss fame?
I was always popular; that’s why they took me into the show. I’m just disappointed to see how people hiding behind the internet are abusing me. It’s their choice of vocabulary that hurts, but it doesn’t matter. I will raise my daughters with the same resolve. I will encourage them to be strong and ask questions in this male chauvinistic society. I am directing and producing a thriller, and I’m glad I don’t have to tell people that it will be entertaining. They know that already now that they have seen me. Above all, I just want to say one thing: Nobody messes with Vanitha.