Thamizh Talkies: Beast of a Star

The writer is a content producer and art curator

I love the masala film genre, for in it, lies every emotion. If Hollywood has its Marvel films, Indian cinema, and more importantly, South Indian cinema, has masala films in which all feats are possible for the hero and the world invariably does get saved. This generic template (meant in a good way obviously) is also our answer to the fairy tales of the West, as our country has myths and legends from the times of yore and familiar tropes like the fight between good and evil, the challenge that leads the hero to victory, feisty women (rarely showing up in the movies though they are aplenty in our myths), emotions which rule human life, the code of conduct which makes the common man become a messiah and so on. These attributes best fit an era in which MGR was the hero. Thereafter the mantle fell on Rajinikanth. And now, Vijay.

The rise of Vijay is a personal inspiration for me and many. His growth as an actor and star occurred through the time I grew up, and I’ve witnessed firsthand parts of his journey. As someone forging ties with the film industry and the media, there were instances when Vijay had to break his shy silence and open up in interviews. We would come up with events for which he sweetly obliged with his (now) trademark smile. One unforgettable interaction with Vijay was when we had invited him to come to the radio station for an upcoming film. We were going to run down and welcome him from the ground floor, when the lift opened on the sixth floor, and in walked the-then ‘Ilayathalapathy’ like he were an office employee. He was on time and the simplicity with which he came in, without bouncers and assistants, left us zapped.

Vijay’s stardom today is in top gear. The rise can be said to have begun from Ghilli and has only been upward since. The ‘masala’ genre fits him best after Rajinikanth because of his penchant for providing entertainment, the proportions of which have always been a pleasant surprise, given that he’s the exact opposite of his characters on screen. He is non-fussy and in a good conversation, he opens up and speaks from his heart. Today, he even seems to do that when he takes the mic on stage.

The battle for Rajinikanth’s throne has been fought for the longest time between Vijay and Ajith (the names are written in chronological order of their careers), with both of them proving themselves worthy and having given super-hits. With Beast releasing on April 13, Vijay stakes claim once again. The trailer suggests elements from the mass genre. Director Nelson, known for his sharp humour and counterpoint punchlines, seems to have given Vijay plenty of room to entertain us much like all those films which enabled Vijay to leap forward in his career, with roles that had him use brain, brawn, and loads of charm. Think Thuppaki for example or Mersal (especially the flashback scenes with Nithya Menen), and more recently Master, which has him play a Lone Ranger sans the meet-cute scenes and duets. The nonchalance he brings to his characters and the offscreen simplicity which shines in his eyes, will ensure a massive opening for Beast, which suggests a template storyline (Vijay saves a bunch of people from evil forces?) and a title that can rival a Marvel movie.

As Vijay says in Thuppaki, “I am waiting.”

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