Even as many actors in Tamil Nadu are openly trying to enter politics, Vijay has left everyone "mersal". Well the title of his latest film, which has been sharply attacked by the BJP for its anti-GST and digital India dialogues, means "stunned".
The state - oh sorry! country - was also stunned when the BJP's Tamil Nadu unit president, Tamilisai Soundararajan, hit out at actor Vijay for the dialogues in Mersal against GST and digital India. But support is pouring in from all corners for Vijay. Actors such as Kamal Haasan to political leaders such as Rahul Gandhi to the DMK party have all condemned the BJP for attacking Vijay.
Everyone has used the opportunity to hit out at BJP for asking Vijay to delete scenes from a movie already certified by the censor board. The incident is being seen as an example of BJP's high-handedness in curbing freedom of expression.
No wonder, many say that Vijay has probably been given a great opportunity not only for a huge box office collection but also for an entry into politics. With BJP fanning the controversy and even national channels debating it, Vijay has become larger than the "Illaya Thalapathi" (young commander) - as he is described in his movie.
Ok, I don't want to elaborate upon Thalapathi MK Stalin, who has been waiting for many years to capture power and grab the support of the masses in the state.
The movie Mersal revolves around corrupt doctors in India. It has a sequence where Vijay says that with 7 per cent GST, Singapore is able to provide free medical care but India imposes 28 per cent GST. And few more scenes where Vadivelu (actor in a comic role) opens his purse to show he has no money because of digital India. While BJP leaders are giving counter after counter clarifying that the scenes about GST are factually wrong, the controversy has only helped in the scenes going viral on social media.
It is possible the scenes would have just passed off but now with this popularity everyone wants to watch it.
One state BJP functionary said that he watched the movie out of curiosity so he can give counter arguments to critics on social media, which is buzzing with the issue. Hmm... Now, haven't checked how many BJP functionaries are in Tamil Nadu.
Vijay has a big fan following on social media, who keep fighting with everyone, especially the fans of actor Ajith, who take potshots at their hero. This controversy has only made them more aggressive. It, however, looks like with national leaders debating the issue, the movie is doing well even in Delhi which wasn't always the case for a Vijay-starrer film.
While I wonder what the central leadership's take on the issue is, ranting of state leaders is reaching new levels. Senior BJP leader H Raja took to Twitter to communally attack actor Vijay. He tweeted saying free medical facility in Singapore is a lie and India provides free health care and education. "Intention of Joseph Vijay is to attack Modi."
Raja's statement directly attacking and naming Vijay's religion only courted more controversy. Unfortunately, looks like BJP is only fuelling Vijay's political ambitions.
The credentials of those who approved it in censor board has come under cloud now https://t.co/nIE6c7MjMt— H Raja (@HRajaBJP) October 20, 2017
He is the only actor after Vijayakanth, who has been organising his fan clubs for almost 10 years, indirectly motivating them to be ready for politics. Slowly and steadily, he had been building his image through charity work. His recent movies, mostly action ones, remind one of MGR where Vijay is a saviour of the masses.
The actor was perceived as a threat even by DMK and AIADMK who put many roadblocks ahead of the release of his movies. While he is fierce on screen, Vijay stays away from publicly making statements. Vijay's father SA Chandrasekar gave him an opening. But not all his initial movies were accepted by the masses and critics. The actor, however, grew steadily with his excellent dance moves and action. He built a boy-next-door image which garnered many fans among youngsters and children. Among the breed of actors currently planning to take a political plunge, Vijay is the youngest, has a mass appeal and most importantly is watched by political parties.
The fact that both DMK and AIADMK tried to create hurdles for the release of his movies, makes him important enough. But thanks to the BJP leaders, he has caught national attention with Mersal.
One cannot forget that both Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi tried to woo Vijay in the past. Gandhi wanted Vijay to share stage with him a few years back but a worried alliance partner DMK prevented it.
In 2014, Modi, who was campaigning in Coimbatore, met Vijay. So the leaders have in a sense seen him as a potential face for their parties in Tamil Nadu. Vijay's father, SA Chandrasekar, admitted to me: "They have brought my son to the limelight." And Chandrasekar is happy because he had been grooming his son for this day.
What is unclear to me is whether Tamilisai raked up the issue with or without the permission of the central leadership. Even if there was a political agenda, looks like it has backfired considering that it's not just the movie but Vijay too has made everyone say "mersalayeeten" (I am stunned).
Even though the producer of the movie, Murali Ramaswamy, claimed to have secured a truce with the BJP, the controversy is far from over.
Tailpiece: Mersal is not a traditional ancient Tamil word. It's a word colloquially used by youngsters in Chennai. Mersal has been directed by Atlee Kumar who has given a hat-trick with this movie. He was former assistant to director Shankar.