Vijay is one of the most popular actors in Tamil film industry, with terrific pull at the box-office. For the last few years there have been rumours that Vijay is eyeing politics, as he has a huge fan base. For this reason, established political parties like ADMK and DMK have always eyed him with suspicion. Last Sunday his summer biggie Theri (Spark) launched its soundtrack amid fanfare at the prestigious Sathyam Cinemas.
The link between the film industry and Tamil politics is very strong in this part of the world. Five of the state's chief ministers, including Jayalalithaa and arch-rival Karunanidhi, have emerged from the film industry. Even Opposition leader Vijayakanth is an actor. The government machinery controls the movie business in different ways like cap on movie tickets, entertainment tax exemption while politicians are always on the look out to bring in legislations to control the film trade.
In fact Vijay’s last few films have run into trouble with the Jayalalithaa-led government in the state. In the case of the 2013 release Thalaiva (leader), some unknown organisation raised threats against the film, which the government said may cause a “law and order” problem. The film could not be released in Tamil Nadu alone for two weeks, causing great financial loss.
If the political grapevine is to be believed, the government officials could not stomach the poster of the film, showing Vijay from the back waving to a crowd with the tagline - “Time to lead”.
In 2014, AR Murgadoss' Kathi (Knife) also faced problems, again from an unknown group that hurled a petrol bomb at a multiplex which had planned to release the film. This time the group was targeting the London based Lyca group, who are the producers of the film and are rumoured to be close to Sri Lankan ex-president Rajapaksa. However Kathi released on time eventually, as a compromise was worked out, and it went on to become a hit.
Last year, Vijay’s big budget film Puli (tiger) was released, but it collapsed at the box-office. It is said that the film was not given entertainment tax exemption by the state government even though it was eligible, as the satellite rights of the film was given to Kalanidhi Maran-controlled Sun TV. And now, Vijay badly needs a hit to overcome the failure of Puli and it looks like Theri is the answer.
Last Sunday there was a mammoth crowd at Sathyam Cinemas in Chennai, to witness the Theri audio launch. At the event, Vijay told his fans, “The achievements of others must not serve as your benchmarks. On the contrary, your achievements must serve as their benchmarks. Never be arrogant.”
Theri is currently the hottest film in the circuit, as its veteran producer Kalaipuli S Thanu is getting it ready for an April 14 – Tamil New Year day release. Thanu has strong political links and is influential within the ruling party. It is music director and actor GV Prakash’s (AR Rahman’s nephew) 50th film and has veteran director Mahendran for the first time playing the baddie. Theri also has two heroines: Samantha and Amy Jackson. Former actress Meena’s daughter Nainika debuts as a child artist, playing Vijay’s daughter in the film
The young director of the film Atlee, who earlier made the highly successful film Raja Rani has said, “Theri is a commercial film meant to entertain audiences. It does not have any political dialogues or punchlines. Vijay plays a police officer in the film.”
All eyes in Tamil Nadu are on Theri, as it gets ready for a release at a time when the state is going to polls.