Thalapathy Vijay in politics: What does his absence mean for Tamil film industry?

Thalapathy Vijay announced his political debut on February 2.Tamil actor Vijay, fondly called Thalapathy (commander) by fans, is one of the highest-paid and celebrated superstars in the industry.

Ruban Mathivanan, Managing Director of GK Cinemas said that it was quite a shock for him when the announcement came on February 2. “I see it as big damage to the film business. It is shocking to see him call it quits at the peak of his career. With two films a year, he easily brings Rs 300 to 400 crore to the film industry.”

How will Vijay’s absence impact Kollywood, an industry that also thrives on big-budget entertainers, along with other small and medium-budget films? Industry experts in and shared their opinion about Vijay’s exit from films and the impact it could have on the Tamil film industry.

Over the past few years, Vijay has been churning out at least one film a year. “Coming to the Tamil Nadu theatrical collection, his films easily make Rs 75 to 80 crore share. And I don’t see any other actor who has such a big pull as Vijay does,” Ruban added.

Vijay said, “As far as I am concerned, politics is not just another profession; it is a sacred service to the people… I wish to fully immerse myself in politics for public service after completing my commitments to another film I have already committed to, without causing any disruption to party activities. This is what I consider my gratitude and duty to the people of Tamil Nadu.”

Vijay is not the first, and probably won’t be the last Tamil superstar to embark on a political career. Five Chief Ministers from the state have had links to the film industry. We take a look at the decades-long tradition.

Annadurai, Tamil Nadu’s first CM from a Dravidian party, belonged to the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). He was also the first to utilise the accessible and ‘mass’ medium of movies to promote the anti-caste, anti-religion ‘Self-respect Movement’ associated with the party. Writing scripts for films such as Nallathambi (1948) and Vellaikaari (1949), he critiqued Brahminism.

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