Truth is bitter pic.twitter.com/woFdxOntRn— H Raja (@HRajaBJP) October 22, 2017
"Detective" Raja's revelation has understandably led to much mirth on social media. Though actors belonging to minority religions in the Tamil industry, especially the men, tend to adopt a Hindu stage name (Vikram's real name, for instance, is Kennedy John Victor), their religious identity is far from being a secret. If it were a secret, why would Vijay send a letter with his "scandalous" full name to a Tamil media publication in the first place?
While it's relevant to ask why artists from minority religions feel compelled to tweak their names in order to have wider appeal, the question shouldn't be an accusation levied against the actors. Rather, we must ask ourselves what this says about the audience. Further, Vijay hasn't really changed his name - born Joseph Vijay Chandrasekhar, he has gone with the mononym 'Vijay'.
All of this information is in public domain and easily accessible. It's not buried anywhere in secret chambers like the black money that demonetisation was supposed to have unearthed.
Apart from the digs at GST and Digital India, the BJP has also claimed that Mersal is anti-Hindu because in one scene, Vijay's character, Vetrimaran, asks that a hospital be built in place of a temple. Ironically, a similar sentiment was expressed by PM Modi when he said that the building of toilets must be given priority over the building of temples. Will H Raja next claim that N Modi stands for Nathaniel Modi?
Further, the BJP has not commented on the fact that the villain in the film, played by SJ Surya (full name S Justin Selvaraj...just in case) is an evil doctor who goes by the Christian name of Daniel Arockiyaraj. Is this because the online version that H Raja watched to do his "research" did not have these portions?
The BJP's trick of "outing" someone's religious identity to give a communal twist to an issue is not new. Indeed, in the past, Modi has done the same with the then election commissioner Lyngdoh, persistently calling him "James Michael Lyngdoh" to emphasise his religious identity. In 2012, he went after the Congress party's Ahmed Patel, referring to him as "Ahmed-miyan" during the Assembly elections in Gujarat.
The tactics may have paid the party dividends in the past but it has only made the BJP look ridiculous in the current context in Tamil Nadu. In the online world, hashtags like #ILoveJosephVijay and memes ridiculing H Raja's "revelation" show that the public mood is against this attempt at playing communal politics. Tamil Nadu takes its cinema very seriously and whether Vijay is Joseph Vijay or Jaffar Vijay is irrelevant to his extensive fanbase. For them, he's simply 'Thalapathy' Vijay.
The views expressed are the author's own.