By marking him out, the BJP seems to be pushing for the actor to jump into the political fray.

Vijays Neyveli selfie and the art of responding to political targeting
Flix Controversy Tuesday, February 11, 2020 - 12:34

After actor Vijay was questioned by I-T officials last week, he posted a selfie on Monday with the words 'Thank you Neyveli'. Vijay had been shooting for Lokesh Kanagaraj's Master when he was called for questioning. The selfie is from Neyveli where he's joined the sets of Master once again and was welcomed warmly by fans. Meanwhile, cadre from the Tamil Nadu BJP staged a protest at the Neyveli Lignite Corporation in Cuddalore district, where the shooting was happening, claiming that Vijay should not be shooting at a protected mining area. This, despite the crew obtaining the required permission from the NLC.

Vijay's Twitter handle mostly has only promos of his films. It's rare for him to tweet casual photographs of himself from the sets. The selfie, therefore, appears to be a response to the incidents of last week. While the I-T Department stated that the actor was being probed for the money he received for his last film Bigil, many have said that he was being targeted because he's seen as a political threat to the AIADMK-led ruling party backed by the BJP at the Centre. Though the Income Tax department may have had its reasons to raid financer Anbu Chezhiyan and others associated with him, the issue became political as BJP leaders like H Raja targeted Vijay. 

Vijay is considered to be the biggest star of his generation, along with Ajith, his close rival. However, unlike the latter who's kept a distance from politics, Vijay appears to be keenly interested in joining the game at some point. His seniors in the industry, Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth, have already taken the plunge though neither has personally contested an election yet. His father SA Chandrasekhar has previously said that he'd like to see his son in politics and the actor, too, has given his opinion on political issues whenever he's thought it fit to do so, including at film promo events. His fan clubs are organised and could very well become his political base.

His Mersal as well as Sarkar, took on the BJP at the Centre and the AIADMK at the state level. While the first film had jibes on demonetisation, GST, Digital India, and a scene where his character says a hospital should be built in place of a temple, the second one ripped into the AIADMK, from distributing freebies to their late leader Jayalalithaa. Objections were raised on both films by political parties and the producers eventually bowed down to the pressure and made the required cuts. Bigil, which came after these two films, steered clear of overt political messaging and mostly stuck to the story of a man who coaches a women's football team. But it seems that the once ruffled feathers have stayed ruffled.

When Mersal released, BJP leader H Raja made a show of "outing" Vijay as a Christian. Tweeting the actor's voter ID, H Raja emphasised that his name was 'Joseph Vijay'. While Vijay did not react to this directly, he issued a press release thanking his friends from the industry, the media and his fans for their support of the film. The letter pad had 'Joseph Vijay' as well as 'Jesus Saves' on it. Some applauded him for asserting his identity, but in truth, the actor's letter pad has always had his full name. In June 2014, he'd written a letter to PM Modi about withdrawing service tax for the film industry and then too, his letter pad had been the same.

The BJP has increasingly taken to rabble rousing in Tamil Nadu to create in-roads and Vijay appears to have become their chosen target. Any attack on him will guarantee visibility, but so far, the BJP's efforts have only made it look petty and small. They've been unable to dent Vijay's image as a superstar and the actor only seems to gain every time they go after him. In fact, several on social media compared Rajinikanth with Vijay, noting that while the former had become a BJP "puppet" to get I-T cases on him withdrawn, the latter was standing up for the people. It might be a stretch to position Vijay as a champion against the divisive politics of the BJP; after all, Kollywood has made several films against the policies of the Centre, not just Vijay. However, by marking him out, the BJP seems to be pushing for the actor to jump into the fray.

Vijay's responses so far have been muted but these have only endeared him more to his fans. It's almost as if he knows there's no need to say anything more when his stardom speaks for itself. And so, a selfie is enough reply for a disrupted shoot and some hours of I-T questioning.