Popular actor ‘Thalapathy’ Vijay’s father and director SA Chandrasekar has said that Tamil movies relied predominantly on the hero’s star power these days rather than on content. He added that the power of good screenplays was no longer of importance to current directors and audiences. Chandrasekar, who was speaking at a pre-release event for director Ezhil’s Desingu Raja 2, also seemed to make veiled remarks against Vijay’s latest blockbuster Leo. The director has over 70 south Indian films to his name and had introduced Vijay as a child actor in his 1984 movie Vetri starring Vijayakant.
Chandrasekar said, “For a movie to be successful, the content should be good. The screenplay should be so good that the film should succeed no matter who the hero is. That is the sign of a good movie. My son Vijay has acted in so many films, but Thulladha Manamum Thullum [1999, directed by Ezhil] was a milestone in his life. There are about 10 such films that were a milestone for him. Two of those films’ directors are here before me — Perarasu and Ezhil. For an actor to come up in their career, the director plays a key role.” He went on to add, “Thulladha Manamum Thullum celebrated its silver anniversary. Was Vijay a big superstar at the time it came out? No. The screenplay elevated him. It was only after this film that his fanbase in Kerala expanded.”
Chandrasekar rued the fact that current Kollywood films were more focused on star appeal rather than the story. “These days no one has any respect for the screenplay. As long as they get a hero, they can make any kind of film. Today’s audiences have started watching movies for the sake of the hero. They don’t care about the plot or the screenplay. Because of the hero, the film runs well in theatres, so the directors think they’re big. Don’t get me wrong, I am speaking from my heart. All I mean to say is that if those films had better content, they would do even better.”
Chandrasekar also appeared to make veiled criticism against Vijay starrer and Lokesh Kanagaraj directorial Leo — particularly the sequence about Anthony Das (Sanjay Dutt) wanting to sacrifice his twins Leo (Vijay) and Elisa (Madonna Sebastian) for the sake of a superstitious blood ritual. “Recently I watched a film and phoned the director. I praised him saying that the first half was superb. I even said ‘one should learn how to make a movie from you’. He was listening to all of this. All I said next was ‘the second half isn’t quite okay’. Then he immediately said that he was eating and will call me back. He was listening to everything else and had not mentioned that he was eating. I saw the film five days before it was released. I told him ‘in these religions there is no such belief, that too of the father himself killing his child.’ The director said that he was eating and cut the call. He never rang me back either.”
“After the film’s release there was a lot of criticism. There was five days of time before the release, everything that I had pointed out was talked about by the critics as well. Today’s directors do not have the courage or humility to bear criticism,” Chandrasekar added.
In comparison, he spoke about how AR Murgadoss had responded to his feedback regarding another Vijay starrer, Thuppaki (2012). Chandrasekar recalled that while viewing the film before its release he had pointed out to Murgadoss that Thuppaki was based on the concept of terrorist sleeper-cells but does not explain anywhere what a sleeper cell is for the sake of the audience. Murugadoss, Chandrasekar said, had taken his feedback into consideration and included an explanation scene in the final cut of Thuppaki.
Chandrasekar also criticised how hero-centric formula movies in Kollywood have changed over the years and the impact it was having on youngsters. “I am speaking to young directors now. Come with good content. You have a responsibility. In those days, one person would write the screenplay and the direction would be by someone else. Now directors think they have to do everything. In those days if a character beheaded 10 people, we called him the villain. Today the hero is doing the same thing. It is being celebrated. I don’t understand what the message is. Is the message to tell audiences to also go ahead and behead 10 people? Today’s youngsters wear the same clothes or hairstyles that the hero has. They follow the hero, so I am begging you, teach good values in films. There should be a standard regarding what are the things a hero can do on screen. We don’t know anything about the private life of MGR, but on screen, have you seen him consume alcohol even in one scene? Why did he not do so? Because there were so many youngsters who were ready to follow what he did.”
In 2021, Vijay and Chandrasekar’s very public tussle over the political association Vijay Makkal Iyakkam (VMI) came to an end. VMI had been registered under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act, 1975 by Chandreshakar in June 2020. At the time, he claimed that he had done so with respect to the wishes of Vijay’s fans that he enter politics. However, Vijay was quick to distance himself from VMI and advised his fans to stay away from the organisation. VMI was officially dissolved in September 2021 after Vijay filed a petition against his father and mother Sobha Sekhar. The actor has since encouraged his fan association, the Thalapathy Vijay Makkal Iyakkam (TVMI), to participate in social service and contest in local body polls. Whether he intends to fully join politics remains to be seen despite his many cryptic comments so far.