All set for different roles

PEOPLE CALL him `Puratchi Kalaignar'. The tag does fit the bill for someone known for his revolutionary antics and ambitions. Till last year, he maintained quite a low profile. That's when he was elected the President of the South India Film Artistes Association. When, he swore to rid the Association of its debts.

In the last year or so, his popularity shot up so much that there has been speculation in the media about his entry into politics. Sudhish Kamath meets a simple, down-to- earth Vijayakanth in a jovial mood, chatting in Tamil about his immediate plans for the industry deep in trouble and his stance on politics.

HERE'S ARE a few quick facts which people around him want him to tell the world, but the actor finds himself embarrassed. Vijayakanth apparently spent Rs. 50 lakhs on educating the poor this year. Last year it was Rs. 40 lakhs and Rs. 30 lakhs before that.

He has a Kalyana Mandapam in the name of his parents and a free outpatient centre, dedicated to his parents in addition to the new engineering college which he launched this week. That's not just all about his `Puratchi'. But, first we quiz him about the `Kalaignar' aspect of the actor: Why so many cop roles?

``I have done 135 films with `Thavasi' now. I have done all varieties of stories, not just police roles. Most of films deal with terrorism which is relevant till date. Look at the incidents in the news. The Sri Lanka bombing, the Phoolan Devi killing, Kargil, all these are stories that directors feel should be told to the public,'' he adds.

But he is guarded about such subjects most of the time, he confesses. ``I am scared of playing police officer again and again, I don't want people to think I am repeating my roles. But if terrorism is the theme, then it ultimately becomes another `police story','' says the actor. In `Vanchinathan', he did get the rap from critics for playing a cop who takes law into his hands. Vijayakanth only justifies the action. ``It is a story of a brave police officer. So I don't betray the police department in any way. You tell me, why are police officers transferred every time a government changes. There is some nexus between politics and police. If there is a mistake, a lesson has to be taught. These stories need to be told,'' says Vijayakanth.

So are his films, reflections of his thoughts? He answers in the affirmative. But surely violence can't be the answer? ``We see so many shoot-outs happening in real life. We can see violence reported on TV, and in the papers. To me that is violence, not what we show in films,'' he feels.

``There has been violence ever since the days of Christ... he was crucified. In cinema, we say good things, we say things like patriotism, we make films against drugs, terrorism and present the problems in a way people understand,'' Vijayakanth explains. However, he is quick to add, that ``we can still win with Ahimsa''.

With so many messages and dialogues with political overtones finding their place in almost each of his new movies, is he just waiting to take the plunge into politics, we ask him.

``I have no idea of entering politics as of now. The previous government was good. The present government is still new. We have to give it time and see what it does. I believe in people's verdict. They are usually right. But if there are any mistakes in the functioning of the system, we will expose them through movies,'' he says.

He quickly blames the media of twisting his quotes in a way that they send out the wrong signals. ``Rajnikant was a victim of the media propaganda. All that speculation on whether he will enter politics or not, would have put so much pressure on him. Now, it is very understandable that he keeps away from the media,'' he says.

``I am not falling for that,'' he smiles. At the moment, he is practical enough to realise his duty as the President of the artiste's association. He wants something serious to be done about piracy, VCDs in the grey market and films shown on even State-government run luxury omni-buses.

``We have repaid debts of 52 lakhs, we have to repay another 73 lakhs which I plan to raise organising cultural programmes featuring all the artistes. Sarath has been doing a good job as well,'' he says. He plans to raise a fund of Rs. three crores for the welfare of the artistes. So much for the `Puratchi' part of his tag.

He dismisses any doubts on unity among the artistes. ``There is unity because they probably respect the leadership,'' he says. The artistes would soon meet for a condolence meeting for Sivaji Ganesan when he would brief them about the status of the request for the memorial.

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