Gunning for the action hero's boots

He wants to get kicking in the big league, and makes no bones about his ambition to be the biggest star around in Tamil cinema. And pack more punches into his performance, literally.

By the looks of it, he seems to have it all. Simplicity and straight-forward honesty (to the extent of admitting he can't identify Hollywood stars or films) and sincerity.

But, he watches all kind of cinema, irrespective of whether it's good or bad because he says he learns from each one. And yearns for better stories and roles from them. ``I can't say now that the roles I'm doing are `different'. I'm just playing my age, and characters that are my age. Within this `range', I try to play characters that are challenging,'' `Ilaya Thalapathy' for his fans, Vijay speaks in colloquial Tamil with Sudhish Kamath, in between `takes' at the sets of `Shah Jehan'.

WHAT IS it about Vijay that sends his fans crazy? What is it THAT makes them stick his posters inside their rooms at home, at work, even inside autorickshaws? THAT which makes Coke sign him on? THAT which led to the mobile phone line bombed with calls to the extent of jamming lines?

And what is it THAT makes scores of fans gather in front of his house every Sunday for a `darshan'? ``Therillenga (I don't know),'' the soft-spoken hero says, instantly lighting up with a smile at the compliment.

``Maybe, it is because of the characters and stories. The characters I play is always of the youngsters and their problems. The stories are those that affect them, touch them...maybe that's the reason,'' says Vijay.

He admits that after completing his schooling, he wasn't really interested in studies. It was because of his parents that he decided to give in to their wish of doing Visual Communication at Loyola College.

Vijay occasionally used to spend time with his director father S.A.Chandrasekar at story discussions. ``Direction is a tough job,'' he learnt.

So, was it his Dad who pushed him into movies? ``No, actually, it was me who compelled my father to make a movie,'' he recollects how `Nalaya Theerpu' was made. ``I forced them. First, there was a war at home. I hadn't finished studies then. But later, for my sake, they agreed,'' he adds.

But it was Fazil's `Kadhalukku Mariyathai' that boosted his career. ``It was a big hit. Everybody approached me for similar roles. And I had more hits in `Love Today', `Thullatha Manamum Thullum','' says Vijay. `Kadhalukku Mariyathai', `Thullatha Manamum Thullum' and `Kushi' are his favourites, esp. Kushi.

What about Fazil's `Kannukul Nilavu' where he played an intense character with a split personality? ``I liked that role. But I don't know why people didn't like it,'' he wonders.

Vijay loves to do roles which have shades of grey. The anti-hero types, like the one he did in `Priyamudan'. ``I want to do films like `Sigappu Rojakkal', `Baazigar', `Darr'. Because I find that those roles have more potential. A hero is always the do-gooder, there are very few things he does because he has to be within that circle of doing good things to people. But when you are the villain, you can do anything,'' he smiles.

But, when he did `Priyamudan', even his Mom couldn't digest him killing people. Vijay thereafter, decided he would do such roles ``once in a while''. And recently, he also decided to work at one movie at a time and doing 3-4 films in a year.

He has no qualms of working with new directors. He picks a project only when ``there's something in the story during the two-hour long story-discussion session that creates `badhippu'... something that touches'' him.

He works only till six in the evening unless there is an emergency, and takes his Sundays off. He dedicates half of his Sunday to his fans. And he still hangs out with his old-friends from college. Does he have close-friends in the industry? Ajit, Madhavan or anyone? ``I would love to. But we just have a `Hi- Bye' kind of a relationship, maybe because our timings don't match. Surya is a good friend of mine,'' he reveals.

Finally, we ask him a few words about Ajit and Madhavan. ``Ajit is in the big range off late, he's had good openings, nice actor, good performer...he is handsome. I loved him in `Valee'. I even told director Surya, `You could have approached me','' says Vijay. ``Madhavan...the latest craze. I liked `Minnale'. I love the energy he displays on screen, always up to something...`oru surusuruppu, antha thuruthurupu' is very good,'' he says.

``Any new face is competition for me...Not just Ajit or Madhavan... Whoever enters the industry does so, only because they have something. I have to do better,'' he adds quickly.

Rajni and Kamal are certainly his inspiration for he grew up watching them, his favourites being `Annamalai' and `Nayakan'. And he dreams to make it into their league. Someday.