Popular Tamil Cinema Actor and DMDK Party Founder -Leader Vijayakanth Known as ‘Captain’ and “Black MGR” passes away at the age of 71.

by Arun Janardhanan & Janardhan Koushik

Tamil super star and Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) founder Vijayakanth, fondly called as ‘Captain’, passed away at a private hospital in Chennai on Thursday after a prolonged illness. He was 71.

Vijayakanth’s death marks the end of an influential chapter in Tamil Nadu’s political history and leaves a void in the state’s diverse political tapestry.

MIOT Hospital in Chennai released a statement confirming that ‘Captain’ Vijayakanth, who was admitted for pneumonia, was placed on ventilator support due to the severity of his condition. Despite the dedicated efforts of the medical team, the statement said, he succumbed to illness and passed away on the morning of December 28, 2023.

Vijayakanth had previously been admitted to the same hospital on November 18 for a febrile illness, from which he was discharged on December 11.

On December 14, the actor-turned-politician made his first public appearance post-discharge to participate in DMDK’s executive and general council meeting. During the meeting, his wife Premalatha Vijayakanth was announced as the party’s new general secretary.

The passing of Vijayakanth not only signifies the loss of a distinguished personality but also highlights the diminishing influence of a political party that once held considerable potential.

Vijayakanth stood out as the only Tamil actor after M G Ramachandran or MGR to achieve notable success in the realm of Tamil politics.

Vijayakanth who gave moviegoers their dose of adrenalin rush with his powerful action sequences and fiery dialogues was born as Vijayaraj on August 25, 1952 in Madurai. He debuted in the film industry with ‘Iniikum Ilamai’ in 1979. His popular films include Senthoora Poove, Pulan Visaranai, Chatriyan, Captain Prabhakaran, Chinna Gounder, Sethupathi IPS, Honest Raj, Vanathai Pola, and Ramana, among others. Vijayakanth also headed the actors’ body called Nadigar Sangam.

In 2005, he entered politics by floating his party. The DMDK emerged as a fresh political alternative in Tamil Nadu’s Dravidian politics. Vijayakanth’s popularity, particularly in rural areas, was a critical factor in the party’s initial success.

In the 2006 Tamil Nadu Assembly elections, just a year after its inception, the DMDK secured a surprising 8.4 per cent of the votes, contesting in 232 constituencies, with Vijayakanth being the sole winner. He contested from Virudhachalam constituency. This early success established DMDK as a noteworthy player in the state’s political arena.

He turned the tables in the 2011 Assembly polls by joining hands with AIADMK. His party secured 29 seats, pushing the DMK to a distant third and became the state’s main Opposition.

When DMDK contested alone in 2006 Assembly polls and 2009 Lok Sabha elections, they had 8.4 per cent and 10.3 per cent vote share.

Ever since the party entered coalition politics, the career graph has changed. It was 7.9 per cent vote share in 2011 Assembly polls, 5.1 per cent in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, 2.4 per cent in 2016 Assembly polls, 2.16 per cent in 2019 Lok Sabha polls, and 0.43 per cent in 2021 Assembly polls.

Or to put it straight, the party has not won a single seat in the state after 2011, a period that also marked the beginning of the decline of Vijayakanth’s health and gradual withdrawal from active politics.

His journey in the Tamil film industry is a tale of perseverance and eventual triumph. He faced a series of setbacks with initial films failing to make a mark. Doorathu Idi Muzhakkam in 1980 and Sattam Oru Iruttarai in 1981, marked his presence in the industry. His rugged looks and robust portrayal of characters resonated deeply with audiences, particularly in rural areas, and many started calling him ‘Karuppu MGR,’ a period when MGR’s film and political career was nearing to an end.

It was Captain Prabhakaran (1991), a successful movie that earned him the affectionate moniker ‘Captain’. His role in the 1992 film Chinna Gounder as a village chieftain further cemented his status as a beloved actor among the rural masses, thanks to the film’s phenomenal success.

In addition to his cinematic achievements, Vijayakanth was honoured with the Kalaimamani award by the Tamil Nadu government in 2001, recognising his contributions to Tamil arts and cinema. His remarkable performance in the 2002 anti-corruption hit Ramanaa earned him the Tamil Nadu State Film Award.

He is survived by wife, Premalatha, and two sons.

Courtesy:The Indian Express