Focus CornerTamil Nadu

The Rise and Fall of ‘Captain’ Vijayakanth: A Cinematic Legacy and Political Journey Explored

From Blockbuster Hits to Political Challenges - Navigating the Iconic Path of Tamil Nadu's 'Captain' Amid Recent Health Struggles

In South Indian cinema and politics, the name Vijayakanth is often associated with Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. There is a historical resonance rooted in the legacy of Tamil actor Vijayaraj Alakarswamy, popularly known as Captain Vijayakanth. Long before his political foray, the Captain enthralled audiences with his dynamic performances. Notably, in the 1991 blockbuster “Captain Prabhakaran,” a visual spectacle that transcended language barriers.

The Cinematic Journey

Vijayakanth was born on August 25, 1952, in Madurai, Tamil Nadu. His acting career started in 1979 in “Inikku Ilamai.” in a villa role. Despite early setbacks, his diverse roles, including the acclaimed “Durathu Edi Muzhakam,” propelled him to stardom. With iconic films like “Nooravat Naal” and “Captain Prabhakaran,” Vijayakanth captured Tamilians’ hearts and became a pan-South Indian sensation. He is often compared to Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan.

The Pinnacle: Captain Prabhakaran

RK Selvamani’s “Captain Prabhakaran,” which starred Vijayakanth, was a turning point in his career. The movie character “Captain Prabhakaran” bestows upon him the title “Captain.” The movie’s story is based on the adventures of the infamous bandit Veerappan. In action scenes shot without dupes, his roles in the film demonstrated Vijayakanth’s skill. Notwithstanding the difficulties encountered during production—such as a dislocated shoulder—the film was a huge hit and cemented Vijayakanth’s reputation as a major player in the film industry.

Political Ascent and Descent

With fame on the silver screen, Vijayakanth moved into politics, founding the Desiya Murpok Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) in 2005. His political journey saw highs and lows, with notable success in the 2011 elections, making him the Leader of the Opposition. However, his alliances, wider controversies and health issues dimmed his political star. Attempts to align with the BJP and other parties faced defeats, and Vijayakanth’s political influence weakened.

Vijayakanth’s journey was tainted by controversies, from assaulting his candidate during a campaign to spitting on media workers. These incidents and his battles within the assembly contributed to his isolation. His ill-fated alliances and health struggles further diminished his political clout, leading to his withdrawal from active politics.

The Final Act:

Vijayakanth’s life, marked by extraordinary success and subsequent challenges, concluded as he surrendered to illness at 71. Despite his turbulent political journey, he leaves a cinematic excellence and philanthropy legacy. His contributions to Tamil cinema, commitment to social causes, and love for Kerala endure in the hearts of those who admired the man fondly called ‘Captain.’

The Man Behind the Legend:

Vijayakanth, born Vijayaraj Alakarswamy, emerged from humble beginnings in Madurai, Tamil Nadu. His parents, KN Alagarswamy and Andal Alagarswamy, provided the foundation for his journey. His early interest in drama paved the way for a prolific career in the entertainment industry. His first film, “Inikku Ilamai” (1979), began a diverse filmography that showcased his versatility as an actor.

From early setbacks to critical acclaim with films like “Durathu Edi Muzhakam” (1980), part of the Indian panorama at the International Film Festival, Vijayakanth’s career gained momentum. His breakthrough came with SA Chandrasekhar’s ‘Sattam Oru Netharai’ (1981); there was no looking back. The ‘angry youth’ persona, addressing societal injustices in films like “Sivapu Malli” and “Jaatikkoru Neethi,” endeared him to Tamil audiences.

A Cinematic Trailblazer

Vijayakanth’s cinematic journey included a remarkable 18-film release in 1984, featuring super hits like “Nooravat Naal” and “Vaidehi Kathirunthal.” Notable films such as “Oomai Vizhigal,” “Koolikaran,” “Ninaive Oru Sangeet,” and “Captain Prabhakar” showcased his acting prowess. His commitment to action sequences without dupes and a desire to be a stunt master before becoming a hero set him apart in the industry.

“Captain Prabhakaran,” the masterpiece, was a visual extravaganza with suspenseful action sequences that debuted in 1991. Based on Veerappan’s life, the film shot Vijayakanth to fame and won him admirers throughout South India. His portrayal of an IFS agent sent on a mission to apprehend bandit Veerabhadran struck a chord with viewers, solidifying his reputation as a major player in the film industry.

Political Transition

Vijayakanth’s success in movies made it easy for him to move into politics. He established the DMDK in 2005, making a name for himself politically. His party gained strength despite initial opposition, and Vijayakanth became the Leader of the Opposition in the 2011 elections due to the DMDK’s partnership with the AIADMK.

However, the political landscape was as tumultuous as the film industry. Despite initial success, alliances with the BJP and other parties failed to yield the expected results in subsequent elections. Vijayakanth’s health struggles weakened his political influence, eventually causing him to withdraw from active politics.

Controversies and Challenges

Vijayakanth’s political career was not without controversy. These acts damaged his political reputation, from spitting on media personnel to attacking his candidate during a campaign. The assembly’s conflicts, including flag-waving and bench-jumping, gave rise to an image of a leader struggling with the difficulties of public office.

Vijayakanth was suspended in 2011 following his outburst during a contentious debate in the state house. It draws attention to his difficulties adjusting to the complex world of politics. The story of a leader dealing with internal issues was further enhanced by the beating controversy that followed in 2014, in which he was accused of slapping a party MLA.

Conflicts with the media, including his 2015 spitting on reporters and news conference boycotts, exacerbated his relationship with them. These episodes added to his deteriorating health and made him less of a political figure.

The Personal Struggles

Beyond the public controversies, Vijayakanth faced personal challenges, including battles with alcoholism. His excessive drinking became a subject of public ridicule and impacted his political standing. Reports of his inability to participate in election campaigns due to drunkenness added a layer of complexity to his public persona.

Despite these challenges, Vijayakanth sought redemption. He acknowledged his struggles with alcohol and attempted to make a comeback in both cinema and politics. However, fate had other plans.

Legacy and Contributions

Vijayakanth’s legacy extends beyond the controversies and challenges. His contributions to Tamil cinema, marked by iconic roles and a commitment to diverse characters, elevated the industry to national acclaim. His impact on the Nadigar Sangam and efforts to solve issues faced by Tamil filmmakers endeared him to the film fraternity.

Known for breaking conventions, Vijayakanth transformed the approach to food on film sets, making non-veg items mandatory for fighters and dancers, emphasizing the importance of nourishment for hard work. His philanthropic endeavours, including a generous donation of Rs 1 crore to Kerala’s flood fund, reflected a man who, despite personal struggles, remained committed to social causes.

Vijayakanth’s widespread appeal was further evidenced by his passion for Kerala and his success in Malayalam cinema. He showed his dedication to other people’s well-being even during the worst of his condition.

Vijayakanth’s narrative of triumph, conflict, and resiliency is woven into the complex tapestry of Tamil politics and cinema. Even though the Captain navigated turbulent waters, his influence on the political and cultural scene is still felt today. Even though Vijayakanth’s adventure is ending, his legacy will always be remembered by those who saw the Captain come and go and by the archives of South Indian cinema. Notwithstanding the controversy, Vijayakanth made significant contributions to society and the arts that live on and are still studied today.

Rohit Sharma

Rohit Sharma is a seasoned Political Journalist with a deep passion for Indian Politics. With over a decade of experience in the field, he has established himself as a trusted… More »

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