NEW DELHI, Dec 28: HIS achievements as an actor paralleled those of Rajinikanth and his political career echoed the success of M G Ramachandran (MGR), the noted Tamil actor and Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) founder and general secretary Vijayakanth, who was admitted to a private hospital in Chennai for pneumonia, passed away on Thursday. He was 71.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, other leaders and celebrities have condoled the passing away of Vijayakanth, who had earned a moniker “Captain” like many other Tamil actors do, for he mostly played the roles of army or police officers in films. Mr Modi said Vijayakanth’s death has left a void that would be hard to fill. As a political leader, the Prime Minister said Vijayakant was deeply committed to public service, and has left a lasting impact on Tamil Nadu’s political landscape.
While film and politics have always intersected in this region, the transition is not as easy as made out to be – and Vijayakanth was the only actor after MGR to have actually successfully translated his cinematic fame into substantial political influence. While J Jayalalithaa also touched political highs, she had MGR as mentor, there were many other actors who tried their luck in politics but fell by the wayside.
Earlier in the day, the party informed through a post on its official X handle that Vijayakanth was admitted to a hospital and put on ventilator support after he complained of breathing problems. His body was brought to his residence and was later taken to the DMDK office. His funeral will be held with full state honour on Friday.
Earlier, in November, Vijayakanth was admitted to MIOT Hospital in Chennai as his health deteriorated. Suffering from cough and throat pain, he was under the observation of doctors for 14 days.
Widely known as ‘Captain’, Vijayakanth’s life is marked by a successful career in the Tamil film industry. He featured in 154 movies before venturing into politics. While holding a position at Nadigar Sangam (officially known as the South Indian Artistes’ Association (SIAA)), Vijayakanth brought revolutionary changes to the South film industry.
He founded DMDK in 2005 and the next year his party contested in all assembly seats and bagged a lowly 10 per cent of the total vote share. However, none of the party’s candidates, apart from the founder-leader came out on the winning side. In 2011, DMDK fought the elections in alliance with the AIADMK and contested 41 constituencies, winning 26.
The Captain’s party scripted history, winning more seats than the DMK in 2011 and emerged as the principal Opposition Party that year. Vijayakanth served as the leader of the Opposition in the Tamil Nadu Assembly from 2011-2016.
Later, owing to differences of opinion, the DMDK broke ties with the AIADMK, resulting in bulk resignations of DMDK MLAs. The party, therefore, lost its status of being the main Opposition party. He served as a Member of the Legislative Assembly twice, representing the Virudhachalam and Rishivandiyam constituencies.
The DMDK contested the 2014 parliament elections in alliance with the NDA but faced a huge defeat and its vote percentage saw a significant drop. In the 2016, 2019 and 2021 elections, the DMDK didn’t perform well as Vijayakanth battled health complications.
Yesteryear Tamil superstars like the late MGR and Sivaji Ganesan, followed by present day superstars Kamal Haasan and Rajnikanth, besides Prabhu and Sathyaraj had crossed the 100 film milestone way back, but their respective 100th film seem to have not clicked at box office. But Vijayakanth was an exception. His 100th film ‘Captain Prabhakaran’ was a big hit.
In his prolific cinema career, Vijayakanth distinguished himself not just in quantity but with the nature of his roles. He portrayed a police officer in more than two dozen films, and his plots often centred around themes of honesty, anti-corruption, and the significance of keeping promises – which went a long way towards boosting political support for him among the poor.