February 7, 2024


Will actor Vijay’s entry shake up Tamil Nadu politics?

(Image credit: Vijay’s Instagram post)

There’s a certain theatricality to politics. It’s a lot of performing and posturing for the masses. Indian politics has no shortage of that. Over the decades, especially in South India, movie stars have dipped their toes into the political arena. Tamil Nadu is arguably the biggest and most notable arena for this.

The latest entrant is ‘Thalapathy’ Vijay and his party – Tamizhaga Vetri Kazhagam (TVK). The 49-year-old has now pledged to work for the people of Tamil Nadu. In a state dominated by Dravidian politics and parties, can Vijay and his TVK shake things up in any meaningful way?


The road from the box office to the ballot box is paved with complications. Tamil Nadu is the perfect backdrop where Kollywood meets politics. When they mix, it’s a potent combo. Take M.G. Ramachandran (or MGR, as he was known), for example. The former Chief Minister and big screen icon’s death in 1987 was a turning point. For some, it was too much – 30 people in the state killed themselves due to their grief. For his acolytes, he was “puratchi thalaivar”, the revolutionary leader.

That’s the level of fervour movie stars and politicians generate in Tamil Nadu. MGR wasn’t the last. There’s Annadurai, Karunanidhi, Jayalalithaa, Kamal Haasan, and the recently deceased Vijaykanth. One suspiciously absent name is Rajinikanth. He did briefly flirt with the idea of entering politics, speaking of spiritual politics, etc.

Of the recent entrants, Kamal Haasan’s Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) launched in 2018 with much fanfare. The results were less than ideal. He contested from Coimbatore in 2021 and lost. But he’s still active and speaks out on important issues affecting the state.

As far as Vijay is concerned, political observers took notice of a speech he gave when interacting with school students last year. He urged them to read Ambedkar, Periyar, and Kamaraj and reject “cash for votes”. The media frenzy ensued. His fan club, the All India Thalapathy Vijay Makkal Iyyakam, all but confirmed he was ‘entering politics’. It was more of a ‘soft launch’.

Some have looked to his recent movies for clues. Sarkar was released in 2018. It was the story of one man taking on the political establishment in the state. The AIADMK, in power at the time, didn’t like it since its schemes were criticised. Party workers staged protests at theatres. Producers gave in and deleted some “controversial” scenes. A point to note here, the movie was produced by Sun Pictures, owned by the DMK’s extended family.

In the years ahead, Vijay kept giving hints about his political aspirations. His movies continued to not be shy about being political. Things got a little messy in 2021. His fan club was registered as a political party by his father, SA Chandrasekhar. Vijay filed a case against his parents and urged his fans not to partake. The following year, members of his fan club contested in rural body elections and won 129 seats.

With his formal entry confirmed, the state waits to see how he manoeuvres the complicated Tamil Nadu political arena. Can he disrupt the Dravidian stronghold?

VIEW: There’s potential

What Vijay and the TVK have going for them is time. He’s not expected to contest the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Instead, the focus is on the 2026 state elections. That gives him time to study the landscape and strategise. Tamil Nadu has always been about people power and drawing crowds. Vijay ticks those boxes by generating blockbusters at the cinema. Some subtle and not-so-subtle hints and statements about the state’s politics don’t hurt.

He’s got a large and eager fan base who’ve already contested polls. That could be his secret weapon. The fan club has rolled out several welfare schemes like blood donation drives and free breakfasts named after Periyar, K Kamaraj, and BR Ambedkar. In his recent announcement, he said he won’t back any party in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. A shrewd move to not back himself into a corner come 2026.

Political observers have argued that the timing of his announcement is right. There seems to be a lack of strong Dravidian leadership in the state. What Vijay can perhaps offer is a mix of Dravidian and Tamil nationalist politics. His popularity cuts across local communal lines. People pay money just to watch his trailers in theatres.

COUNTERVIEW: An uphill climb

If there are people who are sick and tired of movie stars entering politics, then Vijay will have a hard time getting them on board. The question is, how large is that constituency? Perhaps the best way to predict his performance will be to look at the past. More specifically, the recent past. Kamal Haasan and his MNM didn’t exactly take the state’s political arena by storm. Vijaykanth made a name for himself but didn’t reach the highest of highs.

Tamil Nadu politics is awash in money. You need a lot of it to compete. While Vijay does have financial clout, the resources needed to run a statewide campaign and party are more than any individual can sustain. Then there’s his platform. What’s his political ideology? It’s still unclear. He has previously been vocal on corruption and caste injustices. He’s also done the usual “work for the people” routine.

Giving himself time to observe and plan also gives others to do the same. He’s not exactly the in-your-face type of campaigner. That might not play well when the gloves come off, and he becomes a target for the existing parties. If he’s not going to align himself with the two big Dravidian outfits, the BJP, or other regional parties, what’s his constituency? That’s what it comes down to at the end of the day. Where will his votes come from?

Reference Links:

  • From silver screen to politics: Tamil actors who wooed Tamil Nadu as politicians – The Week
  • From box office to ballot box: TN’s tryst with stars in politics, and how Vijay might fare – Newslaundry
  • Why Thalapathy Vijay could be a superhit in Tamil Nadu’s political vacuum – India Today
  • Actor Vijay’s political entry could help BJP in Tamil Nadu, cut DMK votes – Deccan Herald
  • Opinion: Will Vijay, AKA “Beast”, Slay Dravidian Parties In Tamil Nadu? – NDTV
  • Vijay’s Political Entry: Can ‘Thalapathy’ Make an Impact on Tamil Nadu Politics? – The Quint
  • Will ‘Thalapathy’ Vijay disrupt Tamil Nadu politics? – The Indian Express

What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)

a) Actor Vijay’s entry will shake up Tamil Nadu politics.

b) Actor Vijay’s entry won’t shake up Tamil Nadu politics.


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