Chennai: In the star-crazy Dravida Nadu, it has become a staid trait that the people get politically frenzied whenever a big star's film is released and even the so-called sober media scrambles on to the bandwagon to debate feverishly on the probable dates for the launch of his party.
Vijay's Mersal has all these ingredients and more for even subduing, at least for some weeks while its box office stays hot, the recent 'political' excitement caused by his seniors Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan.
Actually, Vijay is the senior to the two in the game, having declared political intentions way back in 2009 at a Puducherry public function. His strong statements supporting Jallikattu, opposing demonitisation - 'it caused immense hardship to the common man' - and meeting Rahul Gandhi, provided great feed for the 'experts' speculating on the next star entry into TN politics. "Expectations have always remained rather high when it comes to Vijay considering that he has a better public rating when it comes to 'guts' when compared to Rajinikanth who is seen as someone constantly hedging on the issue, and Kamal who does not have great following among the masses", says an analyst wishing anonymity.
He adds, "Besides, he has a very shrewd adviser in his father S. A. Chandrasekhar. He has been guiding him extremely well in the cinema career and he is preparing him equally well for the political entry".
"Thalapathi is not new to politics, though he has not formally announced a party and a flag. He has been taking up public issues strongly, passionately and has been genuine about them unlike some stars who make noise just for publicity. For example, he sat in protest at Nagapattinam during the Sri Lankan Tamil conflict. He had raised his voice on the Cauvery issue", said fan club functionary Sunderarajan.
Like the villains in his blockbusters, there are now political leaders challenging Vijay on his Mersal punches, such as his criticism of GST and corporate hospitals. BJP state president Dr Tamilisai Sounderarajan appears to have bitten a raw chilli when she said she had "heard" that Mersal had ridiculed GST and digital India. "From where do these people get the guts to attack the Central Government?" she fumed, and went on: "We can carry out development only if we collect taxes. Can the actors who speak like this also reveal if they are paying their taxes? They have no right to speak against Modi".
The hero invariably has a sidekick in the film. Coming stoutly to his defence, former health minister and PMK leader Dr Anbumani Ramadoss slammed Tamilisai for her attack on Vijay. "What's wrong in Vijay criticising GST in Mersal (the hero points to Singapore where uniform 7 per cent GST is collected while education and healthcare is free for the people; whereas in India, 28 per cent GST is collected and these public services come at high cost? What's wrong in questioning why we in India do not get education and healthcare free?" the PMK leader asked.
Other political leaders too have begun reacting to Mersal and the debate its hero has triggered on issues concerning the common man. While Kamal Haasan's anti-corruption outcry has thus taken a backseat for now, it remains to be seen how far Vijay's Mersal would take him towards the fancy drive to Fort St.George.
But right now, the fans are lighting camphor before the screens and emptying milk kudams on multi-colour banners, while waiting for the party's flag and the name that Thalapathi's father is expected to soon decide.