Puli In Tamil Nadu, cinema is not just entertainment; for some, it is the road to power too. The Tamil-speaking state has been ruled by three chief ministers, who were first part of the film world. Such is the craze the state has for film stars. When people see an actor on the silver screen, who the film rides on, they consider him/her be to their real saviour. MG Ramachandran was par excellence when it comes to banking on the sentiment of the masses. The actor-turned-politician ruled the state for ten years (1977-1987). From the day he was elected to power till his death, MGR was the chief minister of Tamil Nadu.
But what do these things have to do with Vijay’s Puli? And the problems that it had to face ahead of its October 1 release? For the uninitiated, the first day first shows of the Vijay-starrer were cancelled in several places all through the country. Vijay had to face IT raids a day before the release of Puli, as well as on the release day.
And from the sort of allegories Puli uses, it has a lot to with the show-cancellations, indeed.
Puli is about an evil queen called Yavana Rani, and her minister Jalatharangam, who rules the southern part of ancient India. This duo makes life miserable for all the people in the kingdom. It is then revealed that the queen herself is not a bad person. It’s Jalatharangam who contrives to make Yavana Rani play into his hands. In the end, Vijay wins, and he is crowned the king of the kingdom by Yavana Rani herself. One cannot ignore the not-so-subtle parallels the film draws with the current political scenario of Tamil Nadu.
Also, the heavy-on-politics dialogues that Vijay spouts throughout the film makes one wonder whether those are from his character Marudheeran or Vijay the person. The actor also breaks the fourth wall in a few instances during a song, and looks directly into the camera to mouth those lyrics. That’s a giveaway.
It’s not that leaders like MGR were gifted the power on a platter by the people, they orchestrated the situation which had people electing them to their political positions. The book by MSS Pandian, The Image Trap: MG Ramachandran in Film and Politics, speaks about how the leader used his star power to achieve his political aspirations. MGR never drank or smoked on screen, he never harassed women or children on screen either – even when he played the anti-hero. As for playing the anti-hero, he would take extra care in redeeming his image before the film spelt ‘The End’. The actor was always a pious leader – the Vathiyar (Teacher) – who fought for the people, and was never the one to initiate a fight with a baddie. ‘No first strike’ ever.
And he had poets like Kalyanasundaram and Vali by his side to profess his ideology through songs. Later this trend, though not entirely, was followed by heroes who had some political aspirations. Vijayakanth’s (the leader of the opposition in Tamil Nadu now) films, the ones that were made in the later years of his acting career, had few of these traits. Thereafter, the actor went on to become a full-time politician.
As for Ilayathalapathy Vijay, the actor has also acted in films which bordered on the do-only-good-on-screen trend, and Puli is not the first in the list. And when Puli’s release was initially stalled with the reason that its makers had discrepant income tax records, people had their suspicions. When the film hit the screens and it was watched, the suspicions only got stronger.
This is not the first time the release of a film of Vijay was threatened. Thuppakki, Kaththi and Thalaiva have all faced similar situations. The people, who tried their best to not let a Vijay film see the light of the day in theatres, would have expected the actor to back off by now. However, with Puli, the actor has only proven a stronger point.
There is one slight hitch here, though. If Vijay is trying to tread ‘the path’ that his predecessors have done, he should be advised that things have changed over the decades. The lyrics and dialogues alone will not get him the crown, but will only get him trolled, trolled. Also, he should make sure that the crown fits him well, to begin with. If Puli is the benchmark he has set for himself, it is not a very good decision. The crown there was a misfit, through and through.
Recommended: All you want to know about Vijay’s Puli
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