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Vijayakant banking on "1984 celluloid hit to see him through" election battle

Wednesday 19 April 2006, by MENON*Jaya

Virudachalam, April 18 : For a novice, actor Vijayakant has been rather shrewd in picking the constituency from where he would be making his political debut.

Amman Koil Kizhakale, a 1984 Tamil film in which he played the rustic hero, shunned by a city-bred heroine, was a smashing box office hit in Virudachalam. Vijayakant’s contest may be his first tottering step into the political arena, but thanks to this film, he is already a familiar face in the agrarian backyard of the constituency.

Amudha Sivapandi (68) of Saathapadi village has watched the film four times and even whistled when the hero ?tamed’ the arrogant heroine.

The actor astounded his political rivals announcing his candidature from Virudhachalam, a PMK bastion where the party’s rather violent origins can be traced to. It had made a dramatic political entry by going on a tree-cutting rampage. But over the years, the PMK got a stranglehold on the dominant Vanniyar community.

But, a drive through the constituency’s rural belt shows the PMK might be losing its grip. And, it is easy to figure why the actor, ?Captain’ (another popular film by the same name) to his lieutenants and ?Karuppu MGR’ (Black MGR) to his fans, chose this seat for his first step to Fort St George, the seat of power in Tamil Nadu.

...Kizhakale was a super hit and not surprisingly, the highest collection for the film, was from this district. ??When the actor visited the town and surroundings soon after the film’s release, he received a tumultuous welcome. He feels he has good support here. In fact, all his films are well received here,’’ says Thiruneethi Slevam, the actor’s friend of 25 years.

The women are ardent fans of Vijayakant, of course after Rajnikant. But while the super star dithered, it was Vijayakant who took the political plunge boldly, points out P Tamizhchelvan (22) of Gopalapuram village, a former PMK member who just joined the actor’s Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam launched last year.

The village incidentally has around 50 Vijayakant fan club members.

Tamizhchelvan claimed there was growing discontentment against sitting MLA Dr Govindasamy of the PMK, who had won the 1996 election as well. Govindasamy has been fielded again by the PMK, part of the DMK-led front, and Kasinathan is the AIADMK candidate.

The Dalit Panthers of India has aligned with the AIADMK-led Democratic People’s Alliance, but a large number of Dalits are expected to vote for the actor. Says J Balasubramaniam, a Dalit from Karkoodal: ??The actor could have chosen so many easy constituencies. But he chose Virudhachalam. How can we let him down.’’

Nevertheless, in his political avtaar, 53-year-old Vijayakant, faces a tough contest. Hailing from the Telegu speaking Naidu community, the actor is up against nearly 70 per cent Vanniyar community, which is the PMK’s prime base.

He has to not only convince voters of his political sincerity, but also wean away a large chunk from the ?Mango’, PMK’s symbol. Moreover, the northern constituencies of Tamil Nadu have also traditionally supported the DMK, a PMK ally.

An engineering student, C Venkatesan, of Saathapaadi village, adjoining Ponneri, from where the PMK candidate hails, says: ??Dr Govindasamy may not be a field worker. But he has never refused a favour. Only disgruntled elements and Dalits would vote for the actor.’’

However, the actor’s promise of a corruption-free government has caught the voters’ imagination. His poll pledges are even more fanciful - a world-class satellite city close to Chennai, 15 kg rice free, rations delivered a doorsteps, free bus and train passes to students.

??We want to give him a chance this time. Why should the same parties be voted to power every time,’’ said Antony Raj, a Congress sympathiser from Gopalapuram village in the constituency.

According to Thiruneethichelvan, also campaign manager for Premalatha, Vijayakant’s wife, ??There is a silent revolution among the youth. They are rejecting both the AIADMK and DMK. Our Captain appears to be their only alternative.’’

See online : The Indian Express

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