An action hero who took on TN's political heavyweights, Vijayakanth scripted his own success story

12:52 PM Dec 28, 2023 | PTI |

An action icon of Tamil films, Vijayakanth, who raised his voice against corruption on the big screen, made a rather smooth transition to politics and shone in a short period of time, raising hopes among his followers of seeing him become the chief minister of Tamil Nadu, before ill health got the better of him. This cannon that boomed against corruption and at times even threatened to eclipse the two Dravidian majors in the state, finally fell silent on Thursday, leaving his cadres and adoring fans in grief.


Though the present DMDK general secretary, Premalatha, his wife, may face challenges in steering his party, Vijayakanth is a name that will not fade away in Tamil Nadu’s politics or the film industry. He will be remembered for mustering the courage to take on former chief ministers and the state’s political heavyweights M Karunanidhi and J Jayalalithaa in the political arena on his own terms and also hold his own against them. Vijayakanth, who earned the sobriquet ‘Karuppu MGR’ (‘Black MGR’), would perhaps go down in Tamil Nadu’s history as a unique leader who scripted his own success story, dominating the political arena for about 18 years.

Whether it was the AIADMK or the BJP, political parties looked at his Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) founded in 2005 in Madurai, as an ideal force to take on the ruling dispensation during elections.

But in recent times due to his frail health, the outfit has been putting up a brave fight to retain its presence as a regional party. Both in Tamil films with over 200 movies to his credit and in politics too, he was characterised by his individual trait of opposing corruption or corrupt practices and in reaching out to the poor and those victimised. This 71 year-old leader maintained a clean image throughout his life and was known for his generosity.

”He appeared very promising as Leader of the Opposition in the state Legislative Assembly. We had high hopes that ‘Captain’ (as Vijayakanth was fondly called) would steer the party to victory and become the Chief Minister. But his political fortunes suffered a setback after he walked out of the AIADMK alliance,” a senior party functionary who shifted loyalties to the AIADMK, said.


His last public appearance in the city was on December 14 when the party elected Premalatha as DMDK’s general secretary. Despite hailing from the Telugu-speaking Naidu community, Vijayakanth born Narayanan Vijayaraj Alagarswami (August 25, 1952) was considered quintessentially Tamil and the Tamils adored him as the ‘Karuppu MGR’ in contrast to the very fair looking AIADMK founder (former Chief Minister M G Ramachandran). He was the Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly from 2011-2016.

He was also an MLA for two terms representing the Virudhachalam and Rishivandiyam constituencies. This action hero of the 1980s and later years too, earned the nickname ‘Captain’ after his hundredth film: ‘Captain Prabhakaran’ and also the title ‘Puratchi Kalaignar.’

He won state and national awards for his films including the blockbuster ‘Vaanathai Pola’. Movies like ‘Ramana’, ‘Vallarasu, Simmasanam’, ‘Vaanchinathan’ and ‘Narasimha’ captured the imagination of the people. After the formal launch of the DMDK on September 14, 2005, his party contested the 2006 Assembly elections and he was the lone victor. Interestingly, he fuelled his party with his own funds rather than raising funds to meet the expenses.

”When we aligned with the BJP, our leaders insisted that Captain be announced as the chief ministerial candidate. But the alliance faced the election without proposing the name of CM candidate,” a DMDK leader said. During the 2011 Assembly elections, he forged an alliance with the AIADMK and won 29 out of 41 seats the party contested, apparently winning more seats than the DMK. At one point of time, he filled the political vacuum caused due to the defeat of the DMK. However, after a rift with AIADMK, Vijayakanth formed an alliance with the BJP for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and took on the DMK and AIADMK.

He unsuccessfully contested from the Ulundurpet constituency and lost to AIADMK’s R Kumaraguru. He aligned with the AMMK led by T T V Dhinakaran for the 2021 Assembly elections but this proved a huge setback to his DMDK. Apart from his successful acting and political careers, Vijayakanth founded a television channel ”Captain TV” and also an engineering college. During the Covid lockdown, he offered his Andal Alagar Engineering College and the sprawling DMDK party office to the state government, to be used as special COVID-19 hospitals to treat the infected.


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