Fondly regarded as “Thalapathy” (loosely translated to Commander) by his legions of fans, Vijay has endured as one of the most mainstream faces of the Tamil film industry. Here’s a look at his career highlights.
Beginnings as a child actor
Vijay started his screen career at the mere age of 10 with a brief role in his director father S.A. Chandrashekhar’s crime drama Vetri (1984). Further roles as a child artist included the vigilante revenge drama Naan Sigappu Manithan (1985) in which he shared screenspace with Tamil superstar Rajinikanth.
Growing up as a romantic hero
On turning 18, Vijay bagged his first lead role in the melodramatic romance Naalaiya Theerpu (1992) leading up to regular work as hero, in mostly romantic comedies or dramas.
It was the rom-com Poove Unakkaga (1996) that offered his breakout performance. The aptly-titled Love Today (1997) and Thulladha Manamum Thullum (1999) were further successes in establishing him as a charming romantic with the latter offering an earnest performance as a passionate singer. 2000s-era hits like Kushi (2000) and Priyamaanavale (2000) continued his meteoric rise.
Transition to action roles
As a mainstream face of Tollywood, Vijay (or rather his stunt doubles) had to rely on a few action scenes in his early movies. But it is with Thirumalai (2003) that he found his footing as an action star. His action genre ventures have increased in scope and style over the years such as the superhero vigilante hit Velayudham (2011) and the crime thriller Thalaivaa (2013).
Director AR Murugadoss and Vijay have helmed several successful action ventures together including Vijay’s box office-smashing hit Thuppaki (2012) in which he played a counter-terrorism army officer and Kaththi (2014) in which he had a dual role as a petty thief and his doppelganger, an idealist farmers rights leader.
New success with Master and Leo
Another director who has increased the scope of Vijay’s action star career is Lokesh Kanagaraj who first collaborated with the actor for the mega-hit Master (2021). A success in terms of both theatrical and streaming records, Master found Vijay playing an alcoholic professor saving a juvenile home. While Vijay’s previous movies had been dubbed in other languages, the popularity of Master’s dubs in Telugu and Hindi on Prime Video helped elevate Vijay’s pan-Indian success.
This pan-Indian fame continued with Vijay’s sophomore teaming with Kanagaraj, this time joining the director’s cinematic universe (nicknamed “Lokiverse”). Playing the titular character in Leo (2023), Vijay proved that he’s only getting better with age. He gets enough space to deliver whistle-worthy one-liners and relatively violent action sequences. Leo’s release on Netflix was equally successful with the original Tamil version trending along with Hindi, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam dubs.
What makes Kaththi Vijay’s best movie?
Ghilli and Mersal serve as close contenders as Vijay’s best movie but Kaththi can be crowned as the Tamil actor’s finest work so far. As is the case with numerous other Vijay movies, Kaththi also finds him in a dual role. But the stark contrast between the two characters allows him to display his dramatic range like never before. With one of the heroes also being an idealist and farmer rights advocate, Vijay gets to deliver some of the most rousing monologues of his career.
Where to stream Vijay’s filmography?
Most of Vijay’s best films can be streamed on mainstream platforms like Netflix and Prime Video. However, some can be streamed exclusively on predominantly Tamil-heavy services like Sun NXT and other Indian platforms like Eros Now.