Vijay as a star is a national phenomenon. The fandom the man developed over the years cannot be measured by mere box office numbers or the awards to his name. What makes him differ from the rest of them is a completely different topic of conversation which the industry will never be able to decode fully but the evidence of the scene lie right on our faces. Or more specifically here, on our eyes and ears. It has been almost 28 years since he made his debut as a protagonist and then went on to transform into Ilayathalapathy and further moved up the ladder to become Thalapathy now. But I want to talk about it that how music silently played a huge role in the transitioning of these titles.
Way back in 1995, when Vijay was neither Ilayathalapathy nor thalapathy, the world saw him through the window of Poove Unakkaga well lit with SA Rajkumar's beautiful songs and background score. Then with Kadhalukku Mariyaathai, Ninaithen Vanthai and Thulladha Manamum Thullum in the late 90s, he set foot into the golden age of 2000s where his films started getting defined by its songs and him in it. This isn't necessarily a dig on the other actors or music of that age but there was some halo in Vijay songs to make it iconic every single time over the rest of them. In comparison to the actors of the same league at that time, his work with the so called "big names" of today's music industry was very less then but with him featuring in it, the ratio of songs that earned a cult status and even became complete cultural resets for the entire state (I'm looking at you Appadi Podu) was too damn high. But what made it to do so? We shall discuss.
Ability to go meta
There's no points for guessing this as the first bullet of this firearm. Vijay and his skill to break the 4th wall is very instrumental in what he is today. Probably no one in tamil cinema apart from thalaivar created this as their signature over the years because it isn't as easy as it sounds. What thalaivar had mastered (pun intended) with such gratification, Vijay proved to be his lawful heir to the artform, atleast on this case. Be it to deliver simple humour on scenes or make the theatre turn into an out-and-out festival for an opening song, thalapathy had always nailed the right mail boxes and made sure a guy who's watching his film goes home with a little message from his song.
Stepped up his way to glory
The world knows what a prolific dancer Vijay is when it comes to songs of pace. The track record says so, right from a Macarena with a gorgeous Shilpa Shetty till today's Verithanam. In the late 90s dialect of the cinematic universe, dance was a major box to tick for a commercial hero and everyone was toiling to do so. But what made Vijay better than everyone was the mix that he gave us on a platter. His ideology to bring in the characters that he played in the movies into his songs was a jackpot move. So with every Macarena, there was a Mottu Onru and with every Ellaampugazhum, there was a Maduraikku Pogathadi or Valayapatti. Hence the songs doesn't feel like just a toilet break for the audience but as an extension into the character's life.
One of the blessed aspects of his films most of the times was that he got very well demarcated song situations to for us to gain depth into the story but at the same time relate with. An Arjunaru Villu or a Travelling Soldier still remains as the go-to-fitness song for any workout guy today. The scenes that lead on to Yaar Petra Magano in Kaththi made sure Anirudh's brilliant composition hit us at the right places. Even something like Santhosham Santhosham from Youth which had a very minor job of making a character get little happiness from her adversities had an effect on the people who watched it unfold. Thalapathy was extremely lucky to get situations like these and many many more in his early films and even though right now, most of his films feature a templated version of an album, I'm waiting for the old Vijay to return with Lokesh Kanagaraj's Master.
Quirky lyrics and mannerisms
CATCHPHRASES. PUNCHLINES. WEIRD THINGS WHICH HE DOES WHILE DANCING WHICH LOOK VERY ENTICING ONLY WHEN HE DOES IT. These are Thalapathy's forte. Who can forget the rage that the Pokkiri Pongal step caused or the entire state of Tamil Nadu blowing into their 12 rupees glass coke bottles from Kokkara Kokkarako. (Someone there reading this is saying both are remakes. Seri po da same case with Kodambakkam area and Mambazham ah mambazham). No Thalapathy means that the term aalthotta boopathi (thanks to thalaivan Mysskin also) or Podango doesn't exist in our dictionary and we would know that Aalaporan Tamizhan would have been considered as a song for the ages but will it be where it is today?
From 6 to 60
Last but definitely, double definitely not the least, the rise of the actor in Vijay could have been due to so many reasons but the rise of the star in Vijay was because that he had the capability and an aura to attract people of all ages. Especially kids. Every person no matter whose fan they are now had a liking towards thalapathy when they were a kid. His early realisation of what he would become and decision to make music for all ages and all minds - take a Melliname Melliname for the lover in you and a Kattipudi Kattipudi da for a *you know who* made his following only bigger and bigger.
Thalapathy the singer
His foray into singing was another motif that eased his conversation with his fans. From a cute delightful romance song like Ennoda Laila or an absolute banger like a Vaadi Vaadi which I would easily call it as the best Devi Sri Prasad song of all time or a very out of the blue pop number like Google Google with Andrea, the range of the genres of songs that he sung over time only hardened his seat as the director's first guy to go to if he wants to make a music video better in Tamil Cinema for a long long time.
Right now, he's an unstoppable force ordained to getting to even greater heights from where he is, god only knows where that can lead to. But in my mind and heart, or if I may speak collectively, in our hearts, these songs are an affirmation of where he came from and what made him reach the zenith that he is destined to go to. Happy Birthday, Thalapathy!