Actor and DMDK Chief Vijayakant Passes Away

    Actor and DMDK Chief Vijayakant Passes Away

    Tamil actor and chief of the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) Vijayakant passed away at the age of 71 in Chennai on Thursday, December 28. 

    He was rushed to the MIOT hospital in the city on December 26 night.He tested positive for COVID-19 and was placed on ventilator support. He was last spotted in public on December 18 when he chaired the DMDK’s 18th executive and general council meeting held at a private hall in Thiruverkadu. With his health failing, the party’s baton was handed over to his wife Premalatha who was elected as the party’s General Secretary. 

    Vijayakant had been suffering from health issues in recent years. In December 2017, he travelled to Singapore for medical treatment. In 2020, he was hospitalised for COVID-19 and then again in May 2021 briefly. In 2020, the actor also underwent an amputation procedure. His diabetic condition had caused irregular blood flow to his right leg, requiring three of the toes to be surgically removed. 

    Vijayakant, the politician

    Vijayakant, a successful actor, made a thumping entry into the political landscape of Tamil Nadu in September 2005 by founding the DMDK. The man from Madurai projected himself as the alternative to the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), the two Dravidian parties between which power had alternated in the state for years.

    In an ambitious move, the party contested in all 234 seats in the 2006 Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly elections. Getting his first taste of success, Vijayakant won the Vridhachalam constituency in Cuddalore district with a margin of over 13,000 votes. However, the DMDK’s resounding triumph lay in the fact that a party that was barely a year old was able to split the votes of both the DMK and the AIADMK, winning an overwhelming vote-share of roughly 8%.

    The party had become a political force overnight.

    In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, while the party did not win any seats, it maintained its vote-share and polled roughly 10% of the votes in the state.

    In what turned out to be his most politically prudent move as a politician, he aligned with the AIADMK in the 2011 Assembly Elections and emerged the second largest party in the state with 29 seats. This automatically catapulted him to the status of Leader of the Opposition, a post he held until February 2016 when eight of his lawmakers quit to join the AIADMK.  

    In what remains one of the most iconic scenes in the state assembly, he had a showdown with erstwhile ally and former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa over rising bus and milk prices. When Jayalalithaa challenged him to win the Sankarankoil bye-polls, he had directly accused her of rigging the polls.

    Vijayakant decided to fight the 2014 Lok Sabha elections with the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). In a shocker, the party allied with its arch-nemesis, the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK). By the 2016 Assembly elections, the party’s lustre fizzled out and Vijayakant’s alliance with Vaiko’s Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) and Thol Thirumavalavan’s Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) brought him no seats.

    Vijayakant has been in and out of the public eye in recent years. His appearances showed his weakening health. 

    Vijayakant’s wife Premalatha had revealed to TNM in a 2016 interview that Vijayakant had entered politics upon provocation by the PMK and not on account of a thirst for power. The clashes between the members of the PMK and the fans of the actor had forced Vijayakant to counter the attacks, she had said.

    Vijayakant, the actor

    Vijayakant entered the Tamil film industry in 1979 with the film Inikkum Ilamai. He then had a string of flops until he emerged successful with Doorathu Idi Muzhakkam in 1980 and Sattam Oru Iruttarai in 1981. The Tamil film industry was smitten by the rustic looks and brawn that Vijayakant brought to the screen.

    The actor got his first taste of success when he won the Filmfare Award for Best Actor-Tamil in 1986 for Amman Kovil Kizhakale, a rural drama with actor Radha.

    He earned the moniker ‘Captain’ following the success of his 100th film, Captain Prabhakaran, in 1991. The actor would go on to play his most memorable role in the 1992 film Chinna Gounder, where he played a village chieftain. The film was wildly successful, catapulting Vijayakant to fame among the rural masses.

    In 2001, the actor won the Kalaimamani award from the government of Tamil Nadu.

    In 2002, the actor went on to win the Tamil Nadu State Film Award for the smash anti-corruption hit Ramanaa. Vijayakant is survived by his wife and two sons. His younger son, Shanmuga Pandian, is also an actor.

    Read: Vijayakant’s film journey: How Captain managed to hold his ground

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