“One of the problems of being a film reporter in Tamil Nadu is,” said an entertainment correspondent in Chennai, “You have to be prepared to analyse top level politics, too.”

It is not a flippant or facetious statement, but a factual one.

Right from the early days of Dravidian movement, which saw cinema as a handy vehicle to take its messages to the masses, Kollywood and Tamil Nadu politics have been cousins.

Till Edappadi Palaniswami (and O Panneerselvam) came into the picture, the chief ministers of the state in the last 5 decades have been film personalities.

And now we have, Rajnikanth, the undisputed superstar, who has promised that he will launch a political party at the time of the state elections (slated for 2021). There is also Kamal Haasan who has already floated his outfit and contested the general elections. Even the fledgling Naam Tamilar party, which is believed to hold some appeal to sections of Tamil youth, is headed by Seeman, a former director, actor and producer.

Amidst all this, the talk in Tamil Nadu is whether actor Vijay, who is among the top stars of the industry, will take the political plunge. Adding fuel to these rumours have been his consistent contentious statements at his film’s audio launch.

At his previous movie Sarkar’s audio launch, Vijay, to a leading question on what he would do if he became the chief minister, replied “If I become the chief minister, then I won’t just act like one, but will do my job with sincerity.” 

It was widely seen as a jibe at the AIADMK leaders, especially chief minister Edappadi Palaniswami.

In his earlier movie, Mersal, Vijay had the screen name Thalapathy, which is a sobriquet that the DMK cadre used for MK Stalin. 

And now, at the audio launch of his forthcoming release, Bigil, Vijay has stirred the political waters with some provocative comments.

Taking veiled potshots at the government by suggesting that all is not well in the administration, Vijay said, “It’s only when people place the right persons for the appropriate positions, everything will be alright.”

This has again triggered a fresh round of debate in the media as to whether Vijay is getting ready to get into politics. Especially considering his huge popularity among a good cross section of the youth and middle-aged group, political ambition might not be a bad option for Vijay.

“He enjoys a huge sway among the public, as he is believed to be the leading star after Rajini in the industry. Politics, for someone in his position, would always be a tempting proposition, especially in Tamil Nadu,” said a journalist.

When his father, SA Chandrasekhar, started his career as a director in the industry, he was tilted towards the Left parties and the DMK.

Away from films, Vijay has also met leaders like Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former chief ministers Jayalalithaa, M Karunanidhi, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi from time to time, thereby adding more fuel to the rumour mills.

But there is also a section that feels that Vijay is merely (and slyly) using politics and willingly courting controversies with his leading comments to bring publicity to his films.

“See there is a pattern to his utterances. He speaks something at his film’s audio launch that is immediately deemed controversial by the usual sections of the media. There is a frenzy of activity and the film gets talked about. But curiously, Vijay goes silent. He remains inaccessible. And he turns up in public glare only at the time of his next release,” said the journalist.

He added: “Vijay has understood that political controversies are needed to get the masses to talk of the film. It is a trend that Kollywood has woken up to recently. That is why most movies these days carry ‘political messages’ even if they don’t fit the film’s script. And the actors too give out controversial statements in public. It is all for publicity.”

Indeed, it’s a fact that political content in Tamil movies has gone up in recent times. Adverse reaction from political parties also help films. Vijay’s Mersal gained good traction because of protests staged by the state BJP. A few years ago, Vijay’s Thalaiva benefited out of Jayalalithaa’s attempt to target the film. Without these responses, Mersal and Thalaiva would have bombed spectacularly, feel many Kollywood insiders. Actor Suriya tried to needle the BJP recently hoping that it would help his newest release Kaappaan. But the party did not fall for the bait, and the film, by the looks of it, seems to be sinking.

“Vijay is smartly using politics to bolster his film career, and wouldn’t jump from films to politics,” said the journo.

But he trenchantly added, “Films and politics, do they have a difference in Tamil Nadu? One doesn’t know where one stops and where the other begins.”