Widely regarded as the most popular Tamil actor of his generation, Joseph Vijay Chandrasekhar, better known as Vijay, is well-beloved by his legions of fans across India and around the world. The South Indian star is endearingly referred to by his admirers as `Ilayathalapathy` (or simply, `Thalapathy`), and his box office clout is often at par with none other than Rajinikanth
, with many regarding him as the heir apparent to the Kollywood titan.
Since making his debut as a child artist in 1984, Vijay has appeared in around seventy feature films, winning several coveted accolades - including the Tamil Nadu State Film Award - along the way. Many of his movies have both set and broken box office records, not just in Tamil Nadu but in the neighbouring state of Kerala as well; and most of them have been dubbed into Hindi, Telugu and even Chinese! Thanks to the presence of Indian diaspora across the globe, the actor`s films have also enjoyed a major following in UK, Japan, Australia and France.
Some of Vijay`s most iconic roles over the years have come in films like Kadhalukku Mariyadhai
(1997), Thulladha Manamum Thullum (1999), Ghilli
(2007) and Thuppakki
(2012); while the blockbuster Mersal
(2017) and the action thriller Sarkar
(2018) are among his more recent acting credits.
Vijay was born in a Roman Catholic family on the 22nd of June, 1974 in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. His father S. A. Chandrasekhar is a renowned film director, and his mother Shoba Chandrasekhar is a playback singer and Carnatic vocalist. The actor attended the Balalok Matriculation Higher Secondary School in Virugambakkam and later obtained his Bachelor`s Degree in Visual Communication from Loyola College, Chennai.
Vijay met his wife Sangeetha Sornalingam, the daughter of a Sri Lankan Tamil businessman based in London at the Film City in Chennai. Sangeetha, an ardent fan of Vijay, during one of her visits to Chennai decided to visit Vijay on the sets where he was shooting. On the sets, she introduced herself as Sangeeta Sornaligam and she was pleasantly received by Vijay; the two had a casual conversation during which she told Vijay that she really liked his works.
Touched by her gesture, Vijay asked her if she would be interested to visit his house and have a conversation with his parents, which she readily agreed. A few days later, Vijay invited her again to his house for a chat, it was during this visit that his father asked her if she would marry Vijay. Sangeeta happily agreed and the two tied the knot on August 25th, 1999. The couple has two children together, a son named Jason Sanjay, who was born in 2000, and a daughter named Divya Saasha, who was born in 2005.
The superstar that Vijay is today, he had quite a sedate start to his career. He had a string of flops initially, his debut movie Naalaiya Theerpu (1992), and subsequent films including Sendhoorapandi (1993), Rasigan (1994) and Deva (1995), all bombed at the box office. It was not until 1996 that he got his first major hit; his movie Poove Unakkaga not only performed well at the box office but also made Vijay a recognizable star.
The following year, in 1997, the actor appeared in movies like Love Today, Once More, and Nerrukku Ner but his major hit of the year was Fazil`s Kadhalukku Mariyadhai, which earned him his maiden Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Actor for that year. Vijay followed his Kadhalukku Mariyadhai`s success with a few more hit movies like Nilaave Vaa and Ninaithen Vandhai. He continued his good work in 1999 as he starred in Thulladha Manamum Thullum alongside Simran Bagga
, which was a smashing hit and also highly critically acclaimed. The movie went on to win the Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Film.
During the early 2000`s Vijay planned to star mainly in action movies. In 2003, he starred in the romantic action film Thirumalai alongside Jyothika. The movie went on to become a massive commercial hit and is considered to be a turning point in Vijay`s career. The following year, Vijay collaborated with director Dharani for the first time for his action film Ghilli, which received rave critical reviews as well as emerged as a blockbuster at the box office. The actor followed his Ghilli success with yet another action films like Thirupaachi (2005), and Pokkiri (2007). The latter became the highest grossing film of 2007 and continues to remain one of Vijay`s biggest blockbuster hits in his career.
In 2011, the actor teamed up with director Siddique for the romantic-comedy Kaavalan, which was the remake of the Malayalam film titled Bodyguard was screened at the Shanghai International Film Festival in China. His other film of the year, Velayudham, directed by Mohan Raja went to become one of the highest-grossing films of that year. Vijay continued his good run at the box-office as he delivered yet another blockbuster titled Nanban (2012), which was the remake of the Bollywood film 3 Idiots. The movie went on to run for more than 100 days in the theaters across Tamil Nadu. His next release of the year, Thuppaki, which was directed by A.R. Murugadoss went onto gross 100 crore INR at the box office.
In 2014, Vijay once again collaborated with A. R. Murugadoss for the action-drama Kaththi co-starring Samantha Ruth Prabhu and Neil Nitin Mukesh. The movie released during Diwali and it went to become the highest-grossing Tamil film of the year. With no major success to his name in 2015, the actor started off 2016 with a bang with S. Dhanu`s Theri cast alongside Amy Jackson and Samantha Ruth Prabhu. The movie opened to positive critical reviews and was a huge commercial hit. His other releases include Atlee`s Mersal(2017) and Murugadoss` Sarkar (2018). His other releases include Bigil and Master.
Social & Humanitarian Work
Much like his onscreen persona, Vijay has often been in the news for his philanthropic ventures. Vijay Makkal Iyakkam, a social welfare organisation he founded in 2009, was at the forefront of relief efforts following natural calamities like the 2011 Cyclone Thane in Tamil Nadu and the 2018 floods in Kerala. Besides these, he has also been a part of several awareness campaigns directed at public welfare and has sponsored the education of several economically backward students. In recognition of his numerous charitable ventures, Vijay was feted with an honorary doctorate from the M.G.R Educational and Research Institute in 2007.