20 Years Of Kushi And How The SJ Suryah Film Changed Vijay’s Image For The Better

The transition from lover boy to mass hero is one very few stars manage to do successfully. For Vijay, it was Kushi that contributed to his likeable goofiness and made him a favourite with kids and families.
20 Years Of Kushi And How The SJ Suryah Film Changed Vijay’s Image For The Better

Every actor who goes on to become a superstar has a handful of films that can be called checkpoints. Like in a video game, once you've reached these checkpoints, you achieve a minimum level of  guaranteed success, which means that you don't have to go ever back to the starting point, even when something goes wrong. A checkpoint is also a film that creates a whole new set of fans for the star. Of course, he had his fans even before Kushi, but this SJ Suryah film went on to define Vijay's persona as the guy who is always likeable, even if you didn't necessarily like his films. Of the three or four checkpoints that made Vijay's career, Kushi is also that one booster every star needs while making the transition from 'boy next door' to 'mass action hero'. Here are 10 reasons to explain why. 

The Bridge Between Boy And Man

When people discuss Vijay's career graph, it's always assumed that it can be broken down into just two major phases; the lover boy from next door and mass hero. The former is made up of films such as Poove Unakaaaga (his first big hit) and Kadhalukku Mariyadhai where he plays the romantic all of us are familiar with. Of course, he's likeable in them, but the success of these films were attributed to their directors (Vikraman and Fazil). And then, we got the phase that started with Thirumalai, from which point the biggest name in the film always remained Vijay. In such a career graph, there's always a phase where the actor works with a director whose career is running parallel. This leads to more freedom for both the actor and the director, and this synergy results in a film unique to both. This is what happened with Dhanush when he worked with Vetrimaaran in Aadukalam. For Suriya, this was Kaakha Kaakha with GVM. For Vijay, this perfect middle was Kushi.

 Vijay Can Do Comedy

One of the many reasons why most actors starting off as lover boys never go to the next level is their inability to do comedy. Of course, Vijay had done comedy before, but never like what we saw in Kushi. There's this casual likeability to him in both scenes where he meets Jenny (Jyotika) to pass on his friend's love letter through her. He doesn't need a Vivek, Charle or a Vadivelu here to make the scenes come alive with humour. Even though you can now see traces of SJ Suryah in Vijay's performance, you still got to see Vijay, especially in that scene where he's drunk and talking to a poster. We're not just interested in what's happening in the story, it's also about how they're (Vijay and Jyotika) going to perform it. 

Vijay, The Dancer 

Kushi is also that film where Vijay became THE dancer of his generation. Even in later films such as Thalaivaa, it's this aspect of Vijay's character in Kushi that was repeated. A big reason for this is because Vijay plays a dancer in the film. Like how racing came to define Ajith's persona, with Kushi, dancing became Vijay's thang. 

Vijay Films, The Complete Package 

To this day, no matter who directs it, there are certain things we've come to expect from the character Vijay plays. Naturally, he has to dance and be funny, but there's also an element of 'goofiness' we now need as a result of this role in Kushi. Vijay is also one of those rare actors who can literally play the fool through much of the film's first half, but still get us to take him seriously when he becomes the action hero. That's why he's hilarious in Theri's ponnu paarkara scene. That's also why it's always fun when he's around Kajal Aggarwal in Thuppaki.  I think Kushi discovered this side of his.

The Film That Set Him Free

Vijay was finally working with a young director like SJ Suryah. You clearly see Vijay being relaxed in Kushi, like he's not holding back anymore. So it doesn't feel like he's listening to instructions like in his previous films. In this film, it looks like he's no longer conscious of the camera. Which is why you happily accept Jyotika and Vijay even when they're acting like grown-up children.

  Vijay Can Be "Amoral" Too

One of the signs that an actor is going to become a huge star is when the audience continues to like his character even when he's being "amoral". To be fair, in Kushi this is just him being flirtatious or naughty with a character like Mumtaz's, but we don't mind it because we've already decided to like him. This is an important aspect for a star and it's something Prashanth never managed to achieve when he was in this exact phase. 

No More Pity

Another element of future "massdom" you see in Kushi is how Vijay's no longer angling for audience sympathy when his heart is broken. In films like Thulladha Manamum Thullum, that central emotion drives our fondness for him, but when you're on the way to becoming a mass hero, films rarely allow heroes to display their  emotions for the heroine so strongly. A hero crying, after this point, is only acceptable for a mother or a sister, or after the heroine becomes his wife. In Kushi, after Jenny rejects him, there's no soup boy. He just shrugs it off and moves on.

 The Universal 'A' Centre Film

Kushi is also one of those big films that remained within the boundaries of a love story. But on paper, it's easy to call it an A centre film. Vijay's character of Shiva is wealthy, he's from a bigger city, he can travel abroad for studies and he goes to a fancy college, but the film still remains accessible to everyone watching it. Like Jeans, this is a script that could accommodate everything within the rom-com format. Kushi is also arguably the first film that made Vijay a darling with children.  

Vijay's Star Pairs

When one talks of any big star, we generally limit his best pair to one or two actresses. Starting with Kushi, Vijay's 'pair' became a really important fixture in his films. Every top actress since then has had a hit with Vijay and it's easy to understand why. Vijay with Jyotika had a separate fan base just like how Vijay-Trisha and Vijay-Simran became their own thing. From here, it was guaranteed that Vijay's films would feature a great supporting cast, but also a solid technical crew and one of the best albums of the year, ensuring that there were at least four or five things we would look forward to in his every film. 

The SJ Suryah Factor 

One can't deny how SJ Suryah played such a vital role in the careers of both Ajith and Vijay when they were in the exact same space in their careers. With Vaali, we got the anti-hero in Ajith, and a star persona he carries to this day. In the same way, SJ Suryah also played a big part in creating the Vijay we've come to love and appreciate today. Maybe the difference with an actor like Prashant is that he never got an SJ Suryah to figure things out for him. Add to this, the fact that Kushi is still Vijay's most remade film (in three languages) and you know why there's no better example of an actor being in the perfect place at the perfect time.  

With Inputs From Ashutosh Mohan  

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