Cut to a high technology computer centre filed with only state-of-the-art machines. Our cop marches in and hands a disc to a computer expert. The expert gives him a knowing glance and opens the image stored on the disc using the most advanced photo-editing tool known to mankind - Windows Paint. The image shows a car with black windows. Even if he felt any disappointment, the cop does not show it. Instead, he asks the expert to 'joom' the image. They zoom close enough so that the car window fills the screen. The cop now takes over the mouse. He selects the eraser tool from the toolbox and proceeds to carefully erase the black tint from the image to reveal the face of the person in the car. The computer expert is stunned at the computer wizardry displayed. The cop's job is done. Yet again, he has been instrumental in the capture of a deadly speeding offender. As he strides successfully out of the room, the audience in the theatre rises to its feet. In another few minutes, they will have left.
If you're shocked out of your senses at the stupidity of the above incident, then you've quite obviously not experienced the many joys of watching a movie starring Vijaykant, South India's most famous comedian.
In the wonderful world of Tamil cinema, while Rajnikant may be the King of the Masses, Vijaykant is the undisputed King of the Mass. He is mentioned in the Guiness Book of World Records for having played the same character (honest cop) in the largest number of films (10,078). However, what makes him remarkable is that he also holds the record for having played the largest character in the same number of films. The reason for his success is his uncanny ability to suspend logic with all its variants and draw the poor, unsuspecting audience into his demented, wacky world. Whether it is his mindblowing stunts or his powerful dialogue delivery peppered with statements of regional patriotism, Vijaykant affects people to an extent that AIDS can only dream about. When his face (with about 7 tons of make-up) first appears on the screen, the audiences start laughing, and by the time he utters his first words of dialogue, they are doubled over in their mirth. His films routinely break box-office records, along with a few chairs.
To the rest of the world, he may be Vijaykant, action-hero par excellence, but to his miions of fans and followers, he is simply 'Captain', their leader. He was born Venkatakrishnan Jayakantan in a poor household somewhere in a small Tamil Nadu village. He was a healthy enough baby, weighing about 74 kgs when he finally chose to check out of his poor mother. 15 long years later, when he was in the first grade, his name on the school rolls was V. Jayakant. During roll-call one day, his teacher read it off together and thus the name Vijaykant was born.
Little Vijaykant was always an average student but he excelled at extra-curriculars, undefeated for 29 years in the inter-school eating competitions. He reached puberty at an early age, developing sagging man-breasts when he was only in the third-grade. His classmates just thought his mom kept forgetting to iron his shirt in the mornings. Needless to say, he was the target of much teasing by his insensitive classmates but to his credit, he never let that affect him. He was just too dense to understand the unbearable trauma of social isolation.
When he finally left school, there were a million job offers waiting for him but he chose to go where his heart led him - the world of entertainment. At the age of 34, Vijaykant joined the famed Gemini Circus as a standby for Subramani, the amazing cycle-riding elephant. One day, when the star attraction was down with elephantiasis, Vijaykant was thrust into the limelight to take his place. Frozen with stage fright, he was finding it hard to keep his balance on the tricycle. Of course, the fact that his girth prevented him from seeing the pedals did not help his cause. He tried to maintain course but lost control and somehow, ended up performing a complicated 1 and 1/2 backward somersault that Chinese Olympic divers would've been proud of. The crowds simply loved him, and two weeks later, Subramani was packing his trunk, out of a job.
Soon, Vijaykant got his first overseas assignment. Diablo, one of the star bulls scheduled to run in Pamplona that year had been found guilty of doping and Vijaykant was quickly flown out to take his place. He had a very successful run, making sure that seventeen able-bodied Spaniards would never make their women happy again. It was here that Vijaykant was spotted by a blind film-maker and the rest, as they say, is geography.
More than a quarter of a century ago, Vijaykant acted in his first feature film, allowing his style to reach a wider market. It is still one of his most famous films. It made him popular as the poor man's Rajnikant. He also managed to establish his own unique style with this film. If you'd written a piece of dialogue that you didn't want understood, then Vijaykant was your man. He was soon flooded with offers and even had a small stint as dubbing artiste for Mohammad Azharuddin's press conferences. His fight scenes became legendary for he wasn't just satisfied with bashing up just the regular 'bald-guy, big-moustache, karate-expert' combo. He had an insatiable appetite for badddies and this reflected in all his fights where he would duel with hundreds of thugs at once. "The more the merrier", was one of his favourite sayings. It was also the only line he could say in English.
Super-hit folowed super-hit in an immensely successful on screen career. His graceful dancing and legendary triple chin ensured an endless supply of adoring female fans. His ingenuity and quick thinking when faced with danger also became stuff of legend. In fact, in the CAT question paper of 1987, I found this logical reasoning question:
Q: Vijaykant is confronted with 3 gangsters who stand side by side with equal spacing between them. He has a gun but unfortunately only one bullet. He also has a knife. How will he kill all three of his opponents?
A: He throws the knife at the gangster standing in the centre and then shoots at it. The bullet, on hitting the blade, splits into two at an angle such that the two parts hit the gangsters on either side. The knife plunges into the centre guy, killing him. Voila!
Although the language may not be understood by everyone, Vijaykant's physical humour transcended all linguistic barriers. He was the true hero of the working class, striding into matters of impossibly grave significance and turning them into ridiculously silly masterpieces of slapstick comedy.
Right from the first day he stepped in front of the camera with cheeks quivering and delivered a left hook to the baddie in front of him, Vijaykant has been entertaining the masses for over 25 years now. And even now, when he has entered his 60s, he is showing no signs of stepping down. Unfortunately, however, recent trends indicate that his popularity is on the wane. This is a huge tragedy. All of us should take this matter into our hands and as true connoiseurs of cinema, encourage this great performer. So, all of you reading this, rush now to watch his latest offering. And for anyone who actually took that last line seriously and is considering watching the film, it's been great knowing you!