Vijay at the Nadigar Sangam Protest in 2018
Joseph Vijay Chandrasekhar
22 June 1974
|Alma mater||Loyola College, Chennai|
|Relatives||See Chandrasekhar family|
Joseph Vijay Chandrasekhar (born 22 June 1974) is an Indian actor, dancer, playback singer and philanthropist who works in Tamil cinema. Referred to by fans and media as "Thalapathy" (commander), Vijay is the highest paid actor in Tamil cinema. Vijay has acted in 64 films as a lead actor and won numerous awards, including one United Kingdom Award, eight Vijay Awards, three Tamil Nadu State Film Awards, and a SIIMA Award. He has been included several times in the Forbes India Celebrity 100 list, based on the earnings of Indian celebrities. Vijay has significant following globally.
At 10 years old, Vijay's first role was in the drama Vetri (1984); he continued to perform as a child actor in films until Ithu Engal Neethi (1988), directed by his father S. A. Chandrasekhar, and then featured as the lead for the first time in Naalaiya Theerpu (1992). Vijay played anti-hero roles as an hyper-possessive lover in Priyamudan (1998), followed by a play-boy in Azhagiya Tamil Magan (2007). The success of his masala film Thirumalai (2003) changed his on-screen persona to that of an action hero. He appeared as a kabaddi player in Ghilli (2004), which went on to become the first Tamil film to earn ₹500 million (Indian rupees). He continued to achieve success during the 2000s with cult films including Thirupaachi (2005), Sachein (2005), Sivakasi (2005), Pokkiri (2007) and Vettaikaaran (2009). In the 2010s, Vijay achieved further critical and commercial success with blockbusters including Thuppakki (2012), Kaththi (2014), Theri (2016), Mersal (2017), Sarkar (2018) and Bigil (2019). While Vijay's earlier films were primarily action and masala based, his later films transitioned into the thriller genre and discussion of reform concerning social, environmental and political issues in India.
Vijay is among the most popular celebrities in India. In 2008, he was signed as an ambassador for the Indian Premier League cricket team Chennai Super Kings. In 2009, Coca-Cola India signed him as their brand ambassador in Tamil Nadu and he subsequently featured in advertisements for the company. In 2013, Consulate General of the United States, Chennai appeared him as the ambassador for 'V Go Green' global awareness campaign movement. Vijay's popularity has been recorded by both Google and Twitter as the most-searched-and-tweeted actor several times. As a philanthropist, Vijay formed the social welfare organisation, Vijay Makkal Iyakkam (Vijay People Organization), which is responsible for much of his philanthropic work. He received an honorary doctorate from the Dr. M.G.R. Educational and Research Institute of the Tamil Nadu Dr. M.G.R. Medical University in 2007 for his contributions to social welfare and in honour of his achievements in the film industry.
Early life and family
Vijay was born on 22 June 1974 as Joseph Vijay in Madras (now Chennai), Tamil Nadu. His father S. A. Chandrasekhar is a Tamil film director and his mother Shoba is a playback singer and carnatic vocalist. He had a sister Vidhya, who died when she was two years old. His sister's death affected Vijay greatly; according to his mother, Vijay, who was very talkative, naughty and hyperactive as a child, became silent after Vidhya's death. In her memory, Vijay named his production house, V.V Productions, which stands for Vidhya-Vijay productions. Vidhya's memorable photo was shown in the 2005 film Sukran, in which Vijay played an extended cameo.
Initially attending Fathima Matriculation Higher Secondary School at Kodambakkam, he later joined Balalok Matriculation Higher Secondary School at Virugambakkam and went on to pursue a degree in Visual Communications from Loyola College. He eventually dropped out as he was more interested in acting.
1984–2003: Child actor and transition into lead roles
At the age of 10, Vijay started his film career as a child actor in the film Vetri (1984) and then performed as child actor in films such as Kudumbam (1984), Vasantha Raagam (1986), Sattam Oru Vilayaattu (1987) and Ithu Engal Neethi (1988). He also performed as child actor in Naan Sigappu Manithan (1985) co-starring Rajinikanth as lead actor.
After performing as a child artist in the films directed by his father, Vijay started playing lead roles at the age of 18 from Naalaiya Theerpu (1992). Vijay appeared alongside Vijayakanth in Sendhoorapandi (1993), which performed well only to a certain extent at the box office. In 1994, his film Rasigan was released, which can be deemed as his first success but not acclaimed by critics. This was the first film in which Vijay was credited with the prefix Ilaya Thalapathy (young commander), an epithet by which he became popularly known among fans and the media for the rest of his career. He had lead roles in films such as Deva and Rajavin Parvaiyile, wherein the latter he co-starred with actor Ajith Kumar. He then acted in the romantic comedy Vishnu and the romantic tragedy Chandralekha. In early 1995, he starred in Coimbatore Mappillai a romantic comedy film.
In 1996, Vijay performed in the Vikraman-directed Poove Unakkaga, which became his first acclaimed performance as well as the breakthrough in Vijay's career and made him a recognizable star. Vijay's tenth film Vasantha Vasal was followed by the action films Maanbumigu Maanavan and Selva. In 1997, Vijay acted in Kaalamellam Kaathiruppen, Love Today and Once More, where he co-starred with veteran Tamil film actor Sivaji Ganesan and actress Simran, and in the Mani Ratnam-produced movie Nerukku Ner, directed by Vasanth and co-starring debutant Suriya, the eldest son of actor Sivakumar. Kadhalukku Mariyadhai, directed by Fazil, earned Vijay a Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Actor. It is the remake of Fazil's own Malayalam film Aniyathipraavu. In 1998, Vijay worked in the movies Ninaithen Vandhai, Priyamudan and Nilaave Vaa, the first one being the remake of Telugu film Pelli Sandadi. In 1999, Vijay acted in debutant Ezhil's Thulladha Manamum Thullum, with Simran, which ran for more than 200 days at the Tamil Nadu box office and earned Vijay a Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Film. This was followed by Endrendrum Kadhal, Nenjinile and Minsara Kanna, with the latter being a K. S. Ravikumar direction.
From 2000, Vijay began to commit to entertaining ventures, which marked a change in trend. In 2000, he performed in Kannukkul Nilavu directed by Fazil again, and two romantic movies Kushi and Priyamaanavale, the latter being the remake of Telugu film Pavitra Bandham. His 2001 comedy-drama film Friends was directed by Siddique and featured him in the leading role alongside Suriya again. Vijay also performed in Badri, an action film remake of the Telugu film Thammudu, and the romantic movie Shahjahan. In 2002, he starred in the action film Thamizhan alongside Priyanka Chopra, making her acting debut before establishing herself as a leading Bollywood actress. Later, he featured in the romantic film Youth and the action film Bagavathi, the former being the remake of Telugu film Chiru Navvuto. Vijay began 2003 with the films Vaseegara and Pudhiya Geethai, the former being the remake of Telugu film Nuvvu Naaku Nachav.
2003–2011: Star status in Tamil cinema
In late 2003, Vijay starred in the action-romance flick Thirumalai, co-starring Jyothika, directed by debutant Ramana and produced by K. Balachander's Kavithalaya Productions, which featured him in a different way. Thirumalai was considered a turning point in Vijay's career. Udhaya, which began production in 1998 and filming in 2002, but was delayed, was finally released in early 2004.
Ghilli, a remake of the Telugu film Okkadu was released next in 2004, and completed 200 days in theatres in Tamil Nadu. Directed by S. Dharani and produced by A. M. Rathnam, it co-starred Trisha and Prakash Raj. Ghilli was the first Tamil film of all time to gross over ₹500 million, or ₹50 crore, in the domestic box office. For almost five years, Rajinikanth's Padayappa (1999), which collected a then record over ₹30 crore, was regarded as the benchmark for the Tamil film industry with regards to box-office numbers. Ghilli also set the record for becoming the highest grossing non-Malayalam film in Kerala at the time, and it reportedly performed greater than mainstream Malayalam movies in the state. The film grossed nearly $500,000 in the Malaysian market, which made it the first non-Rajinikanth or Kamal Haasan film to achieve this. Another record that Ghilli broke was M. G. Ramachandran's Adimai Penn (1969) record for the most people seeing a movie in the first week of its release. The scene in which Velu (Vijay) briefly uses Dhanalakshmi (Trisha) as a hostage when surrounded by Muthupandi (Raj) was parodied by Shah Rukh Khan with Deepika Padukone in the Bollywood film Chennai Express (2013).
Ghilli was followed by Madhurey, directed by Ramana Madhesh. In 2005, he starred in debutant Perarasu's Thirupaachi, followed by a guest appearance in his father's Sukran, the romantic comedy Sachien, co-starring Genelia D'Souza, directed by John Mahendran, and Sivakasi, starring Asin, again directed by Perarasu. Vijay's next film Aathi, the remake of Telugu film Athanokkade, was released in early 2006. It is produced by his father S. A. Chandrasekhar and again directed by Ramana. In early 2007, Vijay starred in the gangster film Pokkiri, a remake of the Telugu film of the same name. Directed by Prabhu Deva, it became the third-highest-grossing Tamil film of 2007 and became the first Tamil film of all-time to complete a 100-day theatrical run in Kerala. The film received critical acclaim.
In late 2007, Vijay starred in the psychological thriller film Azhagiya Tamil Magan, directed by Bharathan, who made his directional debut with this film. Vijay played a dual role for the first time in his career. He played the roles of both the antagonist and protagonist. The film was only a moderate success at the box office. Vijay was honoured with people's choice Superstar award in 2008 Vijay TV awards ceremony. In 2008, he starred in the action comedy film Kuruvi, again under Dharani's direction, and produced by Red Giant Movies. The year 2009 commenced with the action film Villu, in which Vijay teamed up again with Prabhu Deva and played another dual role. His next film Vettaikaaran, directed by Babusivan and produced by AVM Productions and distributed by Sun Pictures became one of the highest-grossing Tamil films of 2009. In 2010, he acted in the action comedy film Sura, also distributed by Sun Pictures. This was Vijay's 50th film. In early 2011, Vijay joined up with director Siddique again, for the romantic comedy Kaavalan, a Tamil remake of the Malayalam film Bodyguard. It received positive responses from both viewers and critics and was a box office hit. Kaavalan was screened at the Shanghai International Film Festival in China. During Diwali the same year, his next film, the action film Velayudham, directed by M. Raja and produced by Venu Ravichandran was released. Velayudham became one of the top-grossing films of 2011.
2012–present: Increased critical and commercial success globally
Vijay's next release was Nanban, the Tamil remake of the Bollywood film 3 Idiots, where he played the role which was played by Aamir Khan in the original. Directed by S. Shankar, it was released during the Pongal weekend of 2012 and emerged a major financial success. Nanban was screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival in Australia. Vijay's performance in the film was praised by critics, including leading Indian actor Kamal Haasan. Nanban went on to complete 100 days theatrical run. He made a special appearance in the 2012 Bollywood film Rowdy Rathore, starring Akshay Kumar and directed by Prabhu Deva. Vijay's next film, the action thriller Thuppakki, directed by A. R. Murugadoss and produced by S. Dhanu, was released on Diwali 2012 to mostly positive reviews. The film became the third Tamil film to enter the ₹1 billion (US$14 million) club domestically after Sivaji (2007) and Enthiran (2010). Thuppakki became the highest-grossing film of Vijay's career at the time, and the first of his films to gross over ₹1,800,000,000. His next film Thalaivaa, directed by A. L. Vijay, was released on 9 August 2013 worldwide and had a delayed release in Tamil Nadu.
Vijay again worked with AR Murugadoss in the action thriller Kaththi, co-starring Samantha Ruth Prabhu and Neil Nitin Mukesh and produced by Ayngaran International, which was released on Diwali 2014 to mostly positive reviews. He played a dual role for the third time. It was the second-highest-grossing Tamil film of 2014.
In 2015, the fairy tale fantasy film Puli was released. Chimbu Deven was reported to be working on a "fantasy film set in contemporary times" in January 2011 for UTV Motion Pictures, for which Dhanush was signed to play the leading role. The film was titled as Maareesan was supposed to start filming in late 2011, however, in October 2011, UTV Motion Pictures left the project citing the escalating budget and Aascar Films replaced them as producers. The project later collapsed, though during the production of his Oru Kanniyum Moonu Kalavaanikalum (2014) in late 2013, Deven restarted preliminary work on the fantasy film and narrated the script to Vijay, who expressed interest in being a part of the project. Subsequently, the project found producers in P. T. Selvakumar, Vijay's press relations officer, and Shibu of Thameen Films, who have previously distributed several of Vijay's films across Kerala. The two producers came together to form a new production house SKT Films and announced that production would begin after the completion of Vijay's casting in Murugadoss' Kaththi. Puli received mixed reviews from critics, though Vijay was praised for venturing into a new genre.
In September 2014, Kalaipuli S. Thanu signed on to finance a project directed by Atlee, which would star Vijay. Several titles for the film including Moondru Mugam, Vetri, Thuppaki 2, Khakee and Thaarumaaru were considered, before the makers finalised Theri in late November 2015. In the same month, it was revealed that the film was "70% complete". Action scenes, choreographed by Dhilip Subbarayan were filmed throughout the month, though the shoot was disrupted by the heavy flooding in Chennai. Hollywood action choreographer Kaloyan Vodenicharov worked with the team in early December 2015 to help shoot the climax portions for the film, however, poor climatic conditions in China meant that the team had to abandon their idea of filming sequences there and instead opted to shoot in Bangkok. Sets were erected in a factory in Chennai to shoot the climax scenes, with stunt choreographer Vodenicharov recruited to help train artistes and film the sequences during December 2015. The action-thriller Theri was released in April 2016 to positive reviews. It was the second-highest-grossing Tamil film of 2016 and Vijay's second film to gross over ₹1,720,000,000.
His next, the masala film Bairavaa, directed by Bharathan, co-starring Keerthy Suresh and produced by Vijaya Productions was released in January 2017. His next film, the action thriller Mersal, was directed by Atlee, co-starring Samantha Ruth Prabhu, Kajal Aggarwal and Nithya Menen and produced by Sri Thenandal Films. Following the success of Atlee's Theri, he and Vijay were signed by Sri Thenandal Films for another project together in September 2016. Vijay learnt a few magic tricks in preparation for his role as a magician, learning from the magicians, Gogo Requiem from Macedonia, Raman Sharma from Canada, and Dani Belev from Bulgaria. Vijay also plays a doctor; the character, Maaran (or ₹5 doctor), was inspired from Dr. Balasubramanian, a doctor who hailed from Bodinayakkanur, Theni district, and charged ₹2 from patients. Through also playing a father during 1970s Madurai, Vijay played a triple role in total for the film. Mersal was released 18 October 2017, coinciding with Diwali. It was both an enormous critical and commercial success, became the first of Vijay's films to gross over ₹2.5 billion. The film was also released in Japan in four major cities Tokyo, Ebina, Osako and Nakaya. For his role in Mersal, Vijay was nominated at the National Film Awards UK in 2018 and also the film won the Best Foreign Language Film award at the National Film Awards UK. The film was Vijay's second film to be released in China after Kaavalan (2011). The film was also screened at the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival in South Korea.
—Vijay speaking in 2017 on his film career
Despite the success of Mersal, several notions expressed in the film were opposed by various organisations: the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the ruling political party of Government of India, and the then-ruling AIADMK had objected to scenes in which the protagonist, played by Vijay, criticises the recently introduced Goods and Services Tax, and also a scene in which a character ridicules Digital India, an initiative promoted by the BJP. The party demanded that those scenes be cut from the film for future viewership, but this was seen as an attack on freedom of expression by opposing political parties and various other celebrities working in Tamil cinema. In addition, several medical associations, such as the Tamil Nadu Government Doctors' Association, condemned the film for the alleged cynical portrayal of doctors working in government-operated hospitals. Doctors working with the Indian Medical Association shared links of the film on pirated websites online, in the hope that it would cause monetary losses to the makers of the film.
Following the successful ventures, Thuppakki and Kaththi, Murugadoss was confirmed to be the director of the 62nd film of Vijay's career. Revealed as Sarkar, a political film, Suresh played the female lead role, marking her second collaboration with Vijay after Bairavaa. Following its release on Diwali 2018, the Government of Tamil Nadu accused the film-makers of Sarkar and Vijay of inciting the people by targeting the government in some scenes, as well as defaming former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa by naming the main antagonist (Varalaxmi Sarathkumar) with her alleged original name Komalavalli. This led to numerous protests by AIADMK cadre at theatres where the film was screened and vandalism of Vijay banners. AIADMK accused the Sun Pictures, which is owned by the film's producer Kalanithi Maran—who is the grand nephew of the late former Chief Minister Karunanidhi of DMK—of targeting the government. Several actors, including veterans Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan, supported the filmmakers by citing oppression of freedom of speech. Due to threat of lawsuits from the government, the filmmakers accepted to cut the controversial scenes and mute references of Komalavalli in the audio track. Sarkar broke several collection records and entered the 100 Crore Club within just two days. As a result of the film's success and media attention, the Election Commission of India created awareness regarding Section 49P of the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961 that allows a voter to have the right to get back his/her ballot back and vote if someone else voted in that individual's name.
In August 2018, there were rumours speculating that Vijay's 63rd film will be directed by Mohan Raja or Perarasu, however, it was confirmed that Atlee, who Vijay collaborated with in Theri and Mersal, will be directing the film. The film, which came to be revealed as Bigil, is a football action film. Subsequently, Vijay had undergone special training in football, with the sequences being choreographed by popular sports choreographers Aimee McDaniel and Justin Skinner. The former had choreographed for films including Pelé: Birth of a Legend, Million Dollar Arm and 13 Reasons Why, and the latter is an English footballer. Nayanthara was selected to play the female lead role, while Vivek and Anandaraj joined the film as a supporting role. This was Vivek's first collaboration with Vijay since Kuruvi (2008), and both Nayanthara's and Anandaraj's first collaboration since Villu (2009). Released in 2019, Bigil was Vijay's last film of the decade. It was a commercial success, collecting more than ₹300 crore, becoming both the highest-grossing Tamil film of 2019—within three months of its release—and the highest-grossing film of Vijay's career.
In August 2019, director Lokesh Kanagaraj tweeted that he would be working with Vijay in a film produced by Xavier Britto, who is Vijay's relative. Sathyan Sooryan and Philomin Raj were revealed as the cinematographer and editor, respectively, for the film—they previously collaborated with Kanagaraj on Kaithi. The film, Master, is an action thriller film and its first look poster was released on 31 December 2019, coinciding with New Year's Eve. The second look poster was released on Thai Pongal Day, 15 January 2020. Notably, the third look poster, which was released on 26 January 2020 coinciding with India's Republic Day, features both Vijay and Vijay Sethupathi staring intensely at each other. In addition, the first look posters for the Telugu and Kannada versions of the film were released on 13 March 2020. Master is highly anticipated and was originally scheduled to be released on 9 April 2020, however, it got postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After being delayed for several months, the film was released on 13 January 2021 with its Tamil, Hindi (Vijay The Master) and Telugu versions in theatres. Master was the highest grossing film in United Arab Emirates (UAE) collecting $1.4 million within two days surpassing recent Hollywood releases Wonder Woman 1984 and Tenet only in UAE. The combined gross earnings of Mersal, Sarkar, Bigil and Master was determined to be over ₹1000 crore according to trade analysts.
Presence in other regional Indian films
Vijay's first cameo Bollywood appearance in the song Chinta Chinta from the Hindi film Rowdy Rathore (2012), co-starring Akshay Kumar and Prabhu Deva, was well received by Hindi audiences. Vijay's song Varalam Va Bairavaa is played in Ajay Devgan's Hindi film Golmaal Again (2017) during a fight sequence along with a poster of his film Theri as a tribute to the actor. Most of his Tamil films are dubbed into Hindi by Goldmines Telefilms and telecast on Sony Max Hindi TV channel. Vijay's film Mersal gave tough competition to Hindi films in October 2017, when it collected more than Golmaal Again and Secret Superstar in international markets. Mersal also topped in the UAE market collecting more than ₹90 million, beating Golmaal Again and Secret Superstar. In July 2017, Rishtey Cineplex Hindi TV channel held the Hindi movies Television Rating Point rankings #1 and #3 respectively during the Dangerous Khiladi 3 (2014) (dubbed version of Vettaikaaran) and Policewala Gunda 2 (2014) (dubbed version of Jilla) telecasts. Sony Max Hindi TV channel held the #5 spot in Hindi movies Television Rating Point during Hindi film Theri telecast. In late 2017, the Hindi version of Vijay's film Kaththi titled Khaki Aur Khiladi was released and telecast on Zee Cinema Hindi TV channel. Vijay's Sarkar is the all-time top opener in India beating Hindi film Sanju. Sarkar was one of the highest-grossing Indian films of 2018 and broke records of many Hindi films such as Raazi, Gold and Aamir's Thugs of Hindostan.
The Telugu version of Jilla included a separate track shot that featured Surekha Vani, L. B. Sriram, and Brahmanandam. Actor Chiranjeevi thanked Vijay as the latter was more keen on his comeback film and helped him to get the remake rights of the Tamil blockbuster film Kaththi, which was remade in Telugu as Khaidi No. 150. Master's Telugu version collected more than ₹20 crore in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
Referred to by fans and media as "Thalapathy" (commander), Vijay is among the most popular celebrities in India. Vijay's popularity has been recorded by both Google and Twitter as the most-searched-and-tweeted actor several times. He has been included several times in the Indian edition of the Forbes Celebrity 100 list, based on the earnings of Indian celebrities. In 2012, he was ranked #28, in 2013, he was ranked #49, in 2014, he held the #41 slot, in 2016, he held the #61 slot, and in 2017, he was ranked #31. Speaking in 2019, trade analyst LM Kaushik told Firstpost, "When it comes to overseas, it's safe to say Vijay is the second biggest South Indian star next to Rajinikanth [...] $10 million lifetime earnings for a film from foreign territories is a big dream for any South Indian actor. Vijay has achieved that benchmark twice with Mersal and Sarkar. When it comes to the UK, Sri Lanka, and France, Vijay has become the biggest superstar with supreme box office numbers."
Vijay's top contemporaries from fellow South Indian industries, such as Mahesh Babu of the Telugu film industry, have not had the consistent success in overseas markets that Vijay does despite their popularity in the Western market, according to Firstpost writer Surendhar MK. A popular overseas distributor, who wished to remain anonymous, told Firstpost, "Mahesh Babu's best overseas totals range somewhere between $4 to 5 million for his films, compared to Vijay's consistently increasing box office stamina in foreign markets". In addition, the overseas distributor added, "Ajith's Vedalam, Vivegam, and Viswasam all together have only grossed close to $5 million lifetime overseas total. Ajith is considered as Vijay's biggest arch rival, and his overseas box office has not witnessed any surge in the last few years compared to the latter. Vijay's collaborations with Atlee and AR Murugadoss have significantly transformed his overseas box office might. The kind of stories he chooses and the contemporary societal issues his films deal with are also some of the reasons for his strong overseas pull."
Vijay also enjoys box office dominance in Kerala. Sarkar broke the opening day record of Baahubali 2: The Conclusion in Kerala, emerging as the biggest day-one grosser in Kerala. Box office tracker Irshad, who analyses Kerala and the UAE-GCC territories, said, "Vijay is the only other language actor who is still able to pull the first-day crowd in Kerala on par with the "Big Ms" (Mammootty and Mohanlal). Ghilli was the turning point of his career in Kerala. It surpassed the record set by Kamal Haasan's Indian and then Pokkiri broke director S. Shankar and Vikram's Anniyan record. Vijay's domination in Kerala started from Pokkiri, and it continues even today."
In 2002, Vijay appeared in Coca-Cola India advertisements. He has appeared in a Sunfeast advertisement in 2005. In 2008, Vijay was signed up as an ambassador for the Indian Premier League cricket team Chennai Super Kings. In 2009, Coca-Cola India signed Vijay as their brand ambassador in Tamil Nadu. He also appeared in a Coca-Cola advertisement again. In August 2010, Vijay was signed by Jos Alukkas as their brand ambassador for Tamil Nadu and Kerala. He also appeared in a Tata Docomo advertisement. In 2017, a third standard Central Board of Secondary Education textbook has displayed Vijay's image with veshti and shirt in reference to the traditional attire worn by Tamil men during Pongal festival in South India. Highlighting Vijay's popularity, Bigil was the top 10 'Most Tweeted about hashtags in India' according to Twitter India in 2019, and the most retweeted tweet in the entertainment category.
On his birthday, 22 June 2007, Vijay presented golden rings to the newborn babies at the Egmore Government General Hospital. In May 2008, Vijay appeared in a short public service video, Herova? Zerova?, in an effort to discourage children from dropping out of school.
During the latter stages of the Sri Lankan Civil War in 2008, Vijay fasted several times as an agitation against the treatment of Sri Lankan Tamils by the Sri Lankan Government. Vijay had participated in fasts organised by the South Indian Film Artistes Association (SIFFA) and by the technicians of Tamil film industry before conducting his own eight-hour fast on 16 November 2008. Vijay led the fast along with his parents, S. A. Chandrasekhar and Shoba, in Chepauk, Tamil Nadu. His fans also observed fast at various places in the state, including Tirunelveli, Tiruchirapalli, Pudukkottai, Madurai, Erode, Vellore and Dharmapuri districts. Speaking on the problems facing Sri Lankan Tamils in Sri Lanka, Vijay said, "It is my effort to show my support for the suffering Tamils in Sri Lanka. I am happy and consider myself privileged to be part of the agitation". Due to the likelihood of a ceasefire in Sri Lanka, Vijay said, "we can't go to Sri Lanka and fight for the Tamils. This agitation is an attempt to show our strong support to them" Though fasts organised by the SIFFA in protest against the alleged war crimes against Sri Lankan Tamils by the Sri Lankan Government took place during 2013, Vijay could not attend due to the filming of Thalaivaa in Australia. Vijay said in a statement, "I am currently shooting for my film Thalaivaa in Australia and couldn't make it to the fast. I regret not being present in this movement".
Vijay founded the social welfare organisation, Vijay Makkal Iyakkam (Vijay People Organization), which was officially launched in July 2009, which is responsible for much of his philanthropic work. After Cyclone Thane, his Makkal Mandram administrators arranged for a relief camp at Kammiyampettai, Cuddalore where he provided rice to the affected people. The Ilayathalapathy Vijay Education Awards were conducted at JS Kalyana Mandapam in Chennai on 8 July 2012 by his Vijay Makkal Iyakkam organisation to honour the students who topped in 2012 SSLC and 12th board exams and the awards were distributed by Vijay. In November 2014, Vijay assisted the daughter of a tea stall owner to obtain admission to a private college in Kodambakkam.
On 21 January 2017, Vijay rendered his voice and support to Jallikattu protests by anonymously joining the protesters in Chennai, hiding his face with a hanky. In September 2017, the Vijay Makkal Iyakkam official website was launched to unite all of his fans, and in December 2017, Vijay fans in Pollachi began providing services to the needy such as autos for school students and ambulances for the sick and injured. On 11 September 2017, Vijay offered financial aid to the family of a girl who committed suicide after failing to secure a medical seat in NEET exams. On 7 June 2018, Vijay offered financial aid to the families of the Thoothukudi police gunfire victims who protested against the Sterlite Copper plant. On 22 August 2018, Vijay distributed ₹70 lakh worth of relief materials to flood affected victims with the help of his fan club district heads in various parts of Kerala. In November 2018, Vijay deposited ₹4.5 lakh in each VMI head's bank account to provide relief for the Gaja cyclone-affected families in Tamil Nadu. During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, Vijay donated ₹1.3 crore to several relief funds. In addition, he directly deposited money to the bank accounts of fans affected by the disease and lockdown.
Vijay married his fanatic, Sangeetha Sornalingam, a Sri Lankan Tamil whom he met in the United Kingdom, on 25 August 1999. They have two children, a son Jason Sanjay born in 2000 in London and a daughter Divya Shasha born in 2005 in Chennai. Jason Sanjay made a cameo appearance with his father in Vettaikaaran (2009) and Divya Shasha portrayed a small role as her father's pre-teen daughter in Theri (2016).
On 5 February 2020, the Income Tax Department raided Vijay's residence in Chennai and inquired about potential tax evasion, regarding his investment in [clarify], which he inherited from the production studio AGS Entertainment. It was reported that actor Vijay and AGS Entertainment producer Anbu Cheliyan were suspected of undisclosed payments, alleged tax fraud and nearly ₹65 crore was seized by the officials from Cheliyan's residence. Vijay was investigated while he was busy shooting for his upcoming film Master in Cuddalore. On 12 March, The I-T department said that nothing significant was found during the raid and Vijay has paid all the necessary taxes. Member of the parliament, Dayanidhi Maran accused the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party of politically targeting actor Vijay through IT raids because he was critical of the BJP.
Vijay received an honorary doctorate from the Dr. M.G.R. Educational and Research Institute (Tamil Nadu Dr. M.G.R. Medical University) in 2007 for his contributions to social welfare and in honour of his achievements in the film industry.
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