Understanding Actor Ajith’s popularity

TL;DR — It is because he is the first true rebel in Tamil cinema.

Obviously Ajith is popular (duh) compared to any other rebels in the industry. You can categorize Maddy and Arvind Swamy as rebels too.

Aside from his rebellious demeanor, Ajith’s popularity has to do with a host of other factors like talent, macho-ism, raw magnetism, less-outgoing lifestyle, luck, ability to stand on the shoulders of giants, friends and a stable personal life.

The man himself

Let us look at how Ajith conducts himself as a star.

Broken rule #1 — Does not attend award shows.

Broken rule #2 — Rarely gives TV interviews. Only print and highly restricted at that.

Broken rule #3 — Never promotes his films. Even Rajnikanth and Vijay are coming out to sell their films. But Ajith? Nope.

Broken rule #4 — Never works with directors he doesn’t like/enjoy working with.

Broken rule #5 — Repeats his directors and producers

Broken rule #6 — Went off racing while at his film career peak. Unimaginable for any of his co-stars. If anything, they will consider politics.

Broken rule #7 — Speaks his mind wherever whenever. While he has rescinded this quality a lot in recent years, Ajith was known to be brutally assertive.

Broken rule #8 — Dissolved all his fan clubs. Wow. Just wow.

Broken rule #9 — Does his own stunts from time to time.

Sometimes he does fall in line or take a break from breaking rules. But those again are mostly on his own terms. His famed white suit interview with Vijayasarathy hit huge TRPs. `

So here is a man who does not play by any rules, but is adored by his fans just for that reason. He represents fierce independence and personifies the ‘devil-may-care’ attitude. At the same time, he is a dedicated family man with little to no gossips in recent times.

Obviously they do not want to remember his first girlfriend Swathi and his long time partner Heera. But then again, nobody is perfect. Ajith has done a fairly good job of keeping his personal life in wraps, so most of this is off-limits to the media.

But why Ajith? Why not anyone else?

It’s the 90s. Here ‘s a guy who looks like a dream, has a smile that could melt you and he is doing roles where he is vulnerable and down to earth. Off the screen, he ‘s the man who gets all the girls while driving fast bikes and cars. This is everything and more that youngsters could possibly dream of in that period.

It’s the 2000s. People have already marked you as the next superstar, your call sheet is rumored to be full till 2004(in 1999!) and they might well be right. But what does Ajith do? He takes off to try his hand at the prestigious F3 racing. Suddenly there is an imaginary void that needs filling (Point to note — Ajith never really left the industry as some news sources claim). Vijay, Arjun, Suriya, Vikram, Madhavan and Prashanth all try their luck with little to moderate success,till Gilli happens and changes the industry forever.

Once again, youngsters loved that he could simply do whatever he wanted. Boosting his rebel image even further.

In the mid 2000s, he constantly fails to deliver and takes 1–2 years before succeeding again. Now he openly mentions that he does not care about his fans.

In an interview to Vikatan(or Kumudham).He narrates a story that happens in a film procession with all Tamil stars, where a fan shouted out to him that he loves him and that he was Ajith’s biggest fan. After the procession moves forward, Ajith turns back to look at the fan who is now telling the same to Vijay (the foreshadowing is strong on this one). He summarizes saying that depending on fans is useless because their tastes change.

What? what do you want me to say? His fan base grew even further. Ironic, isn’t it?

In the 2010s, he starts by choosing an Anti-hero role in Mankatha, once again baffling everyone in the industry. He ices the cake by dissolving all his fan clubs on his 40th birthday in 2011. He goes a step further by signing off on his insurance and doing his own stunts in Aarambham and Billa2.

Through the 2010s, he refuses to dye his hair and plays aging(40+) characters. As recent as 2019, he does Nerkonda Parvai as a gesture to give back to the audience for his earlier films where he did the typical hero-who-stalks-and-chases-his-girl-down roles. Obviously he plays an aged man.

Rebel Image? — Check.

Fan base? — at an all-time high, of course.

X factor

He is constantly called the king of comebacks, when all that happens really is that one or two of his films fail and then he delivers a hit. This happens to literally every actor who has ever lived. But to be fair, Ajith did come back from a terrible back injury.

For fans and Tamil audiences in general, this was new. Here is a man who was surely ahead of the younger generation of actors. But all of the sudden with back to back failures ‘became’ the underdog. This interestingly, drove the craze for Ajith higher. He could now break rules, fail at the BO and still be loved.

Let us not forget that the underdog in a fight always gets a more emotional connection from the audience.

For his ardent fans, it became a sense of pride that they were with him through his ‘ups and downs’. They refused to follow anyone else. Over the years as following Ajith became a more exclusive club, it started attracting more and more fans. Like the first rule of Fight Club, so to speak.

Now with his roles as fathers to young daughters, Ajith has struck a chord with his aging fans as well as youngsters who now have someone to look up to.

No wonder this man gets away with so much.

My YouTube — https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCX9H8rJ5aQR-oQqpbVQ0EqA

My personal Blog — Shopping Guru | Zarcman


Happy birthday Ajith: Rare photos of Thala

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Vijay Balasubramanian

Vijay Balasubramanian

Product manager, builds human-centric products for …humans

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