When Vijay began his career in the early 90s, he did a slew of romantic films. Romance was the main draw in his films before it became nearly an insignificant side-hustle or an excuse to include lavish duet songs in the movies he did after he became a superstar. Ajith was a few years away from becoming the Kadhal Mannan (King of Love) of the Tamil film Industry. And Suriya was not even in the picture back then.
After a few not-very-successful films as an action hero, mostly helmed by his father, Vijay found a winning formula in the romantic genre. His boy-next-door charm coupled with down-to-earth performances in the likes of Poove Unakkaga soon made him a bankable actor. He clicked with the youngsters and the family audience. It was a time when Vijay had the luxury of experimenting with his characters.
At the turn of the century, however, Vijay’s popularity started skyrocketing and the industry began celebrating him as second only to Rajinikanth. That led to the star mostly choosing one-dimensional, morally upright, over-the-top-hero roles.
Here are the top five films that defined Vijay’s early career:
Kadhalukku Mariyadhai (1998)
This slow-burning romantic drama is a milestone in Vijay’s career. In fact, a hook-step from hit song “Ennai Thalaata” is still used to mimic Vijay while playing dumb charades. The film followed the love story of a Hindu boy falling in love with a Christan girl, who has four brothers who love her unconditionally but tragically refuses to respect her personal choices.
This was Vijay’s Baazigar. It also remains the star’s biggest experiment with his films as opposed to the overtly heroic characters now he has grown used to. He played an anti-hero that goes on a killing spree in order to protect the secrets that he is keeping from his girlfriend.
Thulladha Manamum Thullum (1999)
It was Vijay’s biggest blockbuster back then. All the songs from the film were massive hits, which contributed to expanding Vijay’s fanbase. He played a tragic and highly misunderstood hero.
Kushi (2000 film)
Vijay bested Thulladha Manamum Thullum’s success with Kushi. Even after nearly two decades, this film remains one of the best romantic comedies that the Tamil film industry has produced for millennials. Interestingly, Vijay’s character in this film also suffers from the misunderstanding caused between him and his love interest.
Kannukkul Nilavu (2000)
The physiological thriller was a reunion of Kadhalukku Mariyadhai team. Helmed by Fazil, the film had Vijay and Shalini playing the lead roles. Vijay played a character suffering from a phycological disorder caused by a traumatic experience in his past life. Vijay had nailed it.