Soon after the Income Tax Department questioned and searched the properties of Tamil actor Vijay last week, right-wingers took to social media platforms to allege tax evasion along with a dose of religious bigotry. Searches were also conducted at the premises of film financier Anbu Chezhiyan and the AGS group, which produced Vijay’s last film, Bigil.
While the IT Department said in a statement that it had made no significant recoveries from Vijay, messages across Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp soon began to claim that Vijay was part of a network of actors and educationists, reportedly including Vijay Sethupathi, who aided and funnelled money for the ‘Christian conversion movement’ in Tamil Nadu. The message claims that Regeena Murli, Director of Jeppiar College of Engineering spearheads the movement and recently ‘converted’ Tamil actors Arya, Ramesh Kanna, Aarthi and Vijay Sethupathi at a ‘grand function’ in Vadapalani. It also alleges that Christian educational institutions act as ‘vehicles’ for ‘money trafficking’.
One bizarre line of the message reads, “The release of movie BIGIL was the crescendo where all the factual evidences were confirmed.” (sic)
Hitting back at the trolls, Vijay Sethupathi tweeted, “Poyi vera velai irundha paarungada”. Loosely translated, the actor has asked trolls who make such bigotted claims to go and do some other work, if they have any.
போயி வேற வேலை இருந்தா பாருங்கடா… pic.twitter.com/6tcwhsFxgT
— VijaySethupathi (@VijaySethuOffl) February 12, 2020
Right-wing trolls have often used conspiracy theories about Christian groups to peddle hate and claim that Hindus are under attack owing to the groups’ ‘conversion’ campaign. In Tamil Nadu, too, such conspiracies have floated around especially around the time that BJP leader H Raja tweeted a photograph of actor Vijay’s Voter ID card, stating that his full name was Joseph Vijay. In light of the controversy around the Vijay film Mersal which criticised central government policies, the state outfit of the BJP accused Vijay of being opposed to the party since he was a Christian. In a subtle reply, the actor released a statement thanking his fans for the support to the film on a letterhead that bore his full name as usual.
Vijay Sethupathi is also Vijay’s co-star in the upcoming film Master, directed by Lokesh Kanagaraj. Both of them were shooting for the film in Neyveli when Vijay was called for questioning by the I-T Department.