The son of S. A. Chandrasekhar and Shoba Chandrasekhar, Vijay initially appeared as a child actor in a number of his father's films, starting with Vetri (1984). He made his debut as a lead actor in Naalaya Theerpu (1992), which was also directed by his father. He received his breakthrough with Poove Unakkaga (1996) and Kadhalukku Mariyadhai (1997). He went on to act in other commercially successful films such as Thulladha Manamum Thullum (1999), Kushi (2000), Friends (2001), Thirumalai (2003), Ghilli (2004), Thirupaachi (2005), Sachin (2005), Sivakasi (2005), Pokkiri (2007), Vettaikaran (2009), Velayutham (2011), Nanban (2012), Thuppakki (2012), Jilla (2014), Kaththi (2014) and Theri (2016), which rank among the highest-grossing Tamil films. To date, he has acted in 60 movies as a lead actor and has won three Tamil Nadu State Film Awards, seven Vijay Awards and two Edison Awards. Vijay is also a playback singer and has sung a couple of songs for his movies.
Vijay was born on 22 June 1974 in Madras (now Chennai). His father, S. A. Chandrasekhar, is a popular Tamil film director and his mother, Shoba Chandrasekhar, is a reputed playback singer and carnatic vocalist. He had a sister, Vidhya, who died when she was two years old. Vidhya's death affected Vijay very much. It has been said by his mother that Vijay, who was very talkative, naughty and hyperactive as a child, became silent after Vidhya's death. Vidhya Chandrasekhar's story is depicted in the 2005 film Sukran, where Vijay played an extended cameo. He currently engages in social service in the name of Vidhya. His cousin, Vikranth, is also a film actor, while his uncle, S. N. Surendar, is a playback singer and voice actor.
Vijay spent his entire childhood in Chennai. He did his schooling at Balalok Matriculation Higher Secondary School at Virugambakkam and went on to pursue a degree in Visual Communications from Loyola College, though he would eventually drop out as he was more interested in pursuing acting. He also had a craze for cars, learning to drive at the age of 13.
Vijay married a London-based Sri Lankan Tamil, Sangeetha Sornalingam, on 25 August 1999. They have two children, a son Sanjay born in 2000 in London, and a daughter Divya born in 2005 in Chennai. Jason Sanjay made a cameo appearance with his father in Vettaikaaran (2009) and Divya portrayed a small role as her father's pre-teen daughter in Theri (2016).
After appearing as child artist in the films directed by his father, Vijay made his acting debut as lead actor under the age of eighteen with Naalaiya Theerpu (1992). Vijay appeared alongside Vijayakanth in Sendhoorapandi (1993) which did well at the box-office. In 1994, he appeared in Rasigan which became a successful venture He had lead roles in films like Deva, and Rajavin Parvaiyile where he co-starred with another actor Ajith Kumar, who played a supporting role. He then acted in the romantic comedy Vishnu and romantic tragedy Chandralekha later. In early 1995, he starred in Coimbatore Mappillai a romantic comedy film.
Vijay's next film was the Vikraman directed Poove Unakkaga which was his first commercial success and made him a recognizable star. Vijay's tenth film Vasantha Vasal was followed by the action movies Maanbumigu Maanavan and Selva and the romantic film Kaalamellam Kaathiruppen. In 1997 Vijay acted in Love Today and Once More, where he co-starred with the Tamil film actor Sivaji Ganesan and actress Simran, and in the Mani Ratnam produced movie Nerukku Ner, directed by Vasanth. Kadhalukku Mariyadhai, directed by Fazil, earned Vijay a Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Actor. In 1998, Vijay worked in the movies Ninaithen Vandhai, Priyamudan and Nilaave Vaa. In 1999, Vijay acted in Thulladha Manamum Thullum with Simran, which earned Vijay a Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Film. This was followed by Endrendrum Kadhal, Nenjinile and the K.S.Ravikumar directed Minsara Kanna.
From the start of the new millennium, Vijay began to commit to entertaining and commercial ventures, which marked a change in trend. In 2000, he performed in Kannukkul Nilavu, and two romantic movies Kushi and Priyamanavale. His 2001 comedy-drama film Friends was directed by Siddique and featured him in the leading role alongside Suriya. Vijay also worked 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. The movie was a box office hit. Later, he featured in the romantic film Youth and action film Bagavathi. Vijay began 2003 with the films Vaseegara and Pudhiya Geethai.
In late 2003, Vijay transformed from a romantic hero to an action hero with 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 filming in 2002 but as 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.
It was followed by Madhurey, directed by Ramana Madhesh. In 2005, he starred in the Perarasu directed action film Thirupaachi, followed by a guest appearance in 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, Aadhi, was produced by his father S. A. Chandrasekhar and directed by Ramana, released in 2006. 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. Vijay's character in the film, a reprisal of Mahesh Babu's role in the original, was well received by critics.
In late 2007, Vijay starred in the romantic psychological thriller film Azhagiya Tamil Magan directed by Bharathan in which he played the roles as both the antagonist and protagonist. The film was only a moderate success at the box office. In 2008, he starred in the action 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 with Prabhu Deva (from Pokkiri). His next film Vettaikaaran, directed by Babusivan and produced by AVM Productions and distributed by Sun Pictures became one of the highest grossing Tamil film of 2009. In 2010, he acted in his 50th film,Sura, also distributed by Sun Pictures.
In early 2011 Vijay joined up with director Siddique again, for the romantic comedy Kaavalan, a Tamil remake of the Malayalam film Bodyguard (also co-starring Asin). It received positive responses from both viewers and critics. The movie 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.
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. 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, directed by Prabhu Deva.
Vijay's next film, the action thriller Thuppakki, directed by A. R. Murugadoss and produced by S. Dhanu, was released at Diwali 2012 to mostly positive reviews. The film became the third Tamil film to enter the ₹1 billion (US$16 million) club after Sivaji (2007), Enthiran (2010). His next film, Thalaivaa, directed by A. L. Vijay, was released on 9 August 2013 worldwide to positive reviews from critics and audience. His next film, Jilla, co-starring Kajal Aggarwal and Mohanlal, and directed by R. T. Neason, was released on a Pongal weekend in 2014 to positive reviews from critics and audience and end up as box office hit due to popularity of both stars
Vijay again worked with AR Murugadoss in the action drama 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. It was the highest grossing Tamil film of 2014. In 2015, the fantasy film Puli was released. His next film, the action thriller film Theri directed by Atlee, co-starring Samantha Ruth Prabhu and Amy Jackson and Produced by S. Dhanu got released in April 2016 to positive reviews and became one of the highest grossing Tamil film of 2016. His next film, Bairavaa, directed by Bharathan co-starring Keerthi Suresh and produced by Vijaya Productions got released in January 2017 to positive reviews and became one of the highest grossing Tamil film of 2017. He is currently acting in his next movie Mersal which is now being filmed and it is directed by Atlee, co-starring Samantha Ruth Prabhu and Kajal Aggarwal, produced by Sri Thenandal Films and music composed by A. R. Rahman.
In 2012 and 2013, Vijay held 28th and 49th place, respectively, on the Indian edition of Forbes' "Celebrity 100" lists, based on the income and popularity of Indian celebrities. He was the highest ranked among actors from Tamil cinema.
In 2002, Vijay appeared as Coca-Cola's brand ambassador in Tamil Nadu. He acted in a variety of South Indian Coca Cola advertisements, along with Katrina Kaif. He has been the ambassador for Sunfeast since 2005. In 2008, Vijay was signed up as an ambassador for the Indian Premier League cricket team Chennai Super Kings, along with actress Nayanthara. In January 2009, Vijay was approached as the brand ambassador for Coca Cola products. As of August 2010, Vijay was signed by Jos Alukkas as their brand ambassador for Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The Jos Alukkas advertisement featuring Vijay and his mother Shoba is an extremely famous one in Tamil Nadu. Vijay signed for Tata Docomo
Vijay started a social welfare organisation Vijay Makkal Iyakkam which was officially launched at Pudukottai on 26 July 2009. It is responsible for much of his philanthropic work. After Cyclone Thane his Makkal Mandram administrators arranged for a relief camp at Kammiyampettai, Cuddalore where the star provided rice to the affected people. Cuddalore was the worst affected area in floods and Vijay reached out to help these people out by rendering some assistance. The area in which the camp happened soon wore a festive look with thousands of people gathering to catch a glimpse of their favorite star. Vijay has appeared along with Suriya, R. Madhavan and Jyothika in a short commercial video about child poverty, labour and lack of education, titled Herova? Zerova? produced by Surya in an effort to eliminate children who drop out of school at an early age, made in association with Vishnuvardhan Induri the founder of CCL and the Ministry of Education of Tamil Nadu. The Ilayathalapathy Vijay Educational Awards 2012 was conducted at JS Kalyana Mandapam in Chennai on 8 July 2012 by his Vijay Makkal Iyakkam to honour the students topped in 2012 SSLC and 12th board exams and the awards were distributed by Vijay himself. On his birthday, Vijay presented golden rings to the new born babies at the Egmore Government General Hospital.
Vijay's most critically and commercially successful films include: