The curious case of moustaches…

  We are by now familiar with the television and print commercials featuring Karthi for a major telecom network. They are beamed from billboards and TV screens that it’s impossible to miss. The point here is, despite being decked up in urbane garb, Karthi doesn’t look like he belongs in there. His effervescent smile notwithstanding, he looks like a good-natured bloke from a small town that just got lucky to stand alongside a pretty chick.

It’s not that in my mind he’s still someone who danced around in grubby lungis that barely hid his underpants in Paruthiveeran. The Paruthiveeran hangover is long gone and he has valiantly come out of that closet with two successful movies. So why does he look out of place again? My long and hard rumination boiled down to just one thing and voila, did I figure it out? Yes I did. Karthi’s dense facial hair. Come on, let’s face it. The 5 O Clock shadow, or the stubble (however you prefer to call it), looked good only on a very few in Tamil movies. Ajith, Suriya and Vikram have pulled it off. Or say Arya, for instance. Kamal too, even with a rotund face. But then is there anything Kamal cannot do?

The few others who could carry a stubble graciously, in my opinion, in Tamil movies, include Abbas (remember, Kaadal Desam?), Prithviraj and errr… nobody else actually. And a moustache-less existence is only possible for Dhanush or Madhavan in my opinion.

On the other hand, it’s not really difficult to understand where our enduring affiliation to moustaches comes from. From time immemorial our literatures and movies have portrayed men with moustaches and considered them (moustaches) symbols of pride and valor (imagine Veerapandiya Kattabomman without a moustache). And as moustache is considered to be the symbol of manhood, it’s easy to see why it appears on top in the ‘must have’ list for a man – an actor, by all means. So traditionally, we have mustachioed heroes since movies were discovered with very few exceptions.

Bharathiraja could have shown Karthik without that funny little pencil moustache in Alaigal Oyvathillai but he perhaps did not want his hero to be labeled ‘not man enough’ for the lack of a moustache. When Prashanth made a debut (with Vaigaasi Porandachu), while he was still in his teens, he hardly had a moustache. Although the movie was a hit Prashanth was forced to take a career-endurance decision of growing one. So his subsequent movies like Chembaruthi, Thiruda Thiruda and Kalloori Vaasal featured him with one until Shankar came along to break the myth with ‘Jeans’.

While the case of facial-haired heroes are more common in Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada movies, Telugu movies seem to be doing away with that phenomenon. The popular Gen-Y ones, Mahesh Babu, Siddharth, Allu Arjun, Ravi Teja (even Junior NTR) do not consider it necessary to have one. The Failure to Launch of Siddharth’s career in Tamil could be the effect of his non-facial hair, which was also the case with Abbas or say, Kunal. Even baby faced Shaam is growing one to try his luck a second time in Tamil. The only exception to this rule being Madhavan.

But the case with moustaches is not to be written down so easily. Should everyone take down their moustache and step into the world of smoothness? Not really, I suppose. There are also the few who would look unimpressive without a moustache, like Subramaniapuram Sasi (he did make an attempt at getting rid of that bush on his face in Nadodigal but only in vain).

So does Karthi belong in that list? Well, we will only know that when he takes the extreme step of introducing his face to the smooth world of Gillette.

PS: The writer sports a proper moustache and would like to think that societal pressures have no influence on the decision!

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