Unlikely Kollywood Villains

It began with Mani Ratnam casting Maddy as a remorseless baddy in Ayutha Eluthu. It was a case of reverse casting- or, if you like, anti-typecasting. Take a much adored, sweet-faced star and make him play villain. It’s a risk Ratnam took but it worked beautifully. Critics agree that it’s Madhavan’s best performance so far. The latest in this unlikely villain twist, is of course, Prasanna as the conscienceless killer in Anjathe. Chocolate boy Prasanna - Myssykin cleverly made him look creepy with that long hair that keeps his face hidden most of the time.

What is the point of casting against type? Is it merely for the surprise value? No. It reveals to these actors’ depths they didn't think they had. It stretches an actor’s range. Before I look at other such actors who we didn’t think could or would play villains, let’s look at Ayuthu Eluthu and Anjathe again. Because there are two more actors here who took us by surprise playing baddies. I give you ten seconds to guess.

Director Bharathi Raja as the slimy politician and Pandia Rajan as the wily, cowardly kidnapper. Ratnam knew exactly what he was doing when he cast Bharathi Raja – having known the director for years, Mani realized that if Bharathi Raja simply played himself, he would be a very interesting character on screen. Which he was – brilliantly so. For evidence, you need only to look at how uninteresting Om Puri is in the same role in the Hindi remake, Yuva. Mysskin took a small time yester-year hero and comedian, Pandia Rajan, and had him play a low-life, petty, morose crook in a very subtle, understated performance. Again, it works so effectively.

The other Ajith from Vaali - the psychotic brother who lusts after his sister in law, Simran- was also an unlikely villain. Here Ajith played a truly deranged character, not a double who turns into a nice guy in the end.

The actress who plays Swarna Akka from Dhool is a truly terrifying villain. (By the way, if you know the name of this actress, please email me). She feels more evil and ruthless than the hundreds of male villains we’ve ever seen. In Pazhani, Aishwarya makes a sexy, ruthless villain who’ll stoop really low to get what she wants. Her husky, cigarette-tinged voice is provocative enough.

Here we need to make a difference between the above baddies and the several villies through Kollywood history. These villies are an old staple: attractive young women who avenge themselves because the hero rejected them for the heroine. They have a strong personal motive –revenge –arising from their thwarted desires. The best example of this is, of course, Neelambari in Paddaiyappa, played to near-perfection by Ramya Krishnan. So sensational and forceful was she, that Neelambari was reprised in Baba. It must be the first time in Kollywood history that a character from one film appears in a cameo role in another entirely unrelated film. Tamanna in Kedi is also a nice instance of this kind of scorned villy. Divya in Thoondil, and the hottest of them: Sangeetha in Uyir.

The villains that we first mentioned, Swara Akka and Aishwarya, don’t have personal motives. They are driven by greed, power and ego. Which is why they qualify as hardcore villains, and not as villies!

I’ve saved the best villie for the last. A brilliant piece of casting against type: Jyothika in Pachaikili Muthucharam. Gautham Menon really had us fooled for most of the movie. Who could possibly imagine her as a villain? No personal motive –just money and power. Again, villain not villie.

I’d like to end with noting that there have been reverse reversals! Rajini and Sathyaraj, for instance, being typecast as villains and then breaking the mould by playing heroes.
K. Balachander, who always got actors to play against type, has the last word here: casting Sivakumar, longtime hero, as villain and Rajini, longtime villain, as hero in Bhuvana Oru Kaelvikurri.

Unlikely Kollywood Villains
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