The Kamals and Rajinis who never made it

Talent is nothing without opportunity. For all those who have been blessed with the right opportunities, this saying might not have the same significance as to those who have withered away because of the lack of opportunity. Destiny is a matter of choice, not one of chance some might say. And one must create one’s own opportunities if they don’t come knocking. But there are instances when we have to agree that individuals have become helpless prisoners of circumstances to break free and write their own destiny. This piece is dedicated to all those talented individuals who almost made it to the top but for that one big break. Kamal and Rajini wouldn’t have been what they are without the opportunities that they got.

Tamil cinema has had many great successful actors over the decades. But I feel that a list of talented yet unsuccessful actors will be more interesting, for we have seen, heard and read a lot about those who have scaled the peaks of success. This list is by no means exhaustive and the actors listed here are by no means unsuccessful.

It is just that there is a feeling that they could have done far more for Tamil cinema, given the right kind of opportunities.

How many of you can recall Senthamarai by his name? Not many, I would think. But talk about the role that he played in Thooral Ninnu Pochu, Enga Ooru Pattukaran or Veedu and his face comes to mind in a flash. He was one of those actors who was able to make an impression even with those small characters. In fact, in Veedu he appears in just one scene in the climax but is still remembered for it. He undoubtedly had the caliber to be among the top character artistes of his time but never got that defining role. Most of his career went in doing regular villain and supporting roles of not much significance.

Then there is Jaishankar. Now, most of you might know Jaishankar. For a person who was climbing the ladder of stardom with amazing speed his decline was sudden and drastic. After acting as hero in many successful films he had a bit of a lull after which he did the role of villain opposite Rajinikanth in Murattu Kaalai. Afterwards, his opportunities started to decrease surprisingly. Given his undoubted talent and popularity, he should never have faded out in the manner that he did. His role as the bereaved husband and sorrowing father in Poove Poochoodava has a stamp of acting finesse. Then there was Rajesh, hero of many films like Kanni Paruvathile and Aalaya Deepam. His decline too was fast and unworthy of the talent that he possessed.

Kitti, in the small roles in Basha and Bombay left his mark. One feels that better roles could have brought out lot more from this actor of subtle expressions. Then there are many more actors who have been used regularly for stock roles and characters that are fillers in a script. The father of the heroine or hero, the uncle in the city, the village Nattamai, the sub inspector of police etc. The variety that they have been offered in their career is sparing. Yet they have managed to stick on, not letting the monotony of repetitive characters to give way to complacency. They have always performed with the same energy and honesty, hoping that some day they will get something special.

Vinoo Chakravarthy, Karate Mani, Sangili Murugan, Rajiv, Raveendran etc, are some of the actors in this list. Delhi Ganesh has often said in interviews that he has always played characters of one particular age group, that of the heroine’s father. Do you think there are other similar actors who couldn’t make it big because the chance never came to them? If you think of some, add them to this list that I have already made, and mail them to Behindwoods.

(By Sudhakar, with inputs from Arun Gopinath.)

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