The best example in Indian cinema would
be that of Amitabh Bachchan. After reigning
in Hindi cinema for almost 20 years, there
came a time when the Big B had to perhaps
step down from the angry young man mould.
But, the readjustment was not so easy. There
were numerous films that were still trapped
in his heyday image that failed miserably,
like Mrityudaata or Suryavamsham. The Big
B was facing an identity crisis in the industry
he owned indisputably. It took a few years
of sabbatical and a changed look and a hugely
popular game show to pull him out of that
and there began the second innings where
Big B was more comfortable in a newly found
role of senior statesman of Hindi cinema
and a powerful character actor.
In Kollywood, the best illustration might
be Prabhu. A leading hero in his days, there
was a lull period in the early 2000s which
saw him lose his winning touch as a lead
actor. What precipitated that lull is another
question. For a brief while Prabhu was around
trying to revive his prospects as a hero
once again. But, he was unsure of the path
to follow, a few flops later he took time
off from the big screen. Maybe realizing
that his calling was in a richer variety
of roles, he re-launched himself as an able
character artiste, first in Vasool Raja,
followed by Chandramukhi. Audiences and
producers however took time to get acclimatized
to the idea of Prabhu as a support actor.
Now, the equilibrium has been reestablished
in favor of Prabhu, the character actor.
Films like Billa, Something Something, Ayan
and most recently Kanthaswamy have re-cemented
Prabhu’s place in the industry. A
contemporary of his, Karthik is yet to regain
his equilibrium. One hopes that Mani Ratnam’s
Raavan kick starts that process.
Other prominent actors who have undergone
similar phases in their career are many.
Take the case of Jaishankar. There was a
time in the late 70s when he was quite a
close competitor to Rajinikanth and Kamal.
But, for inexplicable reasons, he soon lost
his grip as a leading actor. However, he
was quick to readapt to changing situations
and resurfaced soon as powerful actor, not
shying away from negative roles either like
the one in Murattu Kalai. Vijayakumar is
another actor who after an initial period
of success faded out for a few years. The
way he returned spoke volumes about his
ability to adapt and leave the past behind
him, playing character roles such as the
one in Andhimandaarai until the recent Pokkisham.
When it comes to regaining equilibrium,
actresses seem to be better than their male
counterparts. Almost all leading heroines
have been able to successfully transform
themselves into mature character artistes
within no time. From K.R. Vijaya to Simran,
the women seem to have a fairly simple and
It has been said that ‘the only thing
that is constant in life is change’.
Times change and one has to change with
the times. Especially in cinema where appearances
matter a lot, it is inevitable that an actor
is alert even to the slightest wind of change.
More importantly, an actor has to be willing
to adapt instead of holding on to the past.