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By Arun Gopinath
Effeminate characters; they do have a knack of uncovering an actor’s potential in a way that few other challenges can. And, it makes perfect sense because it is a challenge that demands change at the most fundamental levels of one’s identity. It is not like being a cop or an undertaker or a don or a thief etc... And, perhaps the success of actors who have tried this and come up trumps proves the fact that we truly realize our potential only when we are challenged to a great extent.

And, a perfect example of that is now playing in
theaters, Avan Ivan. Challenged more than ever before, perhaps more than the sum total of all the challenges that he had faced before, Vishal found the ace performer within him. It is amazing to see that despite being a multi-lingual how much of the spotlight has been focused on the performance of Vishal. It is not as if Arya was bad, but just that the challenge offered to Vishal was so great that Arya’s effort looked fairly simple in comparison. And, for that we also have to really applaud the magnanimity of Arya for agreeing to work on a script which so unanimously gives the scope and thunder to the other character. Arya is in the exponential of his career, having delivered big hits last year and no one would have faulted him if he had wanted a bit more of the spotlight than was offered to him. But, he has shown great character, team spirit and understanding of cinema by allowing the script and director to dictate terms.

Coming back to Vishal; who is now basking in the glory and (we are quite sure) new found self-belief about his own boundaries and abilities; it has been quite a wait for the right moment to come by. An actor who was till now accused and labeled of not being very flexible, one dimension and action oriented, Avan Ivan was a ladder to prove to others and unto himself that there is more to Vishal than just action. And, one cannot help but feel awed by the vision of Bala to take an actor who had such little diversity to show off in his repertoire and present him with a character that would have challenged the best in the business. He did the same to Arya in Naan Kadavul. He has repeatedly shown the habit and ability to take fairly untested talent stretch their limits. Bala should officially be crowned Tamil cinema’s lead talent management officer.

And, going on to the more interesting point of effeminate characters. They are not huge in number, but the few of them that we have seen over the past have remain etched in our memory, just like Vishal’s portrayal will remain in our minds for long. How can we forget the way Ajith shot back into top form with his performance in Varalaaru? After becoming a mass hero and moving on to doing films that were primarily aimed at pleasing his fans, no one expected him to take up such a challenge. But, Varalaaru proved that there was more to Ajith than just the ‘Thala’ factor. Unfortunately, he has not received too many roles that have explored his acting potentials since then.

One also vividly remembers the quite menacing portrayal of Prakash Raj in Appu. What is it about the Vasanth- Prakash Raj combination that brought out the most chilling negative roles that we have known over the past decade and a half (remember Aasai)? Or, there is also Dileep’s delightful portrayal in Chanthupottu (Malayalam) which had a very humorous streak.

And, there are also many instances where actors have chosen to go all out and appear on screen as women itself. The challenge that it offers an actor is evident from the number of times Kamal Haasan has taken this up – Avvai Shanmughi and Dasavatharam. We also cannot forget Vikram’s fleeting appearance as a woman in Kandhasaamy or similar appearances done by many actors of our times, the list is very long. Even Bollywood’s perfectionist Aamir Khan went the feminine way in Baazi. We really don’t want to look at the numerous comic characters that have been distastefully (mostly) created around an effeminate character?

So is going feminine the ultimate challenge for an actor? That is debatable. But, the number of top actors who have taken this up certainly suggests that it certainly ranks up there as one among the most challenging. And, as of now, Vishal has set the benchmark in ‘effeminism’!
Tags : Vishal, Avan Ivan, Ajith, Varalaaru, Avvai Shanmughi
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