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prakash raj


Remember the days when the sinister laughs of R S Manohar and P S Veerappa created nightmares? The grinding hands of Nambiar were mimed countless times and M R Radha was mimicked to death. Even Asokan’s eerie glances set to the treacherous background score kept us awake at night. For every MGR there was Nambiar, for every Sivaji there was an M R Radha. Even Rajni had Raghuvaran and Kamal had Sathyaraj. As much as we adored Rajni in Mr. Bharath, did we not wait with bated breath for every reaction from the Sathyaraj’s stable? Nothing can ever compete with “Ennama Kannu Sowkyma?” A fleeting glance at the stage presently set and we wonder “Where have the villains of Tamil Cinema gone?” Have they all adorned the protagonist hat? Don’t we need fearful, evil, chillingly and calculative antagonists to make our heroes look even more adorable and charming?

Tamil cinema has not explored the anti-hero perspective extensively except for the occasional Andha Naal and Sivappu Rojakkal but stuck to the formulaic hero villain to work the magic at the box office. That being said isn’t the market ripe for actors to choose the less trodden path and establish themselves as evil and cunning checkmates? In the years of Thespian Sivaji Ganesan, the character was the main focus in the film. As much as we appreciated his performance, the other side of the equation was equally scrutinized thus ensuring that the balance was well-maintained and the bar always raised. If we recollected Parasakthi Sivaji, we were also quick to remember Ratha Kaneer M R Radha. When we gleefully clapped for MGR in Naan Aanayittal, we were even more excited to see Nambiar submit.

Zoom into the Thalaivar era. Muratukkalai changed gears for two people. Rajni turned hero and Jayshankar turned villain. That was a great cross over and a daring attempt. Sathyaraj was the Villadhi Villain - From Kakki Sattai to Amaithipadai. Nobody could have challenged the hero as much as he did. He could play the good and bad guy with equal aplomb but even he would agree that he was at his best when he played the bad man. He stood tall with his nimble legs and his foxy glare and sly grins worked wonders. Speaking of tall, one cannot forget the legendary Raghuvaran. For Baasha to click, Mark Anothony had to click. His “I know, I know” in Nooravathu Naal was the exquisite work of a mistrustful husband played to the tee. His poise was vulpine and he created a niche with his dialogue delivery. Nasser emerged as the strong contender and anger flared through his nose. Even when he played the philandering womanizer in Magalir Mattum we could see past his comical mishaps to the lusting manager he really was. Such was the level of his performance.

After that the line seems to have blurred. We had innumerable Tata Sumo chases, veechu aruval, velkambu fights and all the villains were exports from our neighboring states. While we stirred in our seats anxiously at their horrific dubbing, Kota Srinivasa Rao and Ashish Vidyarti were the silm picks. Even before we entered the theater we tuned our heads not to cringe at the “Daiii” echoes. Apparently being loud made you devious. It was like Vijayakumar playing Nattamai. Before the man appeared we even knew the dialogues he had for the scene. As we tried to stifle our yawns, we dreamed for that perfect Satan, seething cobra and a crouching tiger all tied in one.

As always in typical Tamil cinema style, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Prakash Raj entered the scene. He could sport both a mafia don in Pokkiri and a Madurai rowdy in Ghilli with equal ease. He changed the name of the game. But there was only so much a man can do and there is such a thing as overdose. Not only were we tired of seeing him in every movie but seeing him as a caring father and a vicious villain confused our neural networks. Are we supposed to be scared or choke with emotion? It’s all fine and dandy when you can camouflage into any role but I would rather he pick a side and stick to it.

Suman in Shivaji was the Kasimedu Aathi we wanted and Suresh in Aadu Puli was the Black Jack. Both had immense promise but did not grace the screens as much as we wanted. Pasupathi in Dhool and Virumaandi shimmered with hope but the light was put out sooner than it shone. All our heads would nod in unison when I suggest that Jeevan was better off as Pandian in Kaaka Kaaka rather than the Naan Avan Illai sequels.

But before we throw our hands in frustration and decide that Tamil cinema will never see the class of villains ever again, there is a faint shadow emerging through the horizon. Ajmal in KO quenched our longing and Jayabalan in Aadukalam proved that you don’t have to look menacing to be a villain. Both these characters had one thing in common. They proved that the other side of the coin was equally lucrative. You don’t always have to play the hero to get noticed and a sincere performance would never go unnoticed. This is what I like about Tamil Cinema. The rare gems emerge from the places we rarely dare to see. So we would have our share of the devil too, only they were getting more intense and artful. It would be suffice to say the crouching tigers were hiding beneath the sheep skin.

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