Dilani Rabindran



Thala - Using his status to lead !, Thala, Ajith


Every day when I check my Twitter-feed, which is amass with discussion on cinema, I expect to see a multitude of tweets about Tamil cinema’s Thala. It doesn’t have to be his birthday, or opening day of one of his films - every day is worth mentioning super star Ajith Kumar if you’re having a discussion on Tamil cinema’s greats or its future. (Oh, just saw a new tweet: his 40 second Thala53 trailer just passed 2 million hits on YouTube). This kind of fanfare represents the hero status he has achieved, one that allows him to appeal to people of all ages, even after 23 years in the Indian film industry. At the age of 42, and with acting credits in 52 films to date, Ajith still claims box office domination and makes the ladies swoon. And, amazingly enough, while he still has a grip hold on the masses, he is concurrently nurturing the next generation of heroes. At this moment, fans are eagerly awaiting news on ‘Thala53’ and ‘Thala54’ (tentatively titled ‘Valai’ and ‘Vinayagam Brothers’), in which he shares the screen with a slew of youngsters: Arya, Nayantara, Santhanam, Tapsee, Vidyu Raman, Suhail Chandhok, Vidharth, Munish and Bala.

With his talent and track record he has rightfully earned his superstar status. Usually with such popularity comes the ability to have a big say in the starring casts of his movies. In any film industry, fans become accustomed to their favorite long-reigning stars eventually becoming very selective with their roles and their co-stars. Although we see the stars who have been in the Tamil industry for longer making fewer films per year, there seem to be no signs of the snootiness that often comes with tenure in Ajith.

Thala53 & Thala54 will not be the first times the award-winning actor has supported Kollywood’s upcoming stars. In 2011 he made a legion of his & Venkat Prabhu fans ecstatic when starring alongside youngsters Vaibhav, Mahat, Premgi and Ashwin in ‘Mankatha’. Although all heroes agree to be paired with young heroines who have proved their popularity, many heroes are not keen on sharing screen time with other hot leading men; in fact, some aren’t as open to ensemble films as our dear Ajith Kumar. From ‘Kandukondain’ to the upcoming ‘Vinayagam Brothers’, we love seeing the dashing hero play off of large casts and intersecting stories -a rare treat from actors in his range. Understandably, established heroes don’t often want to participate in ‘team’ films, but Ajith remains the anomaly – a completely popular hero who remains open to doing films with multiple stars, especially much younger & brand new ones.

Further to encouraging Kollywood’s young acting talent we have even witnessed Thala do his part to promote new directors. In 2012 we coveted his short, but memorable, appearance alongside India’s sweetheart Sridevi, in the Tamil version of ‘English Vinglish’. Not many heroes of his esteem make time for cameos unless they are for magnum opuses, veteran directors or direct relatives. But, with a less than 10 minute appearance, Ajith helped seal the film’s success down south, as well as the success of debutante director Gauri Shinde. The encouragement of new filmmaking talent, especially female talent, is a rare thing, not often practiced by strong leading men in a typically male-dominated industry – but Ajith is no typical man.

In fact, the humble superstar proved his lofty reputation true when he personally connected with up & comer Vidyu Raman, who has a role in Thala54. In a recent interview with Behindwoods Vidyu expressed her utter awe at how down-to-earth and considerate the internationally known hero was; he visited the set on his day off to ensure all was well and meet his new co-stars. Vidyu’s description of the star as totally welcoming confirms what fans had always believed – that Thala really is the nice guy you’d expect to come to the rescue.

His encouragement of new talent on-screen and behind-the-camera are also signs of his uncanny adaptability. From romance to action to comedy, he’s done it all and we can’t get enough. He’s even become a villain in his recent flicks but we still cheer him on! Kollywood is in a revolution, where first time directors are dominating the box office and young artists are breaking molds of the typical heroes (ie. Vijay Sethupathy) and comedians (ie. Vidyu Raman). Ajith’s intelligence and ability to embrace the evolution is clearly visible, and proves his altruistic role as a mentor within the industry.  Instead of capitalizing on his seniority to make demands, Thala is using it to lead new stars and filmmakers to further success, to expand as an artist and to satisfy his fans with innovation in each film.

Of course, this benevolence is an added bonus to on-screen Ajith – who has already won our hearts with his incredible acting finesses and “fair and handsome” looks. Ajith is one of the few actors who captivates both generations of parents and children (especially mothers and daughters)! It’s this package of talent as an entertainer and his reputation as a genuinely considerate guru that has led him to the peaks of success he remains at.

So I’ll never get tired of seeing a Twitter-feed rife with posts regarding the people’s hero, Ajith Kumar. Whether it be about his upcoming films, how he is using his fame to help elevate Kollywood to sleek new heights, or even about his hair and whether he should keep his salt & pepper look! As far as I’m concerned, Ajith can dye his hair any color of the rainbow and I’m sure we would remain on board - as long as his character and heart stays as golden as it is now.

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