On ‘Thala’ Ajith's 50th birthday, TNM looks back on the actor's illustrious career that spans over three decades.

Ajith is seen wearing a brown coat in a screengrab from Tamil movie 'Vaalee'.Screengrab/YouTube
Flix Kollywood Saturday, May 01, 2021 - 16:08

Ajith Kumar, fondly known as ‘Thala’ by fans, is one of the most celebrated actors in the Tamil film industry. He has starred in over 50 films and has won several awards, including three Filmfare Awards South and three Tamil Nadu State Film Awards, among others. On the occasion of the actor’s 50th birthday on May 1, TNM takes a look at some of Ajith’s most memorable movies, over his career spanning three decades.

Kadhal Mannan (1998) 

The 1998 romantic-drama Kadhal Mannan one of the first box office successes for Ajith. Staying true to the title, the movie pinned Ajith on the map as a ‘Kadhal Mannan’ or romantic hero. Directed by filmmaker Saran, the movie stars Ajith as Shiva, a mechanic and Maanu as Thilottama, the youngest daughter of a disciplinarian father, who is against the idea of his daughter marrying the love of her life. Although we are introduced to a young, fun-loving protagonist who is seen playing dare games, Ajith’s character progresses as a mature adult in the second half of the movie, wherein he is seen standing his ground for love. 

Vaalee (1999) 

With a fairly unexplored theme in Tamil cinema taking centre stage, the 1999 romantic-thriller Vaalee is a modern-day adaptation of the legend of Vali, from the epic Ramayana. Playing dual-roles, Ajith is seen as a speech and hearing-impaired man Deva, and also as Deva’s twin brother Shiva. Deva, who is secretly in love with his twin brother’s wife, makes desperate attempts to break them apart. Ajith woos audiences as the ideal hero as well as the unconventional antagonist.  He bagged his first Filmfare award for the SJ Suryah directorial. 

Mugavaree (2000) 

Breaking away from the format followed in conventional commercial entertainers, the 2000 movie Mugavaree tracks the journey of a struggling musician Sridhar, played by Ajith. Sridhar finds himself in a tough spot when he is forced to pick between ambition, love and responsibility towards his family. The film represents the grim realities of ambitious, creative individuals hailing from middle-income families. The romantic-drama ends on a sad note, with Sridhar leaving his musical career behind. Showcasing vulnerability, hopes, dejection and frustrations, Ajith’s performance as a struggling musician in the movie opened to good reception from fans and critics alike. 

Dheena (2001) 

Marking the debut of the popular Tamil filmmaker AR Murugadoss, 2001 actioner Dheena is an important part of Ajith’s filmography. With high-octane action sequences, romance and fighting for his family being the crux of the plot, Dheena serves as an example of a quintessentially commercial movie. Interestingly, it is after the release of Dheena, that Ajith Kumar carved a niche for himself as an action-hero and was nicknamed as ‘Thala’, which was also a nickname for him in the movie. The film went on to be remade in Bengali as Deva and the Kannada remake was titled Dhumm

Citizen (2001) 

Sporting nine different looks and appearing as a vigilante-like figure, kidnapping corrupt, high-profile government officials in broad daylight, Ajith’s role as 'Citizen' or Abdullah in this 2001 action-thriller was a hit among the masses. While Ajith’s fiery appearance as ‘Citizen’ is filled with rage and the urge to fight corruption, he also plays the role of Subramaniam, Abdullah’s father, in an emotional flashback sequence. The Saravana Subbiah directorial managed to impress audiences as the hero who fights injustice.

Billa (2007) 

The 2007 action-thriller Billa is one of Ajith’s most commercially successful movies. Directed by filmmaker Vishnuvardhan, the movie is based on the 1980 Tamil film Billa starring superstar Rajinikanth. The gangster drama features Ajith in a dual role. The actor’s role as a stylish underworld don coupled with extravagant filmmaking, made a lasting impression among fans. Following its remarkable run at the box-office, the action-entertainer was also selected to be screened at the 61st Cannes Film Festival. 

Mankatha (2011) 

Vinayak Mahadevan, a suspended police officer, is seen as the mastermind behind a heist in the action-crime film Mankatha. Directed by Venkat Prabhu, the plot is set against the backdrop of a heist involving cricket betting and a gang of four thieves who are guided by a mysterious fifth man, played by Ajith. Filled with twists and turns, the movie takes the audience along on a ride filled with suspense, mystery and betrayal. Ajith managed to steal the show with his appearance as the charismatic, salt-and-pepper-haired anti-hero. At the time of its release, Mankatha was the highest grossing Kollywood film after Rajinikanth’s Enthiran.

Here are some other fan favourites of Ajith:

> Amarkalam (1999) 

Kandukondain Kandukondain (2000) 

Attahasam (2004) 

Yennai Arindhaal (2015) 

Nerkonda Paarvai (2019) 

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