Vivek’s first film was ‘Manadhil Urudhi Vendum’ by K Balachander, that released in 1987.

Vivek in Pudhu Pudhu Arthangal holding the telephoneYouTube Screengrab
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Born Vivekanandhan in Tamil Nadu’s Kovilpatti, the Vivek that we know today came from a non-cinema background. His is an inspirational story that needs to be told with the light-heartedness akin to his comedies. And yet, it was not without hard work and failures, the complete truth of which only Vivek himself will know.

Vivek, before entering the tinsel town, was a stage artist. A stand-up comedian who impressed audiences with his mimicry and pantomime. The main person behind Vivek’s entry into cinema was producer ‘Kala Kendra’ PR Govindarajan; however, it was director Balachander who gave him the opportunity to act in one of his films. In an interview with Thanthi channel, Vivek talks about his first meeting with director K Balachander.

“He was a person whose style inspired some of my writing. Suddenly I was taken to his room by Govindarajan,” Vivek shared. A stern-looking Balachander remained impassive to one of his popular pantomime sets. “It was a four-minute performance and Balachander remained silent throughout. I, obviously, felt deflated at the end of it.” The director finally asked him what he wanted, to which Vivek impulsively replied, “I don’t want anything sir.”

At this point Govindarajan had to intervene to say, “He’s a raw talent from Madurai sir and does not know how to talk.” Vivek shared that Govindarajan was the one who always had his back, helping him with opportunities. Balachander, at the end of their first meeting, simply asked Vivek to transfer to Madras which, the actor shared, was quite the task.

Watch Vivek share about his first meeting with Balachander here:

But Vivek also shared another anecdote relating to his mimicry and director Balachander’s comment on it.

Vivek spoke about performing mimicry at a stage set up for ‘Vathiyar’ Raman’s daughter’s wedding. “I mimicked Sivaji, Manohar, Nambiar, Kamal, Rajini. Balachander sir was seated in the front row and was in splits during the performance. He called me after the performance and asked me to promise one thing — to not act like anyone else anymore. I thought my performance was that bad, but he was all praises for it. He said for me to become an actor, I’d have to give up imitating others. That’s when I realised he was planning on launching me as an actor.” 

Watch:

To move to Madras, Vivek’s TNPSC exam results were the reason. Having got a job at the Secretariat, the actor moved to the city and then joined the Madras Humour Club, also founded by Govindarajan. The club that convened every second Sunday gave Vivek his stage for stand-up comedy.

Speaking about their introduction to each other, actor director and Vivek’s best friend Ramesh Kanna shares, “I was waiting for my first film to release and Govindarajan introduced me to Vivek, whose Manadhil Urudhi Vendum had just been released. I remember one day, some people at the club were making fun of Vivek’s crying scene in the film.”

Recalling the funny incident from years ago, Ramesh Kanna lets out a short chuckle before continuing. “I had not really become friends with him at that point but I defended him saying, “We all know how Kamal Haasan performed in a similar scene during his early films. Vivek, too, will get better and become a great actor.” Vivek was not there when I said that but we eventually became thick friends,” Ramesh Kanna adds.

A ‘K Balachander Find’, Vivek’s first role in Manadhil Uruthi Vendum (1987) was to play actor Suhasini Mani Ratnam’s younger brother in the film. Dressed in a bright pink shirt, he arrives at his sister’s house along with his older brother played by Ramesh Aravind. The actor had limited screen time but had to emote with tears in one of them, upon hearing about his sister’s divorce.

After Manadhil Urudhi Vendum came Pudhu Pudhu Arthangal where the actor played the role of a playback singer’s secretary. Here, Vivek had a better opportunity to perform and his talent in mimicry came handy. The actor mimicked the voices of Nambiar and Rajinikanth to comic effect in the film.

Watch:

The actor went on to act in three other K Balachander films, namely, Our Veedu Iru Vaasal, Parthale Paravasam. Ramesh Kanna also shares with us about penning a character with better scope for Vivek in the film Aarathi Edungadi (1990). The next year in 1991, Vivek got an even bigger role of playing the lead in a film titled Sendhoora Devi, directed by Rama Narayanan. In this, he played the father to twin daughters (baby Shamili in double action) with actor Kanaga playing his wife. The story was a typical Parent Trap with animals (a Rama Narayanan staple) and a good dose of drama. 

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