Known best for his comedy with a message, Vivek pioneered his own style that can never be mimicked by another.

Vivek in Minnale lying under the lorryYouTube Screengrab
Flix Vivek Saturday, April 17, 2021 - 08:51

Tamil Nadu’s most loved comedian Vivek passed away early on April 17. The actor went into cardiac arrest the previous day following which he was rushed to the hospital. While he was resuscitated and put under critical care, the actor, unfortunately, passed away much to the despair of Tamil cinema fans all around the world.

Padma Shri awardee Vivek has given us numerous memorable performances. From playing wide-eyed, small roles in K Balachander films during the late '80s and early '90s, to becoming Vaigai Puyal Vadivelu’s sole competitor during the peak of their careers in the 2000s, Vivek made himself indispensable in the Tamil comedy scene.

Known best for his comedy with a message, Vivek pioneered his own style that can never be mimicked by another. We’ve put together a listicle of some of his best performances over the years that remind us why we will continue to love him.

Pudhu Pudhu Arthangal (1989)

As a secretary to a playback singer (Rahman), Vivek’s role as Vittal in Pudhu Pudhu Arthangal was short but memorable. This being his second film, the actor was yet to find his style as a comedian but a very retro-looking Vivek made the audience take note with just his demeanour and his talent for mimicry. Vivek’s mimicry, in fact, was among the things that made director Balachander take note of his talent. In the film, Vivek’s character mimics the voice of Nambiar and Rajinikanth over the phone to annoy his boss’s mother-in-law. His ‘Annae sollu’ dialogue from one of the scenes in the film is funny to watch even to this day.

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Palayathu Amman (2000)

Around the early 2000s, saami padams were a dime a dozen. Vivek played a role in this genre too but not just any role. Vivek played a conman donning several avatars, including an elderly, sharp-tongued farmer who has no filter in what he says, a vaastu speciality and a numerologist. Posing as a godman, this character, needless to say, gave Vivek ample opportunity for his caustic humour. The interview at a TV channel with another godman (played by Mayilsamy), is especially a riot for its uncanny similarity to the debate hours we see on TV today. Vivek made the best use of this role, also giving us his version of Tamil cinema’s most popular Parasakthi dialogue originally penned by Karunanidhi and performed by Sivaji Ganesan.

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Budget Padmanabhan (2000)   

Vivek played a small character in this comedy drama and had to compete with exceptional comedy stars like Kovai Sarala, Manivannan among others. However, he made his mark with the transformation of Krishnan (Vivek’s character) into Krishnan Nair, just to impress Omana, a character played by actor Mumtaj. Sporting a namboodiri bun and speaking in Malayalam, Vivek proclaims his love by saying, “Enda mother tongue Malayalam, enda state Kerala, […], enda nadanam Kathalakiii.” He also declares that his CM from now on is EK Nayanar (then Kerala CM) and breaks into a spirited dancing to the beats of the Chenda Melam. Ah, good times.

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Alli Thandha Vaanam (2001)

Actor Vivek’s comedy, among other things, was also famous for the messages he conveyed. The actor made the best critique of human behaviour, superstitions, government policies etc., through his comedy. His role as Tamizh Kirukkan in this film starring Prabhu Deva, Laila in lead roles is memorable for its timelessness. The actor plays a passionate Tamil speaker, with a deep love for the language who is towards the end “advised” by his modern father (also Vivek) that the only way to develop Tamil is to take it to the world. Tamizh Kirukkan comes across a variety of situations in life and this particular scene where he auditions at a TV channel can be called the best.

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Minnale (2001)

From helping Madhavan fix his love life to being the third wheel, Vivek’s role as Chokku, Madhavan’s best friend in Minnale, strikes a chord with people who’ve been through similar dating experiences. In fact, Vivek has been the “friend who offers dating advice” to several heroes and yet the actor managed to make each one of them memorable. Quick-witted yet loyal Chockalingam played by Vivek in Minnale is a delight to watch on screen. The 2001 film marked the directorial debut of Gautham Vasudev Menon and also marked Harris Jayaraj’s debut as a music composer. The romantic-drama stars Madhavan, Abbas, Reema, Vivek and Nagesh in important roles.

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Manadhai Thirudivittai (2001)

Comedians Vivek and Vadivelu, both of whom have carved a niche for themselves in the Tamil film industry, teamed up only for a handful of movies. This 2001 film is one such where the duo share the screen. While Vadivelu shines in the first half as Steve, Prabhu Deva’s best friend in the movie, Vivek steals the limelight as the film progresses. Although Manadhai Thirudivittai uses the two guys fighting over a girl trope to build animosity between Vadivelu and Vivek’s characters in the movie, the duo make it entertaining for audiences with hilarious dialogues and flawless delivery.

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Run (2002)

Playing the role of Mohan, a young man who has newly shifted to the city, Vivek takes a jibe at various aspects of everyday life in the city by using topical and observational humour. With a number of scenes reflecting Vivek’s strained relationship with his father through hilarious setups, Vivek’s performance in Run resonated with audiences across all ages. The film also stars Madhavan, Meera Jasmine, Sunil, Atul Kulkarni, Raghuvaran and Anu Hasan in prominent roles.

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Kadhal Sadugudu (2003)

Perhaps Vivek’s role in this film, as an educated youngster who returns to his village, brought out his best. Vivek took a dig at almost all cliched panchayat verdicts. From forcing a woman to marry her rapist to female infanticide, idol worship, and the use of condoms in family planning, Vivek discussed many sensitive topics in his usual ‘karuthu’ comedy style.

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Boys (2003)

Vivek is introduced to the audience as Mangalam, a depressed middle-aged man at a bar in the Tamil movie Boys. Although the movie’s lead characters, a group of boys, befriend Mangalam to access free booze, the camaraderie they share with Vivek evolves as the movie progresses and he ends up becoming a mentor figure to the boys. Mangalam sir played by Vivek, helps the boys find a modest residence and encourages them to explore their musical talents. Breaking away from the quintessential comedic styles explored in Tamil movies, Vivek’s performance is both hilarious and mature. 

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Thirumalai (2003)

Played an unemployed youth in this film starring Vijay. The most amusing part about his performance in this film is that some of the jokes are relevant and hilarious even to this day. Especially the comedy relating to Chennai’s forever under-construction roads and innumerable civic issues we encounter on a daily basis. His ‘take diversion’ line especially is legendary.

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Saamy (2003)

The actor played an orthodox Brahmin guy in terms of looks, sporting long hair tied into a knot. Taking the opportunity to take jibes at caste practices, Vivek inserted plenty of social commentary in his humour. Although it may not all have been politically correct, the comedy track in the film has high recall value.

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Padikkadavan (2009)

Appearing as a local thug, Vivek takes the centerstage with his performance as Assault Arumugam in Padikkadavan. With an increased screen-time and a prominent role in the movie, Vivek experiments with many comedic genres while incorporating them into character comedy. Rocky played by Dhanush approaches thug-for-hire Assault Arumugam to help Rocky marry Gayathri (Tamannaah’s character in the movie). His spoof of Amitabh Bachchan’s ‘Main Hoon Don’ from Padikkadavan has been used in many Tamil memes. Vivek’s performance in the movie won critical acclaim as well as praise from fans. 

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VIP (2014)

After appearing as the hero’s best friend in a number of ventures, the movies Vivek did in the later stage of his career, indicate a shift in the comedian’s style and tonality. The 2014 Tamil movie Velaiilla Pattadhari, popularly known as VIP, serves as a fine example of the same. Essaying the role of Azhagusundaram, Dhanush’s older co-worker in the movie, Vivek steals the show with scenes that are hilarious yet reflect the character’s vulnerability. Vivek’s performance in VIP comes across as a refreshing departure from slapstick humour and comedic stereotypes that are commonly used in Kollywood movies. VIP is directed by Velraj and also stars actors Dhanush, Amala Paul, Vivek, Saranya Ponvannan, Samuthirakani and Surbhi in important roles.

Other favourites

> Dhool (2003)

> Lesa Lesa (2003)

> Anniyan (2005)

> Sivaji (2007)

> 1977 (2009)

> Uthama Puthiran (2010)

> Singam (2010)

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