Tamil cinema: New kids on the block challenging the old order

They have come from nowhere, do not have industry godfathers and certainly no big banners waiting to give them a break. But, these actors have proved their mettle.
Tamil cinema: New kids on the block challenging the old order
Tamil cinema: New kids on the block challenging the old order
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It is raining stars in Kollywood these days and almost every other film that hits the theatres has a new hero, an unknown face hoping for a rain of fame and fortune. But in a dog eat dog industry like cinema only a few can make the cut.  As it stands now the two biggest stars in Tamil cinema both into their fourth decade in films are Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan.

The second rung has highly successful heroes like Vijay, Ajit, Surya and Vikram all of whom have proved their potential at the box office and are therefore still in a position to pick and choose their films, a few flops notwithstanding. And then come a whole host of heroes many of whom have been around for years and have a sound backing from fans though their consistency in giving hits varies. 

Dhanush, Silambarasan, Vishal, Arya, Jayam Ravi, Jeeva, Kaarthi find a place in this list. But the thrust of this article is on a whole set of Johnny come latelies. They have come from nowhere, do not have industry godfathers and certainly no big banners waiting to give them a break. But, these actors have proved their mettle. Names that spring to mind are Vijay Sethupathi, Sivakarthikeyan and Bobby Simha to name just three and if their track record in a very short time is any indication, they are here for the long haul and could well give established stars a run for their money. What is more striking is that these actors have a steady head on their shoulders and don't jump at all and any offers. 

Vijay Sethupathi/Facebook

Vijay Sethupathi was an accountant in Dubai when he was bitten by the acting bug. The ebony skinned actor who picked up the rudiments of acting from the famous theatre group Koothu-P-Pattarai managed to land minor roles in a number of films like ‘Pudupettai’ ‘Anjaathe’ ‘Vennila Kabbadi Kuzhu’ ‘Naan Mahaan Alla’ and ‘Bale Pandiya’ before director Seenu Ramaswamy saw the spark in him and gave him an extended role in ‘Thenmerku Paruvakkaatru’. 

He then landed roles of the main protagonist in Karthik Subburaj directed ‘Pizza’ and ‘Naduvile Konjam Pakkathe Kaanum’. But the film that really made audiences sit up and take notice was the Nalan Kumaraswamy directed ‘Soodhu Kavvum’. For a hero just earning his spurs in the industry, the role of a portly, forty plus gangster with a graying beard was a gamble but the risk that paid off. And then came a series of slumps including ‘Rummy’, ‘Pannayarum Padminiyum’ and ‘Orange Muttai’.

Desperately needing a hit to stay afloat, Vijay signed ‘Naanum Riowdithaan’, the directorial debut of Vignesh Sivan with A-lister Nayanthara in the lead. The film was a runaway success as was his cop role in ‘Sethupathi’.  Vijay Sethupathi followed that up with good films and it was widely recognised that he was here to stay. 


Unlike the erstwhile non-entity Vijay Sethupathi, SivaKarthikeyan was a well-known face on the small screen having made it big as a participant in dance and comedy shows before graduating to anchor reality shows like ‘Athu Ithu Ethu’. He accepted director Pandiraj’s offer to play the hero in ‘Marina’ for a lark and little did he or the industry folks realize that this greenhorn actor with the “boy next door” looks would turn out to be one of the most popular stars in Kollywood almost instantly. 

Films like ‘Ethir Neechal’, ‘Varuthapadaatha Valibar Sangam’ (where he matched strides with veteran scene stealer Sathyaraj), ‘Maan Karate’ and ‘Khaki Chattai’ followed and all of them sent the cash registers buzzing. One of the biggest hits this year has been SivaKarthikeyan’s ‘Rajini Murugan’. And if the hype around his next release ‘Remo’, where he plays a glamorous female in a few sequences is any indication, this amiable actor is firmly set to take on the big guns in the industry. Jayam Ravi’s brother Mohan Raja, the man behind the recent mega-hit ‘Thani Oruvan’ too will be directing him soon. The actor's fee is reported to have skyrocketed but producers are not complaining. Siva has also proved his mettle as a singer and a few numbers that he has crooned for his films have turned out to be chartbusters.

Bobby Simha/Facebook

Bobby Simha might not yet be in the same league as Vijay Sethupathi and SivaKarthikeyan but unlike them he already has a National Award for Best Supporting Actor under his belt. Bobby, began his innings with character roles and the first film in which he shone was the Malayalam-Tamil bilingual ‘Neram’ where he played the role of a Shylock named ‘Vatti Raja’. The film brought him instant recognition and perhaps convinced a reluctant Karthik Subburaj to give him the character of ‘Assault Sethu’ in the smash hit gangster film ‘Jigarthanda’, a stunning portrayal that fetched him the National Award. 

The role was a complex one. Simha had to play a character who could be murderous and bloodthirsty but could also raise ripples of laughter with his wisecracks. Simha however has not been able to consolidate on his success and several of his latter day films like ‘Urumeen’, ‘Bangalore Natkal’, ‘Meera Jakkirathai’ and ‘Iraivi’ fell by the wayside. The actor now has his fingers crossed as the reception his forthcoming ventures like ‘Paambu Sattai’ and ‘Vallavanukku Vallavan’ receive at the box office could determine his career status. 

There are several dark horses in the fray too and many of them have proved that they can steer their films to success. Some of them like actor-director Shashikumar hold promise. Shashi who broke new ground with his directorial venture ‘Subramanyapuram’, in which he also essayed the main role, has not been able to replicate his success as an actor though he has a few hits like ‘Nadodigal’ and ‘Sundarapandian’. The Bala directed ‘Thaarai Thappattai’ in which he was cast as a folk artiste was expected to do wonders for his career but the film floundered rather badly. His hopes now rest on ‘Kidaari’ where he has been saddled with a powerful role. 

Vishnu Vishal/Facebook

Actors like Vishnu Vishal (‘Vennila Kabbadi Kuzhu’, ‘Kulla Nari Kootam’, ‘Mundasupatti’ and ‘Velainnu Vandhutta Vellaikaran’, the latter being a sleeper hit) who is a sincere performer in small budget movies too appear to have a bright future in the industry. Vemal (‘Kalavani’, ‘Vaagai Soodava’), Dinesh (‘Attakathi’, ‘Visaranai’), Adarva, son of yesteryear hero, the late Murali (‘Bana Kathadi’, ‘Pardesi’), too have been showing good promise. 

The grandson of the legendary Sivaji Ganesan and son of a leading hero of the eighties Prabhu, Vikram Prabhu who debuted in the Prabhu Solomon directed ‘Kumki’, where he was cast as a mahout, has been going from strength to strength choosing his roles with great care. His later films like ‘Arima Nambi’, ‘Vellaikkara Durai’ and ‘Idhu Enna Maayam’ too have swerved from the beaten track and Vikram Prabhu is confident that the films in the offing like ‘Waagah’ and ‘Veera Sivaji’ will take his career several notches higher.

Vikram Prabhu/Facebook

The two cousins Udhayanaidhi Stalin and Arulnidhi, grandsons of former Tamil Nadu CM M Karunanidhi, a formidable script writer in his heyday, too have been making their presence felt in the industry. Udhayanidhi who entered the industry as a producer and distributor turned hero with ‘Oru Kal Oru Kannadi’ and has since worked in films like ‘Idhu Kadirvelanin Kadhal’ and ‘Manithan’ and the latter was critically acclaimed. Arulnidhi who impressed in ‘Mouna Guru’, an offbeat film, tasted success with ‘De Monte Colony’ a horror film. 

Udhayanidhi Stalin/Facebook

There's more. Two music directors turned heroes have created ripples at the box office with their films. Vijay Antony, the composer whose racy number ‘Naaka Mukha’ resonated from every street corner in Tamil Nadu, has also made the most of his break as an actor. His films like ‘Naan’, the edge of the seat thriller ‘Salim’ and others  like ‘India Pakistan’ and ‘Pichaikkaran’ have all been well received. ‘Pichaikkaran’ has reportedly done well in its dubbed Telugu version as well. 

Antony who now makes films under his own banner has also surprised viewers with the titles of his films and in his kitty are films like ‘Saathaan’, ‘Yemen’, ‘Hitler’ and ‘Thirudan’. The other composer turned actor is the baby faced G V Prakash Kumar, nephew of Oscar winning composer AR Rahman, who has been making an impact as a hero with films like ‘Darling’, ‘Trisha Illana Nayanthara’, etc. Many of these stars still have a long way to go and in several cases it is early days yet. What probably makes them true stars is that they are aware of their limitations - Tamil cinema is in safe hands. 

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