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 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 âPudupettaiâ âAnjaatheâ âVennila Kabbadi Kuzhuâ âNaan Mahaan Allaâ and âBale Pandiyaâ before director Seenu Ramaswamy saw the spark in him and gave him an extended role in âThenmerku Paruvakkaatruâ.
He then landed roles of the main protagonist in Karthik Subburaj directed âPizzaâ and âNaduvile Konjam Pakkathe Kaanumâ. But the film that really made audiences sit up and take notice was the Nalan Kumaraswamy directed âSoodhu Kavvumâ. 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 âRummyâ, âPannayarum Padminiyumâ and âOrange Muttaiâ.
Desperately needing a hit to stay afloat, Vijay signed âNaanum Riowdithaanâ, 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 âSethupathiâ. 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 âAthu Ithu Ethuâ. He accepted director Pandirajâs offer to play the hero in âMarinaâ for a lark and little did he or the industry folks realize that this greenhorn actor with the âboy next doorâ looks would turn out to be one of the most popular stars in Kollywood almost instantly.
Films like âEthir Neechalâ, âVaruthapadaatha Valibar Sangamâ (where he matched strides with veteran scene stealer Sathyaraj), âMaan Karateâ and âKhaki Chattaiâ followed and all of them sent the cash registers buzzing. One of the biggest hits this year has been SivaKarthikeyanâs âRajini Muruganâ. And if the hype around his next release âRemoâ, 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 Raviâs brother Mohan Raja, the man behind the recent mega-hit âThani Oruvanâ 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 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 âNeramâ where he played the role of a Shylock named âVatti Rajaâ. The film brought him instant recognition and perhaps convinced a reluctant Karthik Subburaj to give him the character of âAssault Sethuâ in the smash hit gangster film âJigarthandaâ, 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 âUrumeenâ, âBangalore Natkalâ, âMeera Jakkirathaiâ and âIraiviâ fell by the wayside. The actor now has his fingers crossed as the reception his forthcoming ventures like âPaambu Sattaiâ and âVallavanukku Vallavanâ 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 âSubramanyapuramâ, 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 âNadodigalâ and âSundarapandianâ. The Bala directed âThaarai Thappattaiâ 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 âKidaariâ where he has been saddled with a powerful role.
Actors like Vishnu Vishal (âVennila Kabbadi Kuzhuâ, âKulla Nari Kootamâ, âMundasupattiâ and âVelainnu Vandhutta Vellaikaranâ, 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 (âKalavaniâ, âVaagai Soodavaâ), Dinesh (âAttakathiâ, âVisaranaiâ), Adarva, son of yesteryear hero, the late Murali (âBana Kathadiâ, âPardesiâ), 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 âKumkiâ, where he was cast as a mahout, has been going from strength to strength choosing his roles with great care. His later films like âArima Nambiâ, âVellaikkara Duraiâ and âIdhu Enna Maayamâ too have swerved from the beaten track and Vikram Prabhu is confident that the films in the offing like âWaagahâ and âVeera Sivajiâ will take his career several notches higher.
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 âOru Kal Oru Kannadiâ and has since worked in films like âIdhu Kadirvelanin Kadhalâ and âManithanâ and the latter was critically acclaimed. Arulnidhi who impressed in âMouna Guruâ, an offbeat film, tasted success with âDe Monte Colonyâ a horror film.
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 âNaaka Mukhaâ resonated from every street corner in Tamil Nadu, has also made the most of his break as an actor. His films like âNaanâ, the edge of the seat thriller âSalimâ and others like âIndia Pakistanâ and âPichaikkaranâ have all been well received. âPichaikkaranâ 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 âSaathaanâ, âYemenâ, âHitlerâ and âThirudanâ. 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 âDarlingâ, âTrisha Illana Nayantharaâ, 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.