After Senthil and Goundamani, it was Vaigaipuyal Vadivelu who dominated the Tamil comedy scene. Hailing from Madurai, he worked his way to the top under the shadow of the famed comic pair, developing his own distinct style and making it big in a highly competitive industry.
In Tamil films, where a comedy sidetrack is considered to be a necessary component, a comedian can sometimes even upstage the hero in popularity. At the peak of his career, Vadivelu was as much the selling point of a film as was the lead cast.
His entanglement with politics led to a drought in projects but though he has appeared only in a handful of films in the last five years, Tamil Nadu turns to him routinely when it needs to laugh or summarize a situation in one line. He's almost a neo philosopher in that sense.
Here are five of Vadivelu's many, many hilarious lines that Tamil people recall in all kinds of situations!
Oh! Sattai mela evlo button
This is from the Kamal Haasan-Khushbu starrer Singaravelan. The main comedian of the film was Goundamani and Vadivelu was part of the loony gang that Velan (Kamal) hangs around with.
Vadivelu exclaims "Sattai mela evalo button" (how many buttons on this shirt!) when Sumathi (Khushbu) is walking past the gang in a hotel, to pay her respects to a musician. Since she's wearing a shirt with several buttons, Vadivelu passes this comment.
Though the line barely registers when you watch the film for the first time, it has amazing recall value in Tamil Nadu and is applied to situations where there are many things to think about or when something appears too complicated. E.g. If you thought someone was mad at you for something you did but realise that it's actually a long list of things you've done, "sattai mela evlo button" would be applicable.
Varum aana varadhu
Vadivelu and Ennatha Kannaiya appear in this slapstick scene from Thottal Poo Malarum. Vadivelu plays a passenger and Kannaiya is a blind cab driver. When the former asks the latter for a ride, he responds with "Varum aana varadhu" (Meaning, it will come...but it won't come).
The line, of course, doesn't make too much sense but it's hilarious nevertheless because of the two actors and the absurdity that they bring to the scene. The film the scene appears in is long forgotten but the line remains popular in the state. Will the MTC bus come on time? Will Singam 3 ever release? Varum aana varadhu!
Why blood same blood
Prabhu Deva is known for his dance skills and comic timing. In Manadhai Thirudivittai, a regressive college romance, he appears with Vadivelu in a comedy sequence that has achieved immortality in Tamil popular culture.
In the scene, an enraged heroine (Gayatri Jayaraman) abuses Vadivelu so much that he almost gets blood in his ears. When the hero, Deva (Prabhudeva), expresses his love towards her right after, she abuses him in exactly the same way.
When Deva comes out of the room, Vadivelu goes, "Why blood? Same blood!" meaning that he'd got blood in his ears for the same reason, too. In Tamil Nadu, people have forgotten that these words are in English and believe "Why blood? Same blood!" is a Tamil expression. Did the professor fail you just as he failed me? "Why blood? Same blood!" indeed.
In Pokkiri, Vadivelu comes as the howlarious Body Soda, a pseudo Kung Fu master who tries to make the heroine, Shruthi (Asin) or "Suruthi" as he calls her, fall for him.
In one of the scenes, three men looking to beat him up come to a shop where he's eating vadais. A brave Body Soda, who is speaking over the phone, declares that he can pulp anyone by demonstrating his skills on the vadai before him. At the end of the "slaughter" of the vadai, he regretfully says, "Vada poche!" (The vada is gone!).
"Vada poche!" is currently an expression which appears on numerous memes as it can aptly describe political situations ranging from Hillary Clinton's loss in the US presidential elections to what Deepa, Jayalalithaa's niece, must be thinking about the CM chair.
Ivalo vela senjum manda mela iruka kondaya marundhuteneda
Also from Pokkiri, Vadivelu as Body Soda resents Thamizh (Vijay) whom he knows is also interested in Shruthi (Asin). He sports various disguises and follows the two of them around to see what they are up to but is found out every time and gets punched. Even when he wears a head to foot purdah.
When he asks the men (Thamizh's friends) punching him how they managed to see through his disguises, they point to the kondai (hairbun) on his head which reveals his identity no matter what he wears.
Vadivelu then philosophically exclaims, "Ivalo vela senjum manda mela iruka kondaya marundhuteneda" (I did so much work but forgot about the kondai on my head!) - a statement that is often used in Tamil Nadu when someone does a lot of work (mostly cover-up work) but is found out anyway because s/he forgot something vital.
And it's not only humorous situations for which his lines ring true. Seen the disturbing video of cops setting fire to vehicles during jallikattu protests? That's right, they forgot about the cameras pointed at them, and social media users were quick to recall Vadivelu's words.
This is only a tiny sample from Vadivelu's treasury of golden one-liners. In happiness and sorrow, to the Vaigaipuyal we turn!