In 1977, three actors shared screen space in a movie that turned out to be a blockbuster movie in Tamil cinema. While one played the role of a village bumpkin dressed in rags, another played a villain character, the local roughie. The third played the role of a well-respectable, distinguished-looking, prosperous doctor visiting the village. The actors who played the village bumpkin and the roughie went on to become two of Tamil Nadu’s biggest actors today - Kamal Hassan as Chappani and Rajinikanth as Parattai respectively.While Kamal was already a big name by then, Rajini on the other hand was in his negative image portrayal phase. Starring Sridevi in the lead role and directed by Bharathiraja, the third role was played by a gentleman playing the role of the doctor, Shabbir Ahmed . A landmark movie of its generation, Pathinaaru (16) Vayathinile became a launching pad for Shabbir, who had moved suitcase and parcel to Chennai from his hometown Bangalore in his hope to make a mark in the film industry. Mayil (Sridevi) falls in love with the doctor, who later abandons her. Tall and lanky with his long hair, completely unconventional in looks compared to the typical moustached, muscular Tamil actor, opportunity came knocking literally on Shabbir’s door when still photographer Lakshmi Kanthan appeared outside his room one night in 1977 asking if he would be interested in a role in the movie.  It was during the movie’s post-production that Shabbir was rechristened (given a film-alias) Sathyajith by music maestro Ilayaraja himself. After his midnight encounter, Shabbir filmed ten days in Mysore where the entire movie was shot. “My first shot for the movie was the scene in which I enter the village,” says Shabbir at his residence in Chennai. The film was a runaway success so much so that people even today are well aware of the movie. “Even today people stop and recognise me by that doctor’s role I played,” he says. “After the movie, I left Chennai and tried movies in Mumbai. I did a movie with Mithun Chakravathy,” he said. However, the movie faced difficulties and never saw the light of day. A career that had peaked with 16 Vayathinile, lulled soon after. The movie played an important role in the career graph of the superstars (Sridevi included), albeit with their unconventional looks in the movie, but ironic then that the charming doctor's fate was not quite the same. It later picked up again for Shabbir when he returned to Chennai. He got another opportunity when he starred in K Hariharan’s National award winning movie Ezhavathu Manithan(The Seventh Man) which released in 1982. Another well-known movie that Shabbir acted in was Kamal Hassan’s 2000 release, Hey Ram. “ Rani helped me master the Bengali dialogues I had to give,” he said. Rani Mukherjee and Shah Rukh Khan had played lead roles in the movie produced and acted in by Kamal Hassan. Kamal - an institute in film making Shabbir who has known Kamal Hassan since his days at the Adyar Film Institute in Chennai from where he passed out as a gold-medallist in 1977 has very high regard for him. “He thinks twenty years ahead of time,” he said about Kamal’s movies. Even when we were shooting for Hey Ram, I told Kamal that it was a movie that should be released later in time. Kamal also agreed with what I said, he reminisces. “Kamal is an institute in film making,” he said about the star. In recent times, Shabbir has acted in Haridas , a 2013 Tamil movie starring Sneha and Kishore. The actor has played roles in 40-45 films to date, apart from acting in serials. “I have acted in around twenty serials till date,” he said. After Pongal, Shabbir will begin shooting as a part of a show on Doordarshan called ‘Crime Time’ directed by Ratheesh Iyer. A continuation to 16 Vayathinile In the movie, 16 Vayathinile, Shabbir’s character plays the role of a doctor who develops a romantic relationship with Mayil (played by Sridevi), a 16-year old girl in a village he visits. In the first part of the film, the doctor is seen leaving Mayil behind to marry another woman. The story then revolves around Rajini, Sridevi and Kamal and who she decides to marry. Recently, director Karthik who has previously worked as an assistant director for a major production label approached Shabbir with a script which starts off as a continuation to where 16 Vayathinile left off. Starring actor Shaam and himself in the lead roles, Shabbir wholeheartedy believes that this movie will do as well as the original one 37 years ago because of the movie’s script. Changes in the film industry For an actor in the field for over three decades, Shabbir felt that a lot of difference in dedication in the cinematic field in recent years. “In those days, each shot used to be discussed. That essence was the flavour. “ “Now that everything has become technical , you become lazy,” he said. “Cinema has become like fast-food now,” he says as he explains how people are more concerned about deadlines and the technical aspects than the essence of film-making. For now, Shabbir seems content with his stint in the film industry. The tall and lanky 55 year-old actor who once turned heads with his unconventional good looks in the Tamil industry lives with his wife and two children in the city and hopes to one day to set foot in the world of directing. Tweet Follow @thenewsminute