Goodbye Vivek: Veteran Tamil comedian passes away in Chennai

Vivek was known for a brand of comedy that came with a social cause.
Actor vivek wearing a red shirt and standing in front of a poster of swami vivekananda
Actor vivek wearing a red shirt and standing in front of a poster of swami vivekananda
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Veteran comedian Vivek passed away in Chennai at the age of 59 on Saturday morning. The actor, who has performed in more than 220 films, died following a cardiac arrest at 4.35am on Saturday. According to doctors, the actor had a 100% blockage in the LAD (left anterior descending artery) vessel which led to a massive cardiac arrest. On Friday, the hospital as well as Tamil Nadu Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan said at a press meet that the cause of the cardiac arrest was unlikely to be the COVID-19 vaccine that Vivek had taken on Thursday.

Vivek was introduced to cinema by none other than veteran director K Balachander who also introduced cinema greats like Rajinikanth. While Vivek played small roles in several Tamil films, beginning in the ‘80s, he went on to become a major comedian in the late ‘90s and the first decade of the new millennium. Between 2000 and 2001, Vivek did over 50 films. His face would appear in film posters along with the lead cast. 

Usually appearing as the hero’s friend, Vivek’s one-liners acquired the fame of punch lines uttered by major heroes. His comedy in films like Kushi, Minnale, Alaipayuthey, Mugavaree, Dum Dum Dum, Sivaji and many other films, have extremely high recall value even now. He has acted with heroes across generations, from Rajinikanth to Madhavan, Ajith and Vijay. 

Vivek was also keen to introduce social messaging in his comedy. He took a stance against the trend of asking the rapist to marry the survivor in the film Kadhal Sadugudu. He has also taken jibes at superstitions and rituals in several films.  

Born as ‘Vivekanandan’ in Kovilpatti, Vivek’s tryst with acting started early in his life. He used to perform standup comedy during his college and early professional life, when he was employed with the state government. His entry into Kollywood happened because of veteran director K Balachander who, in 1987, offered a supporting character role to Vivek in the film Manathil Urudhi Vendum. 

Also known as ‘Chinna Kalaivaanar’, Vivek received several awards for his performances including the Filmfare and the Tamil Nadu State Awards. In 2009, the actor was conferred with Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian honour in the country, for his contribution to Indian cinema. A self-confessed follower of former President and missile scientist Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, Vivek also launched the ‘Green Kalam’ initiative to promote awareness and action against Global Warming. The initiative has planted one billion saplings across the state. In 2015, he lost  his son Prasanna Kumar to dengue.

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