Mar 23 2017

Welcome Back!

Published by at 9:35 pm under Tamil Cinema

arvind-swamy   jyothika-36v

Tamil cinema is pretty unforgiving when it comes to giving second chances to our heroes. There have been many actors who have bounced back after after almost being written off after a string of flops but they typically had a strong fan base that never lost faith in them and so they never really went out of the limelight. But once an actor loses his standing as a hero, fades away from public memory, it has been near impossible for him to make a substantial comeback and play the central character again.

This non-happening of second chances is not for lack of trying. Mohan, who ruled the roost in the 80s, tried to play the hero again after a long gap in Anbulla Kaadhalukku but it was a disaster. More recently there was some buzz around actors like Ramki(Biriyani) and Karthik(Anegan) coming back to films but they turned out to be one-off attempts with no talk since then about them acting in any more films. The only way for heroes to continue acting is to take on character roles as actors like Prabhu and Sathyaraj have done. They have graduated to playing elder character roles but the roles they are taking up have become progressively worse(Sathyaraj’s role in Motta Shiva Ketta Shiva is a recent, sad example) and their presence no longer adds any buzz or hype to the movie.

The fate of our heroines isn’t that different. Most of them have a much shorter shelf life compared to the heroes and after a brief hiatus they come back in character roles that are significantly elder to the same heroes they paired with just a few years back. From there its a short step to TV in the form of either serials or talk shows(earlier there used to be an intermediate step of acting in devotional movies but those aren’t being made these days) where they get to play the lead.

We’ve seen many actresses from earlier eras like Radhika, Ramya Krishnan, Banupriya and Kushboo traverse this career arc. More recently, Nadhiya has been seen in many character roles. Even Simran, who was the leading heroine for so many years, couldn’t escape this as, once her time as heroine was over, she showed up in terrible films like Kicha Vayasu 16 and Ainthaam Padai(I think appearing in a Sundar. C masala film is a sign of an actress’ career hitting the nadir) before moving on to character roles with Vaaranam Aayiram and TV shows like Jackpot.

Considering this history, what Arvind Swamy has done recently is quite surprising. The actor had a decent run as a romantic hero in the 90s, acting in films with some big directors like Manirathnam, Balu Mahendra and Rajiv Menon. But not being successful as an action hero(En Swaasa Kaatre proved it quite emphatically) put his leading man status in danger and he soon disappeared from the scene. His comeback with 2013’s Kadal wasn’t very successful and I assumed that he too had joined the list of actors with failed comebacks.

But 2015’s Thani Oruvan, where he made the surprising decision to play the bad guy, has given him a completely new lease of life. He stole the film as the suave, stylish businessman and crackled in the role with style and swagger that we hadn’t seen in him before. He was again the best thing in Bogan even if his performance wasn’t that different from what he did in Thani Oruvan. Just when we thought he may be getting stereotyped comes news that he is playing the lead in some exciting new movies like Sathuranga Vettai 2(with Trisha) and Vanangamudi(with Ritika Singh). So 25 years after he was introduced as a hero, he has come full circle and is once again playing the hero. That’s quite an achievement.

If what Arvind Swamy has done is surprising, Jyothika’s comeback is even more remarkable. She had a pretty long and successful run as a heroine, acting with all top heroes of the day. Marriage pretty much sounds the death knell for our heroines and so Jyothika voluntarily moving away from films after her marriage to Suriya seemed like a pragmatic decision at the time(it seemed even more sensible after Sillunu Oru Kaadhal :)). And it seemed like the end of her film career.

But after a 6 year break, she surprised everyone by coming back to movies with 36 Vayadhinile. And it wasn’t a supporting role either. She played the lead in a woman-centric film that conveyed a strong message about female empowerment. Her performance and the film itself got generally positive reviews. But she hasn’t stopped there. She is now leading a cast of women in Magalir Mattum and has also been cast by Bala in his next film Naachiyaar, along with G.V.Prakash. More telling than those is the fact that she opted out of Vijay’s Atlee-directed film because of the script(a role that is now being done by Nithya Menen). Again, quite an achievement.

This doesn’t mean things have completely changed. I don’t think we are going to see Arvind Swamy play a mass hero or Jyothika pair up with Ajith or Vijay in a film that gives her a substantial role. But these two actors have certainly gone against the norm and added some interest and flavor to Tamil cinema today.

7 responses so far

7 Responses to “Welcome Back!”

  1. Sandya says:

    You don’t think that Jyo can play lead heroine to Vijay or Ajith, huh?! You might have to eat those words soon.. As the hilarious Premji once said, “EnnaalamO pannitOm, idhai paNNa maatOmaa?”

    As for Arvind Swamy, we are just plain lucky as an audience that there is a second innings inside this man. I would very much like to see a Maddy-Arvnd Swamy film soon again; something on an exciting platform by Maniratnam. If and when it all comes together.. if ever! :)

    Eppadi irundha nee.. ippadi aayitte!:

  2. Ramesh says:

    Great article, love to see these analysis posts!

    I’m also looking forward to his Naragasooran by the maker of D16! The remake of Bhaskar the Rascal with Amala Paul is also on the cards. I’m sure Amala and Ritika were not even born when this chap had his first coming. In relation to this post – I’m feeling slightly sorry for Rahman – an awesome D16 and a statement to be more selective with scripts has been plagued by dated, back-to-back releases like Pagadi Aattam and Oru Mugathirai – which have emerged out of the cans – more or less ending a proposed comeback.

    I know you’re a big Jo fan – but in this comeback, she’s only really featured in two films produced by her superstar husband. It also can’t be said that Bala’s the most relevant filmmaker anymore, especially commercially – so I hope this comeback does step it up a few gears in the projects following that.

  3. Swapna says:

    I think the previous comment stole my words. Jyothika -I wouldn’t really consider a “true” comeback since the two said films are produced by Surya. If you have a solid backing like this, I am sure you have an upper hand. I am really waiting for the day where she acts against Vijay or Ajith(not that they are the greatest) with a role like Kushi or Vaali types and these two play their ages(not like Varanam Ayiram). Then it’s a true comeback ???.

  4. Balaji says:

    Sandya, maybe Ajith but a Vijay film is very well impossible I think. We’ll see :)
    I remember one of my ‘Then and Now’ posts in my old blog where I posted a photo of AS from his Roja days and the 1st photo in your link. Very cool that it works the other way now!

    Ramesh/Swapna, I agree that Jo has so far appeared only in Suriya’s productions. But that may well be a decision made by her/them no? The fact that she was slated to star in Vijay’s movie shows that she received other offers too. She may be acting in hubby’s productions so she gets the kinds roles she wants.
    Also, as a shrewd businessman, Suriya won’t be producing her movies if he thinks they won’t run. He’s producing them only because she still has a market.

  5. Jordan says:

    Nice article Balaji. In terms of Sathyaraj, you’re right, MSKS might have bombed him, but hey, he is the one and only Kattappa! This role really took him to the national level, and his role seems to get only better in part 2. Any Motta Siva can’t take away from that.

    In terms of Jo, she’s on a roll too, but I agree with the others, if Suriya weren’t there with his money and marketing skills, maybe these films wouldn’t have took off. Just look at poor Simran, except for Vaaranam, she was straddled with these B-grade movies. I really hoped she was opposite Dhanush in VIP 2, but Soundarya had to bring in Kajol.

    However, I’m still proud of Jo and her choices, and it takes guts for a heroine to say no to a Vijay movie. With her own voice and a national-award winning director at the helm, Magalir Mattum looks like a treat.

  6. Sandya says:

    Jordan, the truth be told, Simran aged hugely after the birth of her first child and unfortunately, too much too soon to repair the damage. In an industry where appearance is the only thing that matters, Simran never stood a chance at a proper comeback! Hey, that reminds me.. wasn’t she in the cast too in Dhruva Natchathiram when GVM first started it with Surya?!

  7. Jordan says:

    @Sandya For DN, I heard that she was not meant to be Suriya’s pair (it was Trisha), and was about to play his mother or some supporting role, and got upset. I think its all rumours, don’t know. That project has been at quite the whirlwind ever since it got announced with Suriya and got finally moved to Vikram!