Like the heroine, the role of the villain in Tamil films is often poorly written. There are many films with a decent storyline that have turned insufferable only because the villain is such a caricature that the hero’s towering goodness and bravery seem unnecessary.
The average villain is a large thug who hangs out with a variety of thugs with bad hairdos. They run amok with sickles, screaming AAAYYYY to give sufficient warning for the hero to thwart their attempts to kill him. And oh, they are always drinking and eating packets of biryani in between executing unintelligent plans.
The other kind of villain is your corporate type: fair-skinned, speaking Tamil with a strange accent, and with a woman on his lap. Here too, it’s alarming how little thought a man who has supposedly built a business empire puts into finishing off his often poor and privilege-less enemy!
It doesn’t help that these roles are mainly played by actors who are not very skilled and sleepwalk through the film with the same expression of outrage and speak without any inflection when they mouth their dialogues.
These issues, however, arise because of the director’s lack of vision. Tamil cinema has several talented actors who deliver excellent performances when they are in the right hands. And what’s more, many of them are versatile performers who are not typecast in the role of the villain.
As a viewer, this makes things more interesting because the film doesn’t fall into predictability. Since these are artistes who can actually act, the characters they play are more subtle and nuanced. Here’s a look at such actors who’ve played the villain in Tamil films since the 90s and have still won our hearts.
If you watched Raghuvaran in Anjali, where he’d easily win the World’s Best Husband award, you won’t be able to believe your eyes when you see him in Puriyadha Pudhir. Just as he’s thoroughly convincing as a sensitive, caring spouse in Anjali, Raghuvaran is spine-chilling with his ‘I know! I know! I know!’ psychotic rants in the second film where he plays a sadistic husband.
He could play the dutiful yet egoistic son in Samsaram Adhu Oru Minsaram or the deliciously wicked Mark Anthony from Baasha and he’d be equally believable. He employed his tall, lithe frame, expressive eyes and that sudden grin successfully to pull any illusion he wanted over you – from leery villain to benevolent father.
Nassar has been around forever and has played a wide range of roles, whether it’s a beloved patriarch in Saivam, an upright police officer in Nayagan, a twisted and casteist villain in Thevar Magan, the patriotic army man in Roja or the genial Basha in Avvai Shanmughi.
Even within the villain role, he has been versatile. Watch him in Kuruthipunal as Badri, the leader of a terrorist group – controlled, self-contained, and brutal. And then watch him as the lecherous, ogling Mookan in Magalir Mattum. He’s just as capable of sending a shiver down your spine as make you burst out in laughter.
Like Kamal Haasan, Sathyaraj (or Kattappa, as the rest of the country knows him) is a self-confessed rationalist-atheist whose politics often spill into his films. He has done memorable roles like Balu Thevar from Vedham Pudhitu, Edison from Villadhi Villain, and EV Ramasamy from Periyar among others, which have tackled knotty problems of caste and religion boldly.
Sathyaraj started his career as a villain and later went on to become a hero with films like Kadalora Kavidhaigal and Walter Vetrivel becoming blockbusters. But he’s an actor who chose to evolve when films with hero roles didn’t come too often.
In Mr Bharath, he played Rajinikanth’s father though he’s younger to the Superstar by four years in real life! Sathyaraj has played the villain many times in his career (including in Villadhi Villain, his own directorial) but his performance as the creepy and opportunistic Amavasai from Amaidhipadai is probably his best to date in a negative role.
With his bulging eyes and hefty frame, Prakash Raj can be a comic, a villain, or a comic villain. He does all three roles convincingly when he’s in the hands of a good director.
As the helicopter parent in Abhiyum Naanum and Santosh Subramaniam, he’s a “villain” of the lovable kind. As the obsessive Muthupandi from Ghilli, whose “Aye chellam!” still draws a laugh, he comes across as a vulnerable yet crazy villain. And who can forget the blistering and cunning Thamizhchelvan from Iruvar?
Probably the only female actor who can swing between playing the goddess and a sex worker without batting an eyelid, Ramya Krishnan is fantastic in every role she decides to do.
It’s hard to hold your own in a Rajinikanth film and yet, that’s precisely what she managed to do as Nilambari in Padayappa. Though the role dripped with patriarchal trappings, Ramya was superb as the arrogant, devil may care Nilambari who is driven by vengeance. The director, KS Ravikumar, gave her atrocious clothes to wear but Ramya still managed to look classy while delivering hilarious lines like, “Maatuku pidicha colour ellam ennala potuka mudiyadhu.” (I can’t wear colours that the bull likes.)
She was great as the conniving Maggie in Panchatantiram too, and is among the few female actors who’ve shattered every stereotype that has come their way in a male dominated industry.
Also a director, Samuthirakani is a versatile performer who can switch between roles like a chameleon. From playing the cunning Kanagu who meets a gruesome end in Subramaniyapuram to essaying the role of an eccentric and harmless teacher in Amma Kanakku or a doting father in Appa, Samuthirakani can do it all.
His finest performance till date is probably that of Muthuvel in Visaranai, a role that won him the National Award. As the conflicted cop who wants to be honest but is coerced by the system, Samuthirakani brought amazing humaneness to his interpretation of Muthuvel. He made for a capable villain in Kadhalum Kadandhu Pogum and was also impressive in Paayum Puli, as the underhand Selvaraj, although the film by itself was not spectacular.
He’s appeared as the villain in only one film – Thani Oruvan – in stark contrast to the romantic heart-throb roles that he was famous for at the peak of his career. But Siddharth Abhimanyu is easily one of the best villains to come out of Tamil cinema, even upstaging the hero in the process. Arvind Swami was great as the good boy, and as the bad boy, he’s fifty shades better. Hopefully, he’ll do more such roles in future.
Before the Thalaivar became the larger than life Superstar that he is now, he made for a superb villain. Remember Paratta? We saw a flash of that genius in Endhiran when he plays a rogue robot. Chitti’s sarcastic bleats and lust filled moves were reminiscient of that era when he wasn’t typecast as an one man army battling all evil. Fans of Rajinikanth, the Superstar, may not want him to play the villain ever again but fans of Rajinikanth, the actor, will always.
Source: The News Minute