Why Malayalam actors are being wooed by Tamil film industry to play lead roles
When the hit Malayalam movie Premam released in Chennai in 2015, it was expected to do reasonably well. So how well did it do? The Nivin Pauly-starrer smashed box office records and went on to have a 100-day run in Chennai! This was a significant milestone in recent times given that films hardly cross two weeks in theatres. Interestingly, this showed that the Tamil film audience was giving direction to a new trend – the entry of Malayalam heroes into the Tamil film domain.
Malayalam superstars Mammooty and Mohanlal have starred in a handful of Tamil films in their career. But new age Malayalam heroes, like Prithviraj, Nivin Pauly, Dulquer Salmaan and Fahadh Faasil, are now being wooed by Tamil filmmakers to play the leading role in Kollywood. All these stars have had extremely successful Malayalam films albeit in their somewhat short film career.
Take Dulquer Salmaan, Malayalam superstar Mammootty’s son, for instance. He was signed on for his Tamil film debut in 2014 in director Balaji Mohan’s film Vaayai Moodi Pesavum, there wasn’t much buzz. But once the film released, Dulquer or DQ (as he is called) had a strong female fan following and he was deemed as the best replacement for chocolate boy hero Madhavan. Thus, it wasn’t surprising that ace director Mani Ratnam – who loves chocolate boy heroes - decided to cast him in O Kadhal Kanmani (2015). Obviously, the movie was a hit.
What makes these Malayalam stars a viable option for Tamil filmmakers? For one, these young men are not just good-looking but extremely versatile and talented. The range of roles they have essayed in Mollywood showcase their strength on-screen. Secondly, their Malayalam films have been a big hit with the non-Malayalam speaking audience as well. A case in point is director Anjali Menon’s Bangalore Days which starred DQ, Nivin and Fahaadh. The movie, which ran for a good 60 days in Hyderabad, was the highest-grossing Malayalam film (Rs 45 crore reportedly) worldwide in 2014.
Another important factor is the growing fan base these Malayalam stars have in other states and globally. Thanks to the trend of sub-titling films in English, Malayalam cinema has been able to transcend borders and break regional barriers.
For any producer, financials are key and these Malayalam stars are a good option to signing on a top Tamil star. While any of the top five heroes in Kollywood charge Rs 10 crore upwards, a film with these stars can be completed in a Rs 10 crore budget! (O Kadhal Kanamani was reportedly completed in Rs 6 crore budget.) These actors seem more particular about the script and story rather than give sole weight to remuneration and that’s very appealing to any filmmaker. With producers constantly seeking out not just fresh content but fresh faces too, these Malayalam stars have come in like a breath of fresh air in Tamil cinema.
Telugu stars, like Mahesh Babu and Ram Charan, have been trying to make in-roads into the Tamil cinema territory in recent times by releasing their films as bilinguals. But they have not been signed on for any straight Tamil films unlike these Malayalam stars. The only recent exception is perhaps Telugu actor Sundeep Kishan whose small budget Tamil flick Maanagaram turned out to be a superhit.
The influx of Malayalam actors into Tamil cimema is not new. Many of the heroines in Tamil cinema like Asin, Nayanthara and Amala Paul, are from Kerala and they have ruled the roost in Kollywood. Now, it looks like it’s the turn of the Malayalam hero to make his mark in Tamil cinema. Prithviraj made his debut in Tamil cinema in 2005 and has starred in about a dozen films since. Currently, Nivin Pauly will be seen in the Tamil film Richie, a remake of the hit Kannada film Ulidavaru Kandanthe. Fahadh has Velaikkaran and Aneethi Kathaigal in his kitty, while DQ has director Bejoy Nambiar’s Tamil-Malayalam film Solo.
Malayalam cinema is replete with strong storylines told in a simple, heart-warming manner. By the look of the Tamil films that these actors are starring in, content is what makes them sign on the dotted line. Given this trend in Tamil cinema, it now remains to be seen how well filmmakers use these talented actors to present new stories which will draw the audience to the theatres.
All pictures from Twitter.