From Santhanam to Sunil and Saptagiri, comedian-turned-heroes are making all the wrong moves

Haricharan Pudipeddi

Jan 10, 2018 14:58:23 IST

If you’re an actor and are given the opportunity to play the hero, would you not grab it? Who wouldn’t like the attention and fat paycheck?

So it doesn’t come as a big surprise when popular comedians such as Santhanam, Sunil and Saptagiri, among others from Tamil and Telugu filmdom, decided to turn heroes. But little did they realise that playing a hero comes with its share of challenges and one wrong move can, well, almost end careers.

Both Santhanam and Sunil — two of the most popular comedians of recent times — turned heroes more or less around the same time. Sunil jumped on the hero bandwagon with S.S Rajamouli’s Maryada Ramanna, which worked wonders at the box-office and laid the perfect platform for him to explore his options. Interestingly, Santhanam donned the hero’s hat with the Tamil remake of Maryada Ramanna, which went on to be a hit. Call it their blind faith, but the success of their first film made them turn down multiple offers to play comedian again.

Santhanam. Image from News 18.

“I got bored of playing the hero’s friend who helps in love liasons. After a point, these roles got so monotonous, I felt I can’t do this anymore. I can’t quit cinema, so I decided to play the hero. No matter what decision you take in life, there’ll always be support and opposition. I saw both in this case but I was certain of what I wanted to do with my career. I still do humour in the films that I play the hero, but this is different. The humour I do as hero is not monotonous and boring,” Santhanam said in a recent media interaction while promoting his last release Sakka Podu Podu Raja.

Meanwhile, six out of Sunil’s last eight films as hero were box-office duds. His last notable hit was 2012 Telugu action-comedy Poola Rangadu. A leading producer, on the condition of anonymity, said there’s nothing wrong with the trend of comedians turning heroes. “The problem arises when the focus is on building a hero image and not picking the right script. In Sunil’s case, he spent more time on shedding weight and sporting six-pack abs even though it wasn’t necessary. Audiences really don’t care how a hero really looks on screen unless you’re a really big star. Finally, it’s the content that sells and not whether a hero looks good on screen.”

Santhanam, on the other hand, believes it does matter how he looks on screen, especially now as a hero.

“I didn’t care much about how I looked when I played a comedian. There have been instances when I wore whatever was available on sets. Since I play a hero, it matters not just to me but also to my fans how I look,” he said, adding that as a hero he has to live up to certain expectations. “It matters to my fans that I entertain them with dance and fight sequences for which I work extra hard.” In Sakka Podu Podu Raja, Santhanam did everything that’s expected of a commercial cinema hero. He danced to hit numbers, shed weight and look dapper in designer clothes. All of Santhanam’s effort really didn’t matter because his film tanked without a trace.

Actor-comedian Srinivas Reddy, who also tried his hand at playing lead roles, says it all boils down to strong content. Quoting the example of horror-comedy Anand Brahma, which was well received at the box-office last year, he said: “The film featured four popular comedians in lead roles. It didn’t matter to the audience who played the lead. What really mattered was the film’s novel concept and it clicked.”

In the film, ghosts are afraid of humans and this angle was backed by a logical explanation. “The comedy-hero films need to go beyond remakes. When star heroes can’t save a film with bad content, what can comedians turned heroes can do,” he asks. Srinivas has two upcoming projects where he’ll play the lead. “I chose these films after turning down so many scripts. You’ll definitely find something novel in both of them and that’s why I agreed to do them in the first place.”

Saptagiri is the latest comedian to turn hero with 2016 action-comedy Saptagiri Express, which did decent business. His latest film Saptagiri LLB, a remake of Jolly LLB, turned out to be a dud. The industry grapevine is that Sunil is going back to being a comedian and is said to have landed a key role in Ravi Teja’s next yet-untitled Telugu project with director Kalyan Krishna.

Updated Date: Jan 10, 2018 14:58:23 IST