Imaikkaa Nodigal, Thani Oruvan, Irumbu Thirai: South cinema is warming up to silent, brooding villains

Raja Sekar

Sep,15 2018 17:21:14 IST

Tamil cinema audiences have seen many deadly villains in the past but in recent times, they are attracted towards the sophisticated, handsome and brainy antagonists in films like Thani Oruvan (Arvind Swamy), Irumbu Thirai (Arjun) and Imaikkaa Nodigal (Anurag Kashyap).

Though there were many brilliant performers like Raghuvaran and Prakash Raj who ruled as powerful baddies in Tamil cinema, Mohan Raja’s Thani Oruvan brought a different color. In cinema, success speaks volumes so the massive box office revenue and acceptance of Thani Oruvan inspired many filmmakers to create an unbeatable antagonist on par with Swamy.

Arvind Swamy in a still from Thani Oruvan. YouTube

Arvind Swamy in a still from Thani Oruvan. YouTube

“Usually when a filmmaker showcases a child delivery scene, he would only portray the kid as a hero but I broke the trend by kick-starting my story with villain introduction. In any cinema, the villain would create some trouble in the hero’s life and only then, the battle begins but Thani Oruvan is an exception. In my film, I wanted to create a war between the good of the highest order vs evil of the highest order so the hero actually picks his villain," says Mohan Raja.

“I should also thank my brother Ravi for the freedom. He never felt insecure and encouraged me to sketch such a powerful evil, thanks to his understanding of real heroism. If you carefully noticed, the downfall of Siddharth Abhimanyu begins as soon as the hero Mithran unearths his underworld kingdom. Until that point, Siddharth Abhimanyu is the leader but once Mithran finds his white color crime, he becomes a follower. Siddharth actually begins to follow even minor movements of Mithran, which is his downfall. The biggest achievement of Mithran is in the climax because the deadly evil accepts its defeat and surrenders to the hero, but the beauty is that I never showed my villain as a fool. His brilliance was evident even in his defeat," adds the director.

Talking about the inspiration behind casting a handsome hero like Arvind Swamy as the baddie, Raja says, “We people would easily move away from gory things but imagine a likable guy who travels along with you and suddenly unmasks his true evil nature. There is a tremendous shock value to it."

“In my life, I never loved loud villains. I think if the antagonist falls down and yet smiles at the hero, he becomes more powerful. Why do we fear snakes? Because they silently attack us. If the villain loses his temper and shouts out, he becomes an ordinary guy. We all consider Raghuvaran in Baashha as one of the iconic villains in Tamil cinema because his character is very subtle and not loud like usual antagonists. Raghuvaran had always delivered subtle and matured performance," says Ajay Gnanamuthu, director of the super hit Imaikkaa Nodigal, in which Bollywood’s acclaimed director Anurag Kashyap played a psychotic cop who takes revenge against a CBI officer, played by Nayanthara.

In an earlier interview to Firstpost, Ajay admitted that he approached stylish filmmaker Gautham Menon before Anurag Kashyap. “Gautham sir was impressed with the script and shown a great interest to be a part of the film but he had multiple projects in the pipeline, including Vikram’s Dhruva Natchathiram and Dhanush’s Enai Nokki Paayum Thota . We were looking for a suitable replacement. I loved Anurag Kashyap’s screen presence in Akira trailer and approached Anurag sir through my guru Murugadoss," said Ajay.

Imaikkaa Nodigal poster/Image from Twitter.

Imaikkaa Nodigal poster/Image from Twitter.

Speaking to the media in Chennai, Kashyap said, “My mom saw Imaikkaa Nodigal and told me that I should learn how to make films from Ajay Gnanamuthu because he knows exactly how to tell a story. All the credits for the performance of Rudra (Kashyap’s character) should go to Ajay. As a filmmaker myself, I have never seen a director with such amazing clarity. Ajay exactly shot scenes which are needed for the film”.

Gnanamuthu assisted AR Murugadoss in films like Thuppakki and 7aam Arivu. “Even Murugadoss sir is known for sketching silent villains. Though Johnny Tri Nguyen is powerful in 7aam Arivu, he was never seen losing his temper in the film. Vidyut Jammwal in Thuppakki is also one such cool villain. The trend of the sophisticated and handsome baddies was actually introduced by KV Anand in Kana Kandaen. No one expected Prithviraj to be the villain and it is a trendsetting characterisation," adds Ajay.

Director Mithran, who was appreciated for his blockbuster cyber-crime thriller Irumbu Thirai, especially for the terrific characterisation of Arjun, says, “I don’t think the trend of silent villains happened in recent times. Look at Mani Ratnam and Shankar’s films. All the villains were not loud. Salim Ghouse in Mani Ratnam’s Thiruda Thiruda and Kamal Haasan’s Vetri Vizha and Raghuvaran in almost all his films only induced fear in us by being silent villains. Vijay’s Ghilli actually started the trend of loud villains and it’s quite natural because the rural characters always behave in that manner. Even innocent guys in villages will act loud. The new trend which is being followed now in Tamil cinema is the villain who looks smarter and (more) handsome than the hero, which was started by KV Anand in Kana Kandaen”.

Interestingly, Mohan Raja, Mithran and Ajay feel that Prithviraj’s character is definitely a pioneer in terms of casting handsome villains in Tamil cinema. Actor Ajith’s villainy performance in Mankatha and Vaali is another example of how smart look villains surprise the audiences. Both the films minted huge money at the box office.

Talking about his film Irumbu Thirai, Mithran says, “What is new about my film is that both my characters have grey shades. For example, my hero Vishal gets the loan by providing fake documents which is wrong but his intention is to repay the amount and fix marriage for his sister, so there is an empathy. However, my villain Arjun is very logical. He handles binary numbers and digital gates so there is no sympathy for him in any characters. White Devil (Arjun's name) knows that what Vishal did is legally wrong so he swindled the money. I think this aspect of a villain who is logically right and ethically wrong is something which hasn’t been explored before”.

This trend of roping in smart yesteryear heroes as villains actually work big time at the box office because audiences are surprised by the new dimension of well-known faces like Swamy (Thani Oruvan), Arjun (Irumbuthirai), Karthik (Anegan) and Fahad Faasil (Velaikkaran). In fact, the biggest challenge for Raja will be roping in a powerful villain on par with Swamy in Thani Oruvan 2. Other directors are also working hard to create stylish villains in order to cater the current generation.

Talking about the development of Thani Oruvan 2, Raja says, “The sequel itself is a big challenge and creating another villain on part with Siddharth Abhimanyu demands a lot of hard work. Things are shaping out well but can’t reveal many details now. As announced earlier, Ravi and I have already started the pre-production work”.

Updated Date: Sep 15, 2018 17:21 PM