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Kaatrin Mozhi

To be a director or Not to be an actor

Sunday, March 28, 2010 • Tamil Comments

The film ‘Rettaisuzhi’ will go in the annals of history as a film that united the two giants of cinema in roles that were not theirs. But it made them do what they do best. Confusing? Not really. Kollywood in recent times is seeing more and more actors who are not actors. Still confusing? Relax. The two giants K. Balachander and Bharathiraja have excelled in acting while being directors all along their careers until ‘Rettaisuzhi’ happened. Their acting prowess cannot be doubted as most of the leading actors of today honed their skills under their tutorships, including the biggest super stars of today Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan.

So what attracts directors or cameramen or other non-acting professionals who are behind the camera to come in front of the camera with guts? Directors being the captain of the film ship teach acting to their stars. People who have worked in Bharathiraja or K. Balachander films have invariably said they just reproduced what their directors enacted. So directors have inherent acting skills. Tamil cinema has plenty of director actors today.

The trend which looks new was there even in those days. Director AP Nagarajan was the famous Nakheeran in Thiruvilayyadal who anchors the ever green Sivaji-Nagesh episode. Mouli was a famous director of classy satirical comedies like ‘Oru Pullanguzhal Aduppu Oodhugiradhu’ and  ‘Matravai Neril’ in Tamil and a lot more in Telugu before finding acting easier than direction.

But it was Bharathiraja even then who took acting seriously.  Bharathiraja played the hero in the classic film ‘Kallukkul Eeram’. It looked acceptable because Bharathiraja played a role that of a film director similar to his real life. In the eighties Bharathiraja introduced Manivannan as an actor to play villain to Rajinikanth in Kodiparakkutu the trend got serious.

While some preferred to do lead roles some were satisfied with cameo roles. T. Rajendhar even before becoming the all in all of his films made a point to show his face at least in a minor role in his directorial ventures. Many others like SA Chandrasekhar, KS Ravikumar, Gautham Menon, Perarasu show their faces now and then.

And the mother of all was Maayandi Kudumbathaar which had not one, not two but whopping ten directors playing all the important characters in the film. Mayandi Kudumbathar marked the coming together of 10 directors in the role of actors. Manivannan, G M Kumar, Ponvannan, Seeman, Singam Puli, Jegan, Tarun Gopi, Azhagam Perumal.

Then there is Cheran, Sundar C, Ameer, SJ Suryah and many more who doesn’t think twice to don the grease paint. The trend is getting bolder as today most of the character artistes and comedians are from the directors’ clan. Raj Kapoor, Ramesh Khanna, Manobala, R. Sundarajan, Anu Mohan and the list is ever increasing.

So why that is the number of directors getting in front of the camera is increasing? What is the incentive? Most of the directors say the reason for them turning actors is not getting the dates of popular stars. Director Cheran says he became the hero in Autograph only because he got tired of approaching well known heroes for the role. Even Ilaya Thalapathi Vijay was approached by Cheran for the film which turned out to be a block buster. But how come he did ‘Solla Maratha Kathai’ in 2002 even before Autograph happened?  The director of ‘Solla Marantha Kathai’ Thankar Bachan says he went with Cheran after all popular heroes rejected his story. An interesting thing here is Thankar Bachan also tells the same reason for him turning an actor with ‘Chidamparathil Oru Appasamy in 2005.

SJ Surya always wanted to be an actor, but he started as a director first just because he thought that would be easy for him to play a hero later. His first passion was always acting. Other than doing heroes and other important characters director turned actors also settle for comedy.

The reason for so many directors turning actors may be many. Most of the directors are good actors by themselves. Even the like of Kamal Haasan says if Balachander decided to become an actor we would soon go out of job. Though many directors became actors out of compulsion you cannot deny there are few others who took it because it is lighter and lucrative. Having said all this it is difficult to pass a judgment as to whether it is good if a director turns an actor or not? In fact most of the good and better actors today are from the director breed. What ever said and done one cannot deny the fact that all the directors who turned actors are terrific.

Rajkiran today is the most favoured actor for doing demanding roles which would have gone to Sivaji Ganesan had he been alive. Manivannan is the most preferred actor for sarcastic comedy. Cheran is more in demand to play an actor. There are producer queuing up to Sundar C, Ameer etc to play hero in their next film. R Sundarrajan, Manobala, Anu Mohan, Ramesh Khanna etc are sure to find a place in every second film made to day to play a comic role. Raj Kapoor, Santhana Bharathi, Samuthirakani etc are preferred character artistes.

All said and done it also time to realize the loss to creativity in films.  Losing an excellent writer and director like Manivannan to acting is a big loss to the good cinema audience. Cheran concentrating more on acting these days will deprive meaningful cinema to the film lovers.  But as breather in the midst of the chaos is Ameer and Sasikumar have said directing is their primary job and acting is secondary.

Our appeal to all is those great directors turned actors is Dear Sirs, acting may give you more money in less time and with less effort. But at the same time don’t let your bona fide fans down.