Storm from the south

Published: Apr 10, 2010, 23:09 IST | J Kothari Bollywood News Service and Pics/ |

Sunday MiD DAY decodes superstars from the South, ahead of the two massive crossovers slated for the year

Sunday MiD DAY decodes superstars from the South, ahead of the two massive crossovers slated for the year

This year, two of south India's biggest stars gear up for their Bollywood debut.

Surya Sivakumar, who starred in the Tamil version of Ghajini that was remade with Aamir Khan in the lead, will make his debut in the Ram Gopal Varma-directed Rakta Charitra and Vikram plays the lead alongside Abhishek Bachchan in Mani Ratnam's Raavan. Most of the films starring these heroes have been successfully remade in Bollywood but the big question is: how bankable are the originals out here? Co-stars and filmmakers do the math for you.

(With inputs from Mauli-Jigar)

The original shirtless, tonsured hero hunting down the villainous Ghajini (Tamil, 2005), Surya has a huge following amongst the youth in the south courtesy his yuppie good looks, poised performances and, yes, six- pack abs. 

Son of actor Sivakumar, Surya turned hero when still in his early 20s with Nerrukku Ner (1997), but achieved true blue stardom with Nandha (2001) and Kaaka Kaaka (2003). He won the Best Supporting Actor Filmfare award in 2003 for Pithamagan, and bagged the Best Actor award the very next year for sharply delineating the twin roles of a boxer and a physically challenged person in Perazhagan.

The star is riding the crest of a wave of hits post Ghajini. Vel and Vaaranam Aayitam  have established Surya as Tamil cinema's hottest actor.  

Bollywood Prospects
He may have missed out on the Hindi remake of Ghajini but Surya has scored a meaty role in Ram Gopal Verma's ambitious Rakta Charitra. His urbane appeal and contemporary acting idiom can help him reach a wider audience. 

Industry Take
Sameera Reddy, co-star: 
"My biggest hit in south India is Vaaranam Aayiram opposite Surya. He is very talented, industrious and professional. In the film, he played a character who ages; and it's incredible how he pulled it off. I think Surya can work in Hindi films, he has the crossover look. Like his contemporaries, he does one film at a time, and this will work to his advantage here."

Revathy Verma, filmmaker: "Surya is like the Aamir Khan of Tamil films. He does one movie a year. He has good chances of succeeding in Bollywood."

Not every hero gets a chance to woo Aishwarya Rai -- Vikram will be doing just that, right under her real-life husband Abhishek's nose in Mani Ratnam's Raavan. Vikram's career had a slow take-off, kicking off with duds, but he bagged the National Award for Best Actor for his film Kaasi that released in 2002 and things have been rolling forward impressively since.

Vikram has a decade's worth of films throughout the 1990s after making his debut with En Kaadhal Kanmani in 1990. He finally made a splash in 1999 with a compelling performance in Sethu, the original of Tere Naam. He has been tagged as Chiyaan, the name of his obsessive character from Sethu, ever since.


The last decade has been studded with several Vikram blockbusters: Dhill, Gemini, Dhool, Saami and Bheema. Ever since he bagged the National Award for Pithamagan, the super hot star has appeared in very select films -- only five in the last six years. 

Bollywood Prospects
Vikram has snagged a prized Bollywood break with the master himself. Mani Ratnam and Vikram's appetite for the untried give him an edge over the others. But Vikram is now in his 40s, and that limits his horizon.

Industry Take
Sada, co-star:
"I have worked with Vikram in Anniyan and I know he is capable of carrying off any role. He played three characters in one film and I can't imagine anyone pulling it off it as convincingly. Vikram and Surya are both brilliant as well as good looking; but Mani Ratnam and Ram Gopal Varma, who have cast them in Raavan and Rakta Charitra respectively, are from the south. I want Mumbai directors to consider them too because they are fabulous actors."

Think Salman rocked Wanted? There are legions who think that Vijay, who played the same role in the blockbuster Tamil original, Pokkiri, was every bit as good. Vijay's fluid dance moves, fiery fisticuffs and a way with the wisecrack have made him an entertainer, hugely popular with the masses. This Tamil megastar is called Ilaya Thalapathy (The Young General) by his fans.

The son of Tamil filmmaker SA Chandrasekhar (who also helmed a few Hindi films such as the 1987 Jackie Shroff-starrer Kudrat Ka Kanoon), Vijay made his debut with his father's production Naalaya Theerpu (1992). While still in his early 20s, the youngster entered the big league with Poove Unakkaga (1996) and established his acting chops with Kadhalukku Mariyadhai (1997), for which he won the Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Actor.  

Many of Vijay's biggest hits have been remade in Hindi -- Kushi (a romance which was remade as Khushi with Fardeen and Kareena) and Pokkiri (an action flick remade by Boney Kapoor as Wanted). Other successes over the last decade include Badri, Ghilli and the recent Vettaikaran.

Bollywood Prospects
In his mid 30s, his endorsements point to a youth appeal which can be tapped by the right filmmaker. But he seems too well entrenched in Tamil cinema and unfortunately, the filmmakers that he often works with, do not have a Hindi film connection.

Industry Take
Boney Kapoor, filmmaker:
"Vijay, who starred in Pokkiri, is a fantastic dancer. He has his own style. I haven't seen Simbu's and Karthik's films as yet but I have seen films starring Vijay, Vikram, Surya and Dhanush and they have all impressed me. These stars have worked hard to create their individual niches. But they can make a mark in Bollywood because it's all about content-driven films, propelled by strong characters. I will not hesitate to cast any of them if I have a script that suits them."

Revathy Verma, filmmaker: "Vijay is as big as SRK in the Tamil industry; why should he come to Bollywood?"

Silambarasan aka Simbu is no stranger to the big screen and effortlessly transformed from child actor into a major star. Only 27, Simbu has already nailed several hits.

After playing the moppet in more than a dozen films made by his father T Rajendar, Simbu made his debut as a hero in his father's Kadhal Azhivathillai (2002). It was his double role in the high-octane serial-killer thriller Manmadhan (2004) that consolidated his stardom.

After scoring points as the gangster in Thotti Jaya (2005) and the conflicted lover in Vallavan (2006), Simbu made critics sit up with his controlled performance as the hapless romantic in this year's superhit -- the Hindu boy-Christian girl story, Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya. With music by AR Rahman, the film is currently drawing crowds. 

Bollywood Prospects
Low awareness in Bollywood may affect his ability to reach out; but Simbu, who turned director with the successful Vallavan at the age of 23, has high energy and youth on his side. 

Industry Take
Samera Reddy, actor:
"Simbu is the perfect boy next door."

Karthik's debut vehicle Paruthiveeran wheeled him into films in grand style; albeit at the age of 30 in an industry peopled with heroes who debut in their early 20s. Despite having debuted only in 2007, the actor is giving his elder brother, Surya, a run for his money, in the superhero sweepstakes.

With his very first film, Paruthiveeran, Karthik bagged the Best Actor award. A former assistant director to Mani Ratnam, Karthik shone as a youthful ruffian, who is transformed by the love of the heroine.

Bollywood Prospects
Karthik has lost weight since his chubby Paruthiveeran days and appears slicker in the recently released Paiyaa. From studying engineering to direction to acting, Karthik has grappled with several roles. The unique intensity with which he tackles his roles may draw him notice beyond the south.

Industry Take
Sameera Reddy, actor:
 "Karthik has an excellent personality. He is a chocolate boy who also has the ability to perform action sequences with lan."

There's more to Dhanush than being Rajanikant's son-in-law (the actor is married to the megastar's daughter, Aishwarya). Born Prabhu Kasthuriraja, this lean-and-wiry actor's screen name Dhanush has proved lucky for him; and he is fast acquiring the wattage of a major star.

Dhanush had an unusually fortuitous start as a hero: he began with three youth-oriented hits -- Thulluvadho Ilamai, Kadhal Kondein and Thiruda Thirudi -- in 2001-2002; and quickly became a pop culture notable.

Subsequent disappointments proved a dampener till Thiruvilayadal Arambam in 2006 established Dhanush as someone who could still hit bulls-eye.

Initially backed by a director father Kasthuri Raja (who directed him in Thulluvadho Ilamai) and brother Selvaraghavan (who helmed him in Kadhal Kondein and Pudhupettai), Dhanush has proved he can be successful with other directors too, whether in the light-hearted Thiruvilayadal Arambam or the intense Yaaradi Nee Mohini.
Bollywood Prospects
Thirty-two year-old Dhanush has no Bollywood projects in hand, but with Hindi cinema evolving dynamically,
we won't be surprised if the actor lands a role.

Industry Take
Boney Kapoor, filmmaker: "I have bought the remake rights of Dhanush's first film Kadhal Kondein. He is Rajanikant's son-in-law and a major filmmaker's son. He impressed me in his first film itself."

Tamil-Hindi actor-director Kamal Haasan
remade Neeraj Pandey's A Wednesday in Tamil as Thalaivan Irukkindran, starring himself in Naseeruddin Shah's role while Mohanlal took over as the police commissioner from Anupam Kher

Short-lived Hindi career
Ajith Kumar, another of the popular leading men in Tamil cinema, did try his hand in Bollywood.
The 38 year-old was cast in Santosh Sivan's Asoka in which he played one of Emperor Asoka's evil brothers. The film was a washout and signalled the end of his career in Hindi cinema.
Ajith recently played the lead in Billa, the Tamil version of the Amitabh Bachchan and more recently SRK-starrer Don.

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