Akshay Kumar in 2.0, Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Petta: Why Tamil films are picking villains from Bollywood
A new breed of bad guys have taken over Kollywood, the larger-than-life star actors and character artists from Bollywood. Recently, Bollywood actors have been playing villains in Tamil mass films with big heroes — Akshay Kumar in 2.0, Nana Patekar in Kaala, Anurag Kashyap in Imaikka Nodigal, Rahul Bose in Kamal Haasan’s Viswaroopam 2, and Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the Pongal hit Petta.
In 2017, Vivek Oberoi also played the villain against Ajith Kumar in Vivegam. Vijay, at one time, preferred villains from Mumbai, like Vidyut Jammwal in Thuppakki (2012) and Neil Nitin Mukesh in Kaththi (2014). After having local villains in Mersal (2017) and Sarkar (2018), the buzz is that he will go back to a top Bollywood actor, offering him to play the crucial antagonist role in his new film tentatively called Thalapathy 63. A long time ago, it was the Bollywood heroines who made a dash for South films, but now successful male actors are making a beeline to “get bashed on screen” by larger-than-life South heroes.
Veteran director P Vasu, who directed the blockbuster Chandramukhi (2005) with Rajinikanth, recalls, “Our audiences love when the superstar battles a Bollywood actor and that is the reason why I brought in Sonu Sood for just one action scene in Chandramukhi, which worked big time for the film’s success. From MGR days, one of the highlights of a big commercial film is the face-off between the hero and a powerful villain, and it can never be lopsided.” It is a trend that has been prevailing in Kollywood for a long time. In Mani Ratnam’s Rajinikanth film Thalapathy (1991), Amrish Puri played the bad man.
If in Enthiran (Robo), the hero and the villain was Rajinikanth, in its sequel 2.0, director Shankar brought in Akshay Kumar as Pakshi Raja, the antagonist. It was a masterstroke by Shankar as Akshay, as the villain and his eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with Rajinikanth, especially in the climax, turned out to be one of the highlights of the film. And the film turned out to be a bigger hit outside of Tamil Nadu, thanks to Akshay’s star power at the box office. The buzz in Chennai is that for Haasan’s Indian 2, director Shankar wants to repeat Akshay as the principal villain and Abhishek Bachchan to play his second in command.
Today, owing to the state of art technology, directors can get the best suitable voice to suit the Bollywood actors. Take the case of Anurag Kashyap, who took up the role of the psychotic villain “who loves killing” role in Imaikka Nodigal, where Nayanthara plays a cop hunting for him. The director of the film, Ajay Gnanamuthu, said, “Anurag Kashyap fitted the bill as the serial killer. It took me some time to get in touch with Anurag but after he heard the story and my character development, he agreed to do it. My friend and director Magizh Thirumeni dubbed for him in Tamil and his voice was in perfect sync with the character, and enriched the performance”.
The idea is clear that Bollywood character actors bring in the extra surprise element, which enriches the content. Confesses a popular director, “The trouble is that most of the time in commercial masala films, the villain’s role is badly written and done by popular character artists who tend to ham, making meme creators go viral. For example, if you take Prakash Raj, truly a fantastic actor who has done multiple roles in a villain role, you don’t bring anything new in the character. The audiences know his body languages and expressions. So that’s the reason why Southern directors look out for Bollywood actors who bring freshness and something unique to that character.”
The Bollywood actors take up Tamil assignments purely because of fat pay checks. They get two to three times their normal salary and the number of days of work is limited (they need not even dub). And they also get a big kick that they have worked with legends like Rajinikanth or Kaml Haasan.
For the producers and directors, it makes commercial sense to rope in a Bollywood actor with a fan base to play the villain’s role. An Akshay Kumar makes the Tamil film with Hindi dubbing viable at the box office. Boman Irani is now doing Suriya’s KV Anand-directed thriller Kaappaan. And in the future, Tamil directors looking for a pan Indian market for their big budget films are sure to sign a villain from Bollywood.