The introduction scene of a ‘mass’ hero film is sacred for fans. The wait, the build-up, the hero’s entry, and finally, a thumping song or a fight sequence. Take the introduction sequence in Viswasam. A district Collector is mediating a dispute over a religious festival between two factions of a village. While the bad guys are threatening violence, word gets in that Thookudurai (Ajith) is about to arrive. They decide to snub Thookudurai by not standing up to greet him. As he enters the room with a smile, everyone gets up and greets him, including those who had resolved not to.
You can establish the hero’s character with economy through such scenes. Without a flashback that talks about Thookudurai’s stature in his village, this sequence establishes him as a ‘mass’ character. Anything larger-than-life that he does going forward would be believable. So, if that’s the function of introduction scenes in ‘mass’ hero films, what about climaxes? Are they just about concluding the story in a satisfying manner? Sometimes, they can also tell us something about the kind of films that an actor chooses to do. Ajith, today’s star, might not be a part of script-driven films often, but Nerkonda Paarvai gives one hope that he would choose to, at least once in a while. Here’s a list of some of Ajith’s films with memorable climaxes that illustrates this point.
Director: H Vinoth
It’s rare for a ‘mass’ hero film to not end in a fight. It’s even rarer for the climax to begin and conclude inside a courtroom. In Nerkonda Paarvai, Ajith’s Bharath Subramaniam calmly interrogates the film’s antagonist in a rumbling baritone for 10 minutes. He then delivers his ‘No means no’ monologue that hammers home the point that clear consent is not negotiable, ever. Ajith plays these set pieces with intense emotion while avoiding melodrama and preaching.
There is definitely something heroic about the act, but not in a conventional Tamil cinema sense. Heroes have risked their lives to save women during climax sequences. They’ve also lectured us about the importance of women to society, with specific references to their roles as mothers and sisters. But, Ajith in Nerkonda Paarvai is no-nonsense, much like Amitabh Bachchan in the original Pink.
Director: Gautham Vasudev Menon
Early in his career, Ajith shared screen space with young heroes in films such as Kalloori Vaasal (Prashanth), Rajavin Paarvaiyile (Vijay), and Ullaasam (Vikram). It’s impractical to expect him to do that today. But as Sathyadev in Yennai Arindhaal, he gives Arun Vijay’s Victor plenty of room to perform; sometimes, to even outperform him.
Take, for instance, the banter between Sathyadev and Victor that kicks off the climax. Sathyadev gets the better of the conversation, but Victor succeeds in getting Sathyadev worried about his daughter’s safety. In the middle of an intense cat-and-mouse chase, Sathyadev breaks down on the road, ridden with guilt for putting his daughter’s life in danger. One wonders why we don’t see this more often. How do our heroes keep on fighting without being emotionally affected by what they’re going through?
Director: Venkat Prabhu
Mankatha reversed the idea that good always triumphs. How does one get away with such a climax in a mainstream film? By taking attention away from the protagonist’s selfishness, and turning the spotlight to his camaraderie with his best friend. Vinayak (Ajith) and Prithvi (Arjun) discuss how they swindled 500 crores (with collateral damage of several lives) like two college kids discuss their latest video gaming exploits.
Ajith plays Vinayak as unremittingly selfish. This is unlike, say, Vijay’s Kathiresan in Kaththi. He starts off as selfish and ends up a savior. Vinayak starts off as selfish and just ends up rich. This worked because of the palpable bonding between Vinayak and Prithvi that harked to their off-screen identities. For instance, Vinayak calls Prithvi ‘Action King’ several times, before the latter calls him ‘Thala’. It distracts us from their greed, and makes the climax superbly satisfying.
Director: AL Vijay
A mainstream hero is supposed to be a winner. He is nothing if he isn’t successful at everything he does. In that sense, Sakthivel in Kireedom is a loser. Like any other human, he is a victim of his circumstances. He fails, in spite of his best intentions. If Mankatha showed us that you don’t always have to be good to be successful, Kireedam, a remake of Sibi Malayil’s Malalaylam film by the same name, suggested that you might not always succeed, even if you are good. Do these film choices reflect Ajith’s occasional boredom with conventional moral narratives?
After Sakthivel beats up the villain in the climax, he isn’t triumphant. Instead, he wails. A louder version of the one in Yennai Arindhaal. When his father appears before him, he pathetically mimes an apology to him. He had fought out of desperation, not bravado, and he wants his father to get that. This climax isn’t about good winning over evil, but about the futility of trying to be good when circumstances don’t allow it.
This film happened much before Ajith achieved stardom. He was probably freer to make interesting career choices. Yet, it would have taken some conviction to star in a romantic film where the protagonists meet for the first time only during the climax. No dance duets with the heroine. No meetings in cafes. In short, nothing to make us root for the lead pair except their earnestness.
The climax sequence at the railway station has become iconic. The lovers barely speak after they realise each other’s identity. A cathartic embrace ends the film; economical writing backed by solid performances.