Finding The ‘Act’ In ‘Actor/Actress’: In Praise of Character Artists, Film Companion
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Movies are meant to be entertaining, but it is no doubt that the world of cinema has much more to offer than entertainment. It acts as a platform to exhibit astounding talents, inspire people, provoke revolutionary thoughts and bring you stories that need to be heard. There are a lot of reasons to like a movie. Of those, I am most inclined to performances. I love and thoroughly enjoy good acting.

Kollywood boasts some of the greatest talents of the country and I am not just talking about the lead actors. We celebrate the stardom of the lead actors so much that we seldom appreciate the ones that make them the heroes: the character artists.

I have always been in awe of the talents the character actors of Kollywood have showcased over the years with the likes of exceptional artists like Nasser, Pasupathi, Manivannan, Manorama, Prakashraj, Raj Kiran, Saranya Ponvannan and more. These veterans bring a sense of elegance and nuance to their character. They’re also as relatable as the person next-door or someone one from our own family or friends. I mean we do remember that Santhanam’s character in Raja Rani was widely loved and appreciated.

These seasoned actors also display high degrees of versatility when it comes to character portrayal. It is no secret that actor Pasupathi has taken on a wide variety of roles, successfully convincing us in every one. Be it Pattasu Balu from Thirupaachi, the slightly dimwitted brother in Majaa, the visually challenged RJ in Raman Thediya Seethai, or the long-lost son in Veyil, each one was distinct from the other. Pasupathi is an underrated gem. Actors like him are extremely lucky to have had the ability and chance to play such diverse roles.

There is no doubt: heroes/heroines are cool, but sometimes, as the audience, we put them into a confined box with fixed labels that it becomes hard for them to break out of. I mean it is only in recent times that we are able to see films where the lead actress is given more than a few scenes and songs; she is sometimes even carries a whole movie on her shoulders. This is thanks to phenomenal performers like Andrea, Aishwarya Rajesh, Samantha, Nayanthara and Jyothika, among others.

Even actors like Radhika, Revathy, Rohini, Urvasi and Arvind Swamy have managed to shine brilliantly in character roles, and as baddies as well. It is also evident that as audiences we still accept actors like Rajinikanth or Kamal Haasan as heroes for years but when it comes to heroines/lead actresses, we are still not there. But things are changing and these actors have proved that playing a character role is not a step down but a way to widen their acting potential.

It is actors and characters like these that prove how important acting is to a movie. It also shows us that we need more real, relatable lead roles with more complexity and better character arcs. For this, we need writers like Selva Raghavan, Mani Ratnam, Vetri Maaran, Raam or Mysskin. But we have come a long way and with the plethora of talented writers venturing into Tamil cinema it is only a matter of time before we find those characters. A movie is entertaining and it becomes cinema when it does more than that. The very first impression you get is of the cast, and it is time we start putting more thought into it and celebrating the performances instead of just the stars.

Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.

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