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Comedian Vadivelu returns as a hero in Eli

Comedian Vadivelu returns as a hero in Eli

Vadivelu plays a spy in the film set in the 1960s in Chennai. Directed by Yuvaraj Dhayalan, the film marks the second teaming up of the two after the successful Tenali Raman.

By Deepa Gauri

Published: Thu 18 Jun 2015, 9:05 PM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 2:46 PM

It is not often that Tamil comedy actors make the successful transition from playing the perennial side-kick to playing a relevant supporting role to finally emerging as a full-blown hero, who can carry a movie and sway the audiences single-handedly.

Vadivelu, arguably, is the first to accomplish it – and continue on a winning streak. Now, we could of course contend that Nagesh, Gaundamani, Y G Mahendra and Vivek have all done single-hero roles despite being comedians before Vadivelu.

In fact, right now he has tough competition from Santhanam, who is either playing hero roles or seen with superstars as their side-kick.

But what makes Vadivelu’s success different is that he has defined himself as a successful brand in playing the self-deprecating hero, who will then go on to accomplish mighty things even as he brings the house down with one slapstick act after another.

His latest film Eli is billed to be no different. Vadivelu plays a spy in the film set in the 1960s in Chennai. Directed by Yuvaraj Dhayalan, the film marks the second teaming up of the two after the successful Tenali Raman.

According to Yuvaraj, Eli is tailored for Vadivelu, and he had total freedom to stretch the lead character’s antics to any extent. He says that the cunning and elusiveness of rats is what the character traits are all about. So we have Vadivelu causing a ruckus, evading the grip of villains, outsmarting them consistently. That would call for a lot of situation comedy, and Vadivelu doesn’t need lessons in situation humour.

Winner of some five Tamil Nadu state awards for best comedian and a clutch of the dime-a-dozen award nights organised by film magazines and television channels, Vadivelu, to his credit, has an inimitable style of comedy.

As an actor he is no patch on Nagesh, the legendary comedian of Tamil cinema, but when it comes to bringing the scenes alive with an abundance of slapstick, humorous dialogue delivery and evoking laughter with umpteen facial expressions, rather contortions, he is second to one. He has also proven his credentials with deadpan humour, which has been perfected with Santhanam.

Perhaps it is in the nature of Tamil cinema that comedy actors, largely, have an expiry date when it comes to entertaining audiences. Some of them, as we have seen with Gaundamani and Senthil, come and become an indispensable part of movies. They go on to rule the screen and even superstars need their presence to ensure initials. We have seen that cycle with Vivek too, who is now reinventing himself in humorous but meaningful character actor roles.

With Vadivelu, his self-chosen hiatus from film for about two years did not take him out of viewers’ minds but only helped him to establish further as a comedy hero. Imsai Arasan 23m Pulikesi, Indiralohathil Na Azhagappan and Tenali Raman all made producers happy. And Eli is all set to regale them.

Director Yuvaraj has packed enough gimmicks to ensure that. For one, we have Vadivelu and actress Sadha re-enact the Mere Sapno Ki Rani song from Aradhana, which the director says will have Vadivelu do something he has never before attempted in his career and will be a total novelty for audiences.

Vadivelu, meanwhile, says he will continue to be active in films with such special movies that make people happy and perhaps even look at a return to politics some time soon. After all, he says, his films have touched people in ways that are difficult to explain – a classic case being that of a girl waking up from a coma to watch his comedy.

Vadivelu cherishes the fact that he can make people laugh, help them forget their worries, even if momentarily, and bring some hope and cheer to their lives. That is all Eli promises too. It is not high art but art that aims to make you feel happy.

Such happiness, as we have seen from experience, is not easy to come by. We have seen actors struggling to make us laugh and directors going overboard not knowing when to say ‘cut.’ Will Eli be different? We have the answer this week at theatres in the UAE.

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