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From Thevar Magan to Maamannan — a look at Vadivelu's talent for serious acting

With Vadivelu's arrival, the landscape of physical comedy underwent a seismic shift in Tamil cinema, and he became synonymous with laughter. 

From Thevar Magan to Maamannan — a look at Vadivelu's talent for serious acting
The emotional range of Vadivelu.

Last Updated: 08.01 PM, Jun 28, 2023


What would be a major challenge to direct a seasoned comedian like Vadivelu in an emotionally heavy movie? Director Mari Selvaraj answered this question during a recent media interaction. "He (Vadivelu) told me that 'people have been used to laughing even at the slightest move of my facial muscle. If they laugh while watching the movie, don't blame me," Mari recalled his conversation with the iconic comedian. 

This concern is understandable considering Vadivelu's transformative impact on Tamil cinema's comedy genre. With his arrival, the landscape of physical comedy underwent a seismic shift, and Vadivelu became synonymous with laughter. However, Vadivelu has also demonstrated his versatility and talent in more serious performances, offering glimpses of his abilities beyond his impeccable sense of humour.

Mari Selvaraj highlighted the influence of the film Thevar Magan in his life and its impact on his own movies, including his latest venture, Maamannan. The director imagined a scenario where Vadivelu's character Isakki from Thevar Magan is elevated from an unimportant sidekick to a protagonist and Maamannan was born. 

Thevar Magan is not just an important film for Mari, but it's also a landmark film in Vadivelu's glorious career spanning over three decades. 


Thevar Magan was also the film that first showcased Vadivelu's versatility beyond comedy, revealing a depth of talent that captivated audiences. In the movie, he portrayed a loyal servant named Isakki willing to sacrifice his life for his master. Early on, Isakki loses his right arm while attempting to fulfil his master Sakthivel Thevar's (Kamal Haasan) wishes and remains fiercely loyal to the Thevar clan until the end. "Even to this day, I find myself moved to tears when watching Isakki's journey in Thevar Magan. That pain is present in Maamannan as well," Vadivelu said recently in an interview.  

Sangamam is another film where Vadivelu showcased his prowess in serious acting. While predominantly serving as a comical sidekick, there are moments in the movie where he delves into dramatic performances. Particularly, the scene where Vadivelu delivers a heartfelt apology to his foster father Aavudapillai (Manivannan) stands out as a testament to his talent.

In Em Magan, Vadivelu effortlessly balanced uproarious comedy with heartfelt emotional performances. His portrayal as Karupatti Ayyakannu is still etched into our memories as he navigates a complex web of family relationships. Ayyakannu's dilemma to choose between his loyalty to his ill-tempered brother-in-law and his love for his nephew was nothing sort of phenomenal. While Bharath's Krishna and Nassar's Thirumalai were the lead characters, it was Vadivelu as Ayyakannu who stole the show and captured hearts. 

It is perplexing why, until Mari Selvaraj, few filmmakers explored serious roles for Vadivelu and limited him to the confines of a comedian. It even hints at creative depravity in the industry. 

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