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With Naisekar Returns, ace comedian Vadivelu will return to films after four years. The director of the movie, Suraj, had directed Thalainagaram and Marudhamalai in which Vadivelu’s comedy acts were some of the most memorable the comedian has done. Vadivelu fans believe Suraj’s direction will help their star make a successful comeback. Lakhs of people have seen the poster video of the film, showing many still want to see Vadivelu on the silver screen.

Comedians often lead sad lives. It can even be said that comedy blossoms amidst great grief and sadness. Vadivelu has been going through a rough patch for the last ten years. Many hurdles have stalled his film career. Perhaps Naisekar Returns may turn out to be a memorable comedy film.

Comedians often lead sad lives. It can even be said that comedy blossoms amidst great grief and sadness.

A long career

Vadivelu made an appearance in En Thangai Kalyani released in 1988 and directed by T Rajendar. But few noticed him in that movie. It was in En Rasavin Manasila starring Raj Kiran that Vadivelu made a mark with his comedy and through the song, Poda Poda Punnakku, he sung.

Vadivelu created a fan following for himself with Chinna Gounder, Singara Velan and Gokulam. In Devar Magan and Em Magan, he played character roles but his comedy roles were better received. With his childlike, naïve enthusiasm, he was able to enthuse filmgoers and make them forget their troubles.

In the late 1990s, his comedy double with Parthiban was talked about. The 2000s saw him make a splash in Friends, directed by Siddique. After Winner, people started going to movies just for Vadivelu. He became as much a star attraction as others. He acted with top actors like Rajinikanth, Arjun, Prabhu Deva and Sathyaraj and held his own. Before signing up for Chandramukhi, Rajinikanth insisted that the producers should get the call sheet from Vadivelu. Such was Vadivelu’s standing and market value.

An essential Tamil quality is a sense of false superiority and bombast. And Vadivelu loved to skewer those qualities just as Tamils typically deride them in themselves.

Standing apart

Tamil cinema has had several outstanding comedians. NS Krishnan, Thangavelu, Chandrababu, Nagesh, VK Ramaswamy, Surulirajan, Goundamani and Vivek were some. But Vadivelu is uniquely different from all of them. Though film viewers loved their comedies, they didn’t quite identify with the comedians as they identified with Vadivelu.

Vadivelu picked real life characters. His characters were not only believable but were fixtures in Tamil life. Not only were they typically Tamil but were also typically those that Tamils made fun of. For instance, an essential Tamil quality is a sense of false superiority and bombast. And Vadivelu loved to skewer those qualities just as Tamils typically deride them in themselves.

In regular life, we often come across people who talk big and get into trouble with their tall talk. They are the archetypes of Tamil life and Vadivelu loves to portray their foibles leveraging the Tamil habit of trolling their own archetypes. His body language, expressions and Madurai dialect helped to deliver his comedies effectively. His punchlines, “I am also a rowdy” and “Basement strong, building weak”, became grand statements that Tamils would use in real life. For sure, the directors of his films had a role in creating the Vadivelu brand of comedy but the comedian’s inputs were key.

Vadivelu’s comedy has often helped us laugh at difficult situations we may have faced. His dialogues helped us to distance ourselves from our difficulties and make light of them. Through Vadivelu, they became senseless and absurd.

Vadivelu seamlessly crossed class and other barriers. Intellectuals and elite sections found meaning in his comedies. Men, women and children found him a kindred soul, one that spoke to them specifically. His comedies were not seen as acting but facets of Vadivelu himself. It was possible that Vadivelu himself had gone through whatever he was portraying. It looked as if someone did make light of blood oozing out of him as tomato chutney.

Vadivelu’s downslide was triggered by his involvement in politics. A comedian has to transcend divides. By identifying himself with a particular political party, the DMK, during the 2011 elections and campaigning for it, Vadivelu lost his universality.

A comedian has to transcend divides. By identifying himself with a particular political party, the DMK, during the 2011 elections and campaigning for it, Vadivelu lost his universality.

People laughed at his campaign speeches, for sure. They were entertained but not moved. It didn’t seem DMK was helped by Vadivelu either.

Vadivelu’s antagonism towards Vijayakanth became a sore point. It took away some shine off him.

Vadivelu may have crossed all of life’s difficulties by making fun of them. But his present difficulties may have taken a toll.

Vadivelu did give films in which he played the main character like in Imsai Arasan 23rd Pulikesi. Thenali Raman and Eli did not do well, however.

The list of troubles seemed endless for Vadivelu. He got into trouble with the producers of the film, Imsai Arasan 24rd Pulikesi, a sequel to 23rd Pulikesi. He was on the verge of facing a ban from the Producers Council but escaped it.

Naisekar Returns was not the original title for his most recent venture. The original title, Naisekar, was with someone else, so Vadivelu had to change the name of the film.

Despite all this, Vadivelu’s older comedies continue to be big hits on YouTube. Meme makers never tire of using Vadivelu. They are most appropriate for poking gentle fun and benign trolling. As a performer, Vadivelu is still popular. Tamils can’t get enough of him, it seems. But will they welcome the new Vadivelu? Will they help him say end cards don’t apply to Vadivelu?


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