A hero with a difference
Another aspect where he scores over his contemporaries is in his selection of characters and his willingness to deglamourise. No image-conscious hero would have touched films like Sethu, Kaasi, Pithamagan or Deiva Thirumagal with a barge pole, for the protagonist had to look ugly to the point of being grotesque. Vikram, however, had no hesitation in signing such films and, as a matter of fact, this attitude of his has been paying him handsome dividends. In fact, it was Sethu, directed by debutant Bala, where he was cast as a rogue who finally becomes mentally deranged after being jilted by his lover, that set him on the path to glory.
The actor, whose first film En Kadhal Kanmani was released way back in 1990, has had a tortuous climb to the top and a near-fatal motorcycle accident saw him bedridden for three years after undergoing nearly two dozen surgeries. The failure of his first few films in Tamil found him taking refuge in Malayalam cinema, but here he had to play second fiddle to heroes like Mammooty and Suresh Gopi in films like Joshi’s Dhruvam.
Vikram was also a part of a few Telugu films like Adalla Mazaka, Akka Begunnava and Bangaru Kudumbam. During a particularly lean phase, he even tried his hand at dubbing and lent his voice to mainstream heroes like Ajith Kumar and Prabhudeva.
The actor turned commercial with a vengeance in films like Dharani’s Dil and Dhool, Charan’s Gemini and the Hari-directed Saamy. Saamy, an action thriller, where he played a ruthless police officer, gave him a distinct identity and found him excelling in dialogue delivery and stunt sequences.
Vikram’s heart, however, remained addicted to offbeat roles and he derived a lot of satisfaction in acting in films like Kaasi, the remake of a Malayalam hit directed by Vinayan, where he played a blind singer. But it was the author-backed role of Chithan, the grave digger, in the film Pithamagan, which fetched him the National Award that brought out the best in the actor. Playing an autistic young man to perfection, Vikram, with very few dialogues, brought out the nuances of the character in a spectacular fashion. The film, which had a strong supporting cast in Surya, Laila and Sangeetha, though veering considerably from the beaten track, turned out to be a commercial success as well.
Another film that scorched the box-office and also afforded Vikram an opportunity to reveal his histrionic prowess was Shankar’s extravaganza Anniyan, where his character of an introvert Brahmin lawyer develops a multiple personality disorder, turning into a suave fashion model and a psychotic serial killer by turns. In this film, the accent was on dialogue delivery and facial expressions and Vikram stole the thunder with a riveting performance that won critical acclaim. His roles in Mani Ratnam’s Raavan in Hindi and Raavanan in Tamil were also well received by audiences. In the Hindi version, he was cast in the role of Aishwarya Rai’s lover, but the Tamil Raavanan offered him a meatier role of a rugged outlaw.
Director Vijay saddled Vikram with a role that was totally different from all that he had done before, in Deiva Thirumagal, a touching and poignant saga of a mentally challenged father’s love for his daughter whose custody he had been deprived of. Vikram’s performance in the film came in for praise as well as criticism. While it was clear that he had done his homework, having studied the behavioural patterns of the victims of the disease, a few critics opined that the mannerisms were a bit exaggerated. Vikram, however, was in his elements in a few scenes, especially in the last sequence where he realises that he cannot fend for his daughter and leaves her in better hands with a heavy heart.
A much-awaited film, Rajapattai, directed by Suseenthran, in which Vikram donned a number of disguises, however, failed to click and his latest release, Thandavam, where he plays a blind killer who uses the technique of echolocation to identify and wipe out the villains too met with a mixed response, though the technical effects were world class. With the film Karikalan on the back burner, Vikram now has the bilingual David, where Bejoy Nambiar who made the Bollywood hit Shaitan, wields the megaphone apart from Shankar’s I. The actor, now well entrenched in Tamil cinema, is in a position to sort the chaff from the wheat where roles are concerned, and is certain to play a long innings, thanks to his painstaking efforts to get under the skin of his roles and his undisputed talent.