The Magic of Thala Ajith & His Prolific Directors
Digital Magazine: IndiaGlitz
Date: 27th August 2021
Tamil cinema is witnessing the era of the superstardom of Thala Ajith Kumar. In his fiftieth year, Ajith has continued to mesmerize the audiences with his incredible filmography of over fifty films. The magic of Ajith has created an ecosystem of fans, followers, directors, producers, and the general public who sway on his every release. His films are a festival for his eager fans who are only growing by the legion. Since his debut in a full-fledged role in the Telugu film Prema Pusthakam (1992), Ajith has established a connection with his audience which has elevated him to the status of a matinee idol and a powerhouse at the box office. For three decades, the directors of his films have maintained the aura of Ajith which refuses to subside. This is an account of some of the prolific directors of Ajith’s films who have propelled him as a box office machine and a highly acclaimed actor.
Prema Pusthakam (1992)
Directors: Gollapudi Srinivas & Gollapudi Maruti Rao
Name of Ajith’s Character: Sreekar
The first full-fledged role of Ajith as Sreekar in the Telugu film Prema Pusthakam is special not only because it was his debut film but also because the life of a promising young director was cut short abruptly. Son of veteran artist Gollapudi Maruti Rao, Gollapudi Srinivas was directing his first film as director. He had conceptualized a vision to mold Ajith as a romantic hero in his debut film. On the 9th day of shooting at the harbor in Vizag, a giant wave hit the director when he was planning a shot, drowning him instantly. His father took over the direction of the film in exceptional circumstances after mourning his son’s sudden demise after forty days. The Gollapudi Srinivas Award was instituted in memory to award promising new talent in film direction.
Name of Ajith’s Character: Jeevanantham
Produced by Mani Ratnam, Aasai had Ajith play the role of Jeevanantham. Directed by Vasanth, Aasai is a tumultuous love story that became the first big commercial success of Ajith. Vasanth chose to work with a relative newcomer Ajith, when he was impressed by his dhoti advertisement on Doordarshan. Early on in the film, Vasanth projected Ajith’s boyish persona to the audience when he shot the introductory scene in which, fascinated by Ajith’s charm, three girls ask Jeevanantham if he was willing to marry them. Vasanth, a disciple of the Balachander school of direction, envisioned Ajith as a romantic hero who clashes with the antagonist head-on in a struggle to unite with his love interest. Vasanth delivered Ajith his breakthrough performance in Aasai with its roaring success at the box office.
Kadhal Kottai (1996)
Name of Ajith’s Character: Suriya
Winning the National Film Award for Best Direction and the National Film Award for Best Screenplay, veteran director Agathiyan magnified Ajith’s aura and persona in his character of an orphan Suriya in the Tamil film Kadhal Kottai. Amplifying his lover boy image, Agathiyan navigates simpleton Suriya’s journey from a working professional to an autorickshaw driver in this love triangle. Kadhal Kottai is a love story that blossoms in form of letters between strangers who converse over a long-distance relationship without ever meeting one another. Ajith’s earnest performance won the film the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil.
Director: S. Justin Selvaraj alias S. J. Suryah.
Name of Ajith’s Characters: Deva and Shiva
By the time of the release of Vaalee, Ajith was already climbing the steps to stardom. In a story, inspired by the Ramayana, director Justin Selvaraj casts Ajith in a double role of twin brothers Deva & Shiva in this psychological romantic thriller. Suryah had worked as an assistant director in Aasai and cast Ajith as his hero for his directorial debut in Vaalee. In the negative character, Ajith depicts the sadistic personality of a man who is lusting for his younger brother's wife. Ajith exhibits various shades of his twin characters as a protagonist and an antagonist. The jury of the Filmfare Awards was impressed by Ajith’s incredible performance and awarded him his first Filmfare Award for Best Actor.
Kandukondain Kandukondain (2000)
Director: Rajiv Menon
Name of Ajith’s Character: Manohar
Winning the Filmfare Award for Best Direction for Kandukondain Kandukondain, director Rajiv Menon picked Ajith in an ensemble cast in this romantic drama film. Playing the role of a struggling filmmaker Manohar, Ajith shared screen space with Menon as his friend’s character. Though Rajiv Menon had initially toyed with other actors to be cast in the role of Manohar, he narrated the story to Ajith who was suffering from back surgery in January 1999. Ajith’s ever-growing power at the box office helped with the film was critically and commercially acclaimed at the box office.
Director: Murugadoss Arunasalam
Name of Ajith’s Character: Dheenadhayalan
In a story, screenplay, and direction by A. R. Murugadoss, Ajith played the protagonist Dheenadhayalan ‘Dheena’ in this action film. As the Pongal release of 2001, Dheena showcases Ajith as the King of the underworld who works as a henchman under his powerful brother. Murugadoss carefully carved the image of an action hero that took precedence over Ajith’s romantic persona that had made him widely popular. Ajith’s romantic angle in the film keeps a balance between action and romance. This was the debut film of Murugadoss who was gifted the Midas touch of Ajith that began the director’s journey as a blockbuster director.
Director: K. S. Ravikumar
Name of Ajith’s Characters: Shiva & Vishnu
In a career spanning 30 years, director K. S. Ravikumar has directed comedies, action thrillers, and drama films, however, Villian stands out in his filmography. Playing a double role again, Ajith essays the roles of twins Shiva and Vishnu who navigate through the triumphs, tribulations, and travesties of life. On release, The Hindu newspaper reviewed that in the double role " You see a trim Ajit in Villain, and Yuhi Sethu's story helps the hero present appealing histrionics for the sentiment lover and full-fledged stunts for those who dig action. Ajit scores on both fronts. The sequences where he makes a fool of Karunas, who plays a pilferer, are enjoyable.” Villain was a Diwali release and was declared a box office success. Ajith’s superlative performance fetched him his second Filmfare Award for Best Actor.
Varalaru: History of Godfather (2006)
Director: K. S. Ravikumar
Name of Ajith’s Characters: Shivashankar, Vishnu and Jeeva
If the treat of double roles was not enough for his fans, Ajith and director Ravikumar teamed up again, this time to dazzle the audience with a triple role of Ajith. Playing the roles of a disabled millionaire-Shivashankar, his sons Vishnu and Jeeva, Ajith presents a rare spectrum that only a few actors have showcased in Indian cinema. Adding shades to his character of Shivashankar, director Ravikumar gets him to portray the role of an effeminate Bharatnatyam dancer. Released on the eve of Diwali 2006, Varalaru was the highest-grossing Tamil film of the year, cementing the box office partnership of Ajith and Ravikumar.
Director: Venkat Kumar Gangai Amaren alias Venkat Prabhu
Name of Ajith’s Character: Vinayak Mahadevan
Playing police officer-Vinayak Mahadevan, Ajith delves into the cop genre with Mankatha. Playing a suspended police commissioner of the Maharashtra Police, Ajith essayed the role which contained grey shades with aplomb. Inspired by Heath Ledger from The Joker (2008), director Venkat Prabhu wrote the character of Vinayak Mahadevan to suit Ajith’s magnified personality and the expectations of his fans. Mankatha was Ajith’s 50th film and was received grandly by his fans and audiences to a bumper response.
English Vinglish (2012)
Director: Gauri Shinde
Name of Ajith’s Character: A passenger on the airplane
The greatest Indian film actress, Sridevi Kapoor was returning to films and created a sensation with her comeback film English Vinglish. The film had a role of a guest appearance of a flight co-passenger who motivates her to enjoy life, boosts her confidence on her visit to the United States of America, and allays her fears of not knowing English fluently. This guest appearance was played by Amitabh Bachchan in the Hindi original. To capture Sridevi’s iconic status in Tamil Nadu and Tamil cinema, director Gauri Shinde requested Ajith to play the role in the dubbed version of the film. Sridevi had worked with Ajith’s wife Shalini in the Telugu blockbuster Jagadeka Veerudu Athiloka Sundari (1990) as a child artist. Gauri Shinde created magic between Sridevi and Ajith in the hilarious scene in this socially relevant film.
Veeram (2014), Vedalam (2015), Vivegam (2017) & Viswasam (2019)
Director: Sivakumar Jayakumar alias Siva
Name of Ajith’s Characters: Vinayagam, Ganesh alias "Vedalam, Ajay Kumar, Thookku Durai
Director Siva has worked with Ajith in four films of the 2011-2020 decade, Veeram (2014), Vedalam (2015), Vivegam (2017) & Viswasam (2019) respectively. In the nine-movie filmography of Siva, he teamed up with Ajith for four films and each film wowed Ajith’s fans and further helped to elevate him as Tamil Nadu’s foremost superstar after the iconic legends Rajinikanth and Kamal Hassan. Siva gave him a variety of characters to harness Ajith’s humongous potential, speaking to The Hindu, director Siva spoke about his reverential relationship with Ajith stating “I have become a fan of Ajith. Even if you’re not a fan, you’ll become one once you interact with him.” In another interview, Siva spoke about Ajith’s reaction after watching Viswasam "After seeing the film, Ajith sir said that this was the best movie out of the four films we have worked together. He told this out loud when everyone was around us. That's why I'm telling this here. This comment from a huge star like Ajith sir is a huge boost to me as a filmmaker", eagerly looking forward to their fifth association.
Nerkonda Paarvai (2019)
Director: H. Vinoth
Name of Ajith’s Character: Bharath Subramaniam
A pious understanding between the late Sridevi and Ajith was to work in Tamil films together which was fulfilled by her devoted husband and prolific producer Boney Kapoor by producing the Tamil drama film Nerkonda Paarvai after her sudden demise in 2018. Stepping into the shoes of Amitabh Bachchan yet again after English Vinglish in this remake of the Hindi film Pink (2016), Ajith explodes on the screen with his powerhouse performance as the lawyer Bharath Subramaniam who is defending the case of three girls in a controversial legal battle. Dubbed as one of Ajith’s finest performances, director Vinoth extracts and exhibits the magnificence of Ajith while staying true to the original characterization.
The Tamil audience and his fans are eagerly awaiting his next mega venture, Valimai in which he is teaming up with director H. Vinoth and producer Boney Kapoor again. The fans of Ajith around the world can’t wait to see Thala in action in a fiery avatar once again!