With Thalaivaa finally hitting the screens this month, there is one man who is silently making a record and breaking it too. Not Ilayathalapathy, not even King Khan with Chennai Express. But the Nadigan to Maha Nadigan Sathyaraj, who is seen as a paternal figure in both these movies, has graced approximately 6000 screens worldwide. And that is no small feat for a veteran actor.
Sathyaraj uses his gounder accent and his sense of humor to tickle the funny bone and render satirical political jokes nonchalantly. He debuted as an antagonist and some of his best portrayals are when he locks horns with the hero. Even during the reign of Superstar Rajnikanth and Ullaga Nayagan Kamal, Sathyaraj managed to carve a niche for himself. How can one dismiss him challenging Rajni in Mr Bharath or the terrific picturization of the song Ennama Kannu Sowkiyama? In Kakki Sattai and Vikram, Sathyaraj seemed to engulf Kamal with his steely glares and cynical guffaws. Even with eyes that are almost invisible Sathyaraj managed to induce terror.
But one cannot discount his career as a mere villain. Bharathiraja’s Kadalora Kavithaigal set in the scenic sea front brought to light the multi faceted talents of Sathyaraj. He romanced, ran around trees and broke free of his action hero image. Fazil’s Poovizhi Vasalile where he takes an orphaned boy under his wings discovers his deafness and guards him with his life deserved awards and accolades of the highest order. If that was not enough, in Vedham Pudhidhu as Balu Thevar, he explains the atrocities created in the name of the caste to an adolescent boy only to be rebutted by him.
Sathyaraj excelled as a villain yet managed to deliver spectacular performances in various genres. But his forte was comedy. His casual rendering of dialogues laced with double entendres, political innuendos without taking a stance and rib tickling humor won him fans across ages. Amaidhipadai, Nadigan, Villadhi Villan, Mahanadigan, Mamam Magal and Kanamoochi Ennada are bestowed with some of his best comical interludes.
He donned the khaki uniform and swept the streets clean as a strict policeman in Walter Vetrivel, Malabar Police and Airport. Some of them fell off the charts while the others ascertained his position as a mainstream hero. His portrayal as Periyar silenced any critics that questioned his acting caliber.
Sathyaraj reemerges as an authoritarian professor in Shankar’s Nanban where his worry is not about the amount of screen presence allocated but to join the fun that the trio of Vijay, Jeeva and Srikanth had during the canning of the film. By remaining young at heart, Sathyaraj has managed to defy age and his fans can only rejoice his reentry. With Varuthapadatha Valibar Sangam set for release we are going to witness more galatta from this seasoned star.
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