After having been mesmerized by Mohanlal last year in the same storyline, the fear that arose when Papanasam was announced as a remake to Drishyam was: “Kamal may do more than sufficient to the role so effortlessly played by Mohanlal and the core of Drishyam – its simplicity- may take a beating”. I was confident that I will not be moved much by Kamal’s performance as I was in Uttama Villain but now, after the show, I have been proved wrong. In fact I cannot imagine anybody playing that part as well as Kamal has done in Thamizh. No, not even the next best actor in town, Vikram. Yes, Suyambulingam was more expressive and dramatic than George Kutty but Kamal has convinced me that it HAS to be done that way. While I pondered about that thin line between underplaying & being overtly expressive, I found it was more than just a thin line. Itis probably as long, lush and stretched as the Western Ghats that separates two states – Tamilnadu & Kerala. While most of our counterparts from Kerala are known for carrying their roles with subtletly, the greatest actors from Tamil are known for being dramatic – so much so that they get tagged to the generic branding of “Over-acting”.
Over-acting is a term that people accuse us of, ever since the times of Marudhur Gopalan Ramachandran more commonly known by his initials M.G.R & Vettaithidal Chinnaiahpillai Ganesan again referred to by his stage name, Sivaji Ganesan. While their paths diverged, with MGR taking the line of a gimmick-filled entertainer appealing to the masses, Sivaji was the man of class associating & styling himself alongside the greats from Hollywood like Jack Lemmon & Marlon Brando. Their performances in films like Miruthanga Chakravathi & Kannan En Kathalan made me even postulate that they indeed are over-acting. But very recently from an Uncle of mine who in the Airlines business, I heard a story of when he was able to question the late great thespian Sivaji on why he had moved his arms extravagantly to act out a scene in Pilot Premnath involving the aircraft turning & returning back to the airport when in actual sense only a little touch was required. Sivaji’s reply was, “அப்போ தான் யா ஜனங்களுக்கு போய் சேரும் – Only then will it reach the masses”. This sort of took me aback, who had till then assumed that it was just plain inefficiency/misunderstanding that our actors were “over-acting”, while all along these actors were perfectly conscious of what they were attempting. Also important to note here is the time when Sivaji did what he did. Hollywood films from the 50s & 60s – even those of Hitchcock and Kubrick – would have its legendary leads be highly expressive to the point of amusing us. Maybe, the grammar was just that there too – to let people get the point.
Even to this date, the point about ‘Over-acting’ remains within us Tamizh speaking folk & even to the larger audience outside the state. In spite of being so close to each other geographically, people from Tamil Nadu & Kerala do differ in their outlook partly due to the political climate as well as the general up-bringing of the respective communities. I see the masses at Tamil Nadu being more susceptible to emotion rather than a mind-bending act of brilliance – primary reason why we our channels don’t have airtime for the likes of Marma Desam Series these days but th