Why Tamil villains have no flashback

Ennaku Karthik oda Raghuvaran than pudikum

Description: ‘…..a villain is commonly described as a character whose evil actions and motives are important to the plot’

Why are Tamil antagonists or villains in general commonly represented as one-dimensional solo actors sans family and friends or brief contextual introduction?

The first reasoning that comes to my mind is the distraction from the hero’s story if there were to be a villain with family and friends. Our sympathy and empathy as a viewer must be bestowed on the hero and his reactions to his social and environmental occurrences. Even a slight deviation from this formula would be a perceived threat to the approval of the hero and increase our support and liking for the antagonist.

The antagonist must remain, as much as possible, single, a lonely leader of a band of unidentifiable hooligans and preferably have no flashback – in short a mysterious, shadowy character whose sole purpose is to get in the way of the hero achieving what he has set out to achieve…..

In many ways Gautham Menon personified the villain through Arun Vijay – he had a reason for turning bad, had a girlfriend (and a song!) and was bound to the protagonist through past friendship. But these are rare movies – involving a certain degree of risk whenever a deviation from the main plot is introduced or tried – not to mention screen time that would permit for such a luxury.

In Iruvar, Tamizhselvan played by Prakash Raj was never the villain per se, but the able competition, driven by political ideologies and goals whereas Anandan’s accidental break into politics was catalysed by his popular movie star appeal. Our sympathies and support lay divided with both men – the controlled Intellectual (Prakash Raj) as well as impulsive Charismatic (Mohanlal).

Actors who have played popular, more likeable villains have also played character roles under other directors and movie production banners casting them in a different light. It is hard to categorise Prakash Raj, Raghuvaran, Parthiban or Nasser as stereotype villains as they have all played other characters with equal perfection. Their respective portrayals in Abhiyum Naanum, Anjali and Naanum Rowdy Dhaan and Saivam come to mind.

However the average villain will commonly be single, have no children or notable siblings or even possess a profession.  These are traits reserved solely for the characterisation of the Tamil hero. Arvind Swamy in Thani Oruvan made a different kind of impact, partly due to his return to cinema and partly thanks to his rather comical relationship to his father (first of its kind in terms of villain- villain father combo). Jigarthanda’s Assault Sethu shot into prominence in the second half after being re-introduced as a less terrifying don who had film star ambitions, a crush on the movie set and a gang of rowdies as a loyal support network  - even accompanying their Don to ‘Kill and Laugh’ acting classes. Our typical villain has no past, no future, no family, no home, few dialogues, no song and often has no name (reminder: incognito character whose main aim is to create opposition to a protagonist). I struggle to recall a promotion wherein the villain – who has almost equal screen time as the female lead - is featured on the movie posters. In many ways, quite a shame.

Of late there have been a few movies that showcase the partial or entire ‘his’tory of a bad protagonist such as the critically acclaimed hits Arjun Reddy, Mankatha, Ayutha Ezhuthu or Vikram Vedha. However the underutilised idea of an essentially good ‘villain’ introduced alongside a good ‘hero’ provides ample potential as a method to be explored and trialled on the big screen. Commercial heroes may come and go, whereas a well-written villain enjoys a reserved spot in our fond recollection. This piece was written because generally “Ennaku Karthik oda Raghuvaran than pudikum”.

Written by - D Arachi

Sanker May 16, 2018

Hi Arachi. It was super impressive of you to write on this question . I agree with your opinions. But, I believe there is deeper answer to the question . To give you a clue on my thoughts , In vikram vedha style , here is the question , Why none of the protaganists are portrayed as Corporates or Business owners ? or Why dont Movies talk about life after marriage ? :) .

Yathish December 25, 2018

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