Vivek: Comic, Green Crusader Who Laughed Away Caste and Vices

Smitha TK
·6-min read

Every time one sees the board ‘Take Diversion’, most people of Tamil Nadu would crack up thinking of how actor Vivek and Vijay manoeuvred through several such warnings to finally land up in Tirupati instead of the other side of Chennai.

Tamil actor and comedian Vivek has been a part of the Kollywood landscape and the hearts of the people of Tamil Nadu for decades. More of a satirist than a slapstick comedian, he draws humour from scenes of daily life and has worked with stars like Rajinikanth, Vikram, Vijay, Prabhu Deva and several others across generations.

Also Read: R Madhavan, AR Rahman, Mohanlal Share Grief On Actor Vivek’s Death

Vivek’s Bromance and One-Liner Punch Lines

Vivek was introduced to cinema by the veteran director K Balachander, who also introduced cinema greats like Rajinikanth. He debuted with Manathil Uruthi Vendum in 1987 and was a small-time comic till the late 1990s.

Vivek was introduced to cinema by the veteran director K Balachander.
Vivek was introduced to cinema by the veteran director K Balachander.

He then went on to become a major comedian in the late 90s and the first decade of the new millennium with films like Kushi, Minnale, Run and Saamy. Between 2000 and 2001, Vivek acted in over 50 films.

Actor Vivek with Kavidalaya Mohan, who was veteran director K Balachander’s confidante (Photo taken in 1989).
Actor Vivek with Kavidalaya Mohan, who was veteran director K Balachander’s confidante (Photo taken in 1989).
Actor Vivek’s pairing with superstar Rajinikanth has been a favourite with the masses.
Actor Vivek’s pairing with superstar Rajinikanth has been a favourite with the masses.
Actor Vivek and Vijay’s bromance in <i>Thirumalai</i> set the gold standard for being the hero’s best friend.
Actor Vivek and Vijay’s bromance in Thirumalai set the gold standard for being the hero’s best friend.

Soon the audience started looking forward to the Vivek’s bromance with stars such as Rajinikanth, Vikram, Vijay than the actual romance in the movies. Usually appearing as the hero’s friend, he soon became the king of ‘one-liner punch lines’ that usually only heroes were popular for.

Vivek’s comedy in films like Kushi, Minnale, Alaipayuthey, Mugavaree, Dum Dum Dum, Sivaji and many other films, have extremely high recall value even now.

Also Read: Tamil Actor Vivek Passes Away in Chennai After Cardiac Arrest

‘Chinna Kalaivaanar’ Vivekh

Known as ‘Chinna Kalaivaanar’, Vivek received several awards for his performances including five Filmfare Best Comedian Awards, Tamil Nadu State Awards and in 2009, the actor was conferred with Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian honour in the country, for his contribution to Indian cinema.

The emergence of actor Santhanam and others in the early 2000s made the actor take a backseat, but he captured our hearts with his hilarious roles in Padikathavan, Singam and others.

As a television personality, Vivek has hosted a number of events and has interviewed larger than life personalities such as former Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam, music maestro AR Rahman, and superstar Rajinikanth.

Comedy With a Social Message

Vivek has always also had a strong social message to give out in his comic roles, commenting about water scarcity, bribery, over-population, political corruption, taking jibes at superstitions and rituals such as child marriage, sati and he also pushed for education especially for girl children and consensual relationships.

The late actor took a stance against the trend of asking the rapist to marry the survivor in the film Kadhal Sadugudu. The character Minor Kunju is accused of raping a young woman and the panchayat leader, who is also Vivek’s father in the movie, decides that the fair decision is to marry the woman or pay Rs 2,000 as penalty. When the woman objects to this, Vivek steps in ‘singham pola’ (like a lion) with Paravai Muniamma’s background score. Minor Kunju laughs it off and says he had already paid Rs 2,000 in advance in the previous session so he was free to go on a spree to terrorise the village. Vivek takes the man behind a tree, shoots at his genitals and stands up for the woman.

5 Times Actor Vivekh Cracked Us Up

The Versatile Comic

In the film Budget Padmanabhan, Vivek had to compete with exceptional comedy stars like Kovai Sarala and Manivannan but the way he transformed into Krishnan Nair, just to impress Omana, a character played by actor Mumtaj, won hearts and laughs.

Sporting a Namboodiri bun, he proclaims his love by saying, “Enda mother tongue Malayalam, enda state Kerala, […], enda nadanam Kathakali,” he also declares that his Chief Minister from now on is EK Nayanar (then Kerala CM) and breaks into a dance.

The Hero’s Best Friend

Madhavan might have set boyfriend goals with his film Minnale but Vivek set the gold standard for being the hero’s best friend, helping him battle depression and fix his love life. Vivek has managed to give successful dating advice in every film to the heroes that has always worked out.

Vadivelu VS Vivek

The movie, Manadhai Thirudivittai, in 2001, brought the two veteran comedians Vivek and Vadivelu together making it a laugh riot. The two men are seen fighting over a girl and the duo’s dialogues became some of the most iconic ones of the millennium.

Objecting to Caste and Other Social Vices

In the film Saamy, Vivek shook things up by playing the role of an orthodox Brahmin, by sporting long hair tied into a knot, and took the opportunity to take jibes at several prevalent caste practices. He questioned why the people of the community were calling out to crows to feed them while there were poor starving boys on the side of the road. He even tries to bridge the caste differences and points out how every human’s job is important and it is wrong to discriminate people on the basis of caste.

Vivekh, The Green Warrior

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Beyond cracking us on on-screen, he is a self-confessed follower of former President and missile scientist Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, Vivek, he launched ‘Green Kalam’, an initiative to promote awareness and action against global warming. He sponsored the planting of more than 2.45 million trees in a span of less than three months in the first phase.

In 2015, he lost his son Prasanna Kumar to dengue.

In 2017, Vivek planted several saplings at the Adyar Cancer Institute under the guidance of Padma Vibhushan Shantha.
In 2017, Vivek planted several saplings at the Adyar Cancer Institute under the guidance of Padma Vibhushan Shantha.
On 21 March 2021, actor Vivek planted 1,500 saplings for a <i>myawaki</i> forest as part of the ‘Green Kalam’ initiative at the campus of NIOT.
On 21 March 2021, actor Vivek planted 1,500 saplings for a myawaki forest as part of the ‘Green Kalam’ initiative at the campus of NIOT.

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