His entry on screen is greeted by whistles. With as many applauds as any leading hero would get, Vivek rules the roost on the comedy front in Tamil films. In most of the films a separate comedy track is written keeping him in mind. Last year he appeared in a record 23 films and is now shooting almost round the clock as producers and heroes wait for him to dole out a few hours. Vivek literally rules the Tamil screen.
Excerpts from an interview with the 'King of Comedy'.
How do you manage to make people laugh?
It is tough making people laugh. Comedy is the most difficult job, but with my one-liners and rib-ticklers somehow I manage to make my audience laugh.
Is there is lot of hard work in making people laugh? Who is your biggest supporter?
I have given my heart and soul to all the films that I’ve done till now. I have put in much more than what is scripted. But for my work, I can do anything, as I have no ego. My family (see picture) is of paramount importance to me.
Were you a born comedian?
I have been pulling people’s leg since I was six year old. When my mother scolded my sister, I asked her to run. She ran to the bus stop and accidentally stamped on a dog, which bit her, and I ended up getting beaten up for that. Today she is a magistrate and when we meet we still laugh over that incident. On my 7th birthday I wrote a letter to the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi whose birthday falls on the same day as mine. I wrote in broken English -“Your Birthday, My Birthday same day. I wish, you wish.” We were staying in Coonoor those days and believe me that I got a reply from her and the district collector and some army jawans came asking for Vivekanandan to hand over the letter. When they came I ran out of my house in fear. I have kept that letter framed in my office!
Do you have any role models?
My comedy king is Charlie Chaplin, and Norman Wisdom also inspires me. I have seen a cassette of Chaplin titled “Unknown Charlie” which contains all his not-so-good shots from his films. I feel nobody in the world has the capacity even to come somewhere near his rejected shots!
What is the state of Tamil film comedy?
Comedy and humour have to change according to times. During the times of NSK, M.R. Radha we used to have socially relevant comedy. Balayya and Nagesh used to make people laugh with their punchlines and facial gestures. Goundamani and Senthil introduced the kicks and one-upmanship variety. I am representing the urban educated youth and my comedy is aimed at them.
Do you write your own comedy track?
I did write my own comedy track for some films. But now there are so many people (like Prassana Kumar) who write good comedy tracks. Some of them are just too good and I only give a shape to them.
Where do you draw your inspirations from? Do you make it a point to convey a message through your comedy?
I observe and read a lot. That is how I manage to look like the common man and the audience manage to relate to these characters of mine. I always wanted to tell a message other than making people laugh. So I decided to make people think even as they laughed and worked out this pattern of comedy. For instance in one of my films the director wanted a comedy track, so I created a character who sells pirated VCDs and ends up in the jail. The message is that pirated VCDs are bad for the film industry.
In the process your critics claim that you have introduced a lot of ‘Tanglish’ into Tamil films?
Please note, I am supposed to be a representative of the educated unemployed and my comedy will have city slangs like, “Enna Matter-u?”, “Summa, tension pannadei..” and I want to brand my favourite phrase-“Ada Pavee..” which has become a part of our city vocabulary.
Are you India’s highest paid daily wage earner?
(Laughs..) Who said so? There are all sorts of rumours regarding my remuneration. But for me if I get a good script, I may even do it free. I have done films like Kutty and Azhagi for next to nothing as they were made at a very low budget.
Do you have fan clubs?
I myself was surprised with the number of fan clubs that have sprung up in my name. Today the motto of my fan clubs is “Siri, Sinthi, Seyalpadu” which means Laugh, Think and Work Hard.
What is the life span of a comedian?
A good comedian can last till his death. The most important thing is not to be repetitive.