As a child of the 80s, Visu was a regular fixture in the living room. My earliest memories of TV and what played on it include him - pacing, pontificating, debating. Lines that were lyrical and delivered in that unique way of his. I never paused to understand what was going on but I did see the look of concentration on my parents faces as the drama unfolded. For the nth time. It didn’t matter they had seen it before (Samsaram Adhu Minsaram clearly being a hot favourite). Visu had their attention with tales of middle class homes with middle class foibles.
When I sat down to watch a Visu film as an adult, I found it dated, patriarchal and judgmental. While we may not be in agreement with some of his characters’ perspectives, the appeal of his films remain unchanged. It’s probably the writing and the way he etched out his characters, the way he wrangled tough situations with words, the way he created a relatable, familiar microcosm of a joint family. And when it comes to comedy and making us crack up, he has stellar moments. These scenes especially can still make us stop flipping channels as Visu’s witticism takes centre stage.
Like Kudumbam Oru Kadambam where Visu went to town on one-liners. Here, he plays a man without a job with plenty of time on his hands, and whose favourite pastime is haranguing those around him with his erudition.
Or the slice of life comedic situations that pepper Uravu Nalla Varavu. A primer on how light, jovial moments run alongside rough ones.
Visu’s snappy back and forth with Manorama and hijinks with his loving family in Maapilai Sir is another favourite.
Visu’s repertoire is predominantly family oriented and it’s amazing how he’s taken each of these familiar characters and spun them around in different variations and combinations to show us the many facets of family life. Even ones that we’re uncomfortable to acknowledge.
This is not to say he can’t change tacks and genre in style. Chidambaram Rahasiyam was one such movie. Visu plays CID Beemarao with exceptional deduction skills who brings down a kingpin in a plot full of thrilling twists and turns.
Visu is one of those exceptional artists who will remain timeless. His movies will continue to be Sunday specials, a perfect time for the family together. And that’s the real power of his craft.