One thing that has always annoyed me about the culture of Tamil cinema is how quick people are in providing heroes with “special” titles. While this may seem warranted for our more established actors, it gets a little out of hand when a relatively new hero with arguably very few hits to his name is tagged with one. This is one of those issues about Tamil cinema that has been building up in my mind for quite some time now. And it reached a boiling point recently when I read that Surya has been handed the title of “Narpani Nayagan” which has directly lead to this entry (which can very much be considered a “rant”).

Although the issue I talk about in this post may make me seem like a person who hates the whole culture of handing out titles, my feelings are exactly the opposite. And, in my defence, I am going to provide some examples of when this whole “title” thing was done right.

“Nadigar Thilagam” Sivaji Ganesan – Firstly, let’s address the elephant in the room. ‘Sivaji’ Ganesan is widely acknowledged as one of the finest method actors in our country and his performances have directly influenced countless subsequent Tamil actors including Kamalhassan. The “Nadigar Thilagam” title is but a small example to show that he really was (and still is) the pinnacle of acting in Tamil cinema.

“Puratchi Thalaivar” M.G.R – Another easy enough example to prove my point. As a politician, M.G.R’s success in an era which was dominated by the DMK can be considered slightly revolutionary. And as an actor, he introduced certain novel action sequences (most importantly fencing, which I have not seen done better anywhere else than in his movies) and concepts (like in Ulagam Suttrum Vaaliban), all of which firmly establish that the “Puratchi Thalaivar” tagline is pretty apt.

“Superstar” Rajnikanth – The biggest of them all – If ever there was a title that was more befitting of the star, I haven’t seen it. The word Superstar has become synonymous with Rajni and vice versa. With the title appearing in specially designed fonts before Rajni’s name, one could argue that its popularity is probably the biggest reason why more people are considering taking on such titles to improve their fan base (which in turn has directly lead to its deterioration).

“Ulaganayagan” Kamalhassan – Finally, we come to the master of all trades in Tamil cinema. Whether as an actor, singer, choreographer, producer or director, Kamalhassan has tasted success in any role he has undertaken in the world of cinema. And, more importantly, he has been excellent in each one of those roles in a manner no person before or after has. “Ulaganayagan” (roughly translated to “Hero of the World”) is a title Tamil cinema can be proud of providing to one of its greatest sons.

With the four biggies out of the way, we can move on to the next crop of actors, and this is where the line started to become really fuzzy. One of the most famous titles from this set is “Puratchi Kalaignar” Vijayakanth. Though I don’t recall any special meaning for providing our Captain with this title, it has stuck with him ever since, and has proven pretty useful in his political campaigning (which sees him described as Karuppu M.G.R, hence the usage of the Puratchi part of the title) recently. Apart from that, it has been pretty senseless and ill-conceived for the most part. With the likes of “Navarasa Nayagan” Karthik, “Super Hero” Sarathkumar, “Action King” Arjun (though there is a slight case to make for this one) just to name a few, the downhill slide for the ‘cool’ factor of such titles started in this era.

The popularity of adding these titles has really continued into my generation as well. “Ilayathalapthy” was seemingly added to Vijay in an effort to showcase him as the Thalapathy, i.e. Rajnikanth, for the youngsters. While it has become really popular, I have never really bought it. “Ultimate Star” Ajith Kumar is another whose fame should be attributed to the repeated usage even though it bears no special meaning to the actor in question. I could go on mentioning about how meaningless “Chiyaan” is for Vikram, or how irritated I have been about people calling Silambarasan “Little Supertar” and how adding the “Puratchi Thalapathy” title to Vishal was the last nail in the coffin for the custom of tagging our heroes with memorable titles; but, you get the point.

If you think this entire post is pretty unnecessary, it is partly true on some level. Why should I get into a hissy fit over somebody tagging a hero with a title? I remember myself mentioning somewhere in this post about the ‘cool’ factor of the special titles, and I am pretty sure that is the reason why I wrote this entry in the first place. There was always something cool about using “Nadigar Thilagam”, “Superstar” or any of the biggies in conversations about those particular actors that has been all but lost with the current generation. I recall countless talks I have had without mentioning “Rajnikanth” in a single sentence and that is mainly due to the coolness of the title that goes along with the star. I am afraid I cannot say the same of any of the later examples. No way am I going to interchange “Ilayathalapthy” or “Ultimate Star” or, God forbid, “Narpani Nayagan,” in place of Vijay, Ajith or Surya, and that is my point. (And I don’t even want to get into the taglines we associates with some of our actresses or comedians; that deserves a different topic altogether.)

In the end, all I want is a certain dignity and ‘coolness’ (yes, I am overusing it for lack of a better word) returned to what is one of Tamil cinema’s earliest traditional customs when it comes to idolizing our heroes. //End Rant//