As soon as crowd-pullers, actor lookalikes dwelling hand to mouth in film-crazy Tamil Nadu

For a lot of many years, cinema has been part of life in Tamil Nadu, a state the place individuals have constructed temples for actors and elected them to energy. The hero-worship tradition is deeply rooted within the state; from the legendary MK Thyagaraja Bhagavathar to MG Ramachandran to Sivaji Ganesan to Rajinikanth to Kamal Haasan to Vijay, it has continued with technology after technology of actors.

This adulation for superstars, generally bordering on fanaticism, has helped just a few individuals apart from the actors—individuals who have been blessed with options much like these of the celluloid demigods.

Meet Somasundaram (47), popularly often known as Rajini Somu, a diehard fan of famous person Rajinikanth. He lives in Dindigul along with his spouse and two kids. He speaks and walks like thalaivar. He says his admiration for Rajinikanth began on the age of 12, when he watched Aarilirunthu Aruvathu Varai.

Rajini Somu and Kathir Kamal.

Somu determined to grow to be an autorickshaw driver early in his maturity underneath the affect of Rajinikanth, whose blockbuster Baasha—through which the actor drove an autorickshaw—is etched within the reminiscence of each thalaivar fan.

After he grew to become a full-time artist, Somu says, he had a tricky time discovering a bride. “They used to name me koothadi (a derogatory time period for artists) and refused to marry off daughters to artists.”

Each Rajinikanth movie launch is a pageant for him; he attire up just like the famous person and reaches the theatre earlier than the primary present to see his demigod on display screen.

Somu says he can not stand it if anybody talks ailing about Rajinikanth. He had received into bother on a few events when the famous person made statements that angered cadres of political events.

For a dwelling, Somu anchors and participates in stage programmes, acts in tv serials in small roles and teaches dance.

When requested how he survived through the pandemic, Somu says he was provided a lead function in a film and that the producer additionally promised to supply him a month-to-month earnings, however the mission received shelved. “It was a tricky interval and one way or the other I managed it. I saved myself busy by importing my acts on social media. It received me followers from internationally. The social media presence helped me generate some income. Now, after the federal government relaxed the restrictions, we’re getting reveals,” he mentioned.

Vijayakanth Kumar.

Somu’s solely want is to fulfill his idol.“I’ve tried to fulfill him on a few events however was not profitable. However I’m certain I’ll meet him in individual in the future,” he says.

Simply as Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan are recognized to be shut mates, Somu’s good good friend is Kathir, a lookalike of Kamal.

Born as Kathir Vel (47), a resident of Erode, Kathir Kamal is an ardent fan of the actor. He resembles Kamal from the Nineteen Eighties and Nineties.

“Since childhood, I’ve been his fan. On the age of 19, I first climbed up the stage and carried out like him. I used to bounce on the ground throughout temple festivals and different occasions in our village. Seeing my curiosity, mates and others began asking me why I couldn’t do one thing related on stage. I used to be gifted with the appears of Kamal Haasan and this pushed my love for cinema additional. The primary film I noticed in a theatre was Nayagan. My household was towards my want to carry out on stage. They thought I’d choose up dangerous habits if I joined cultural troupes and carried out in different cities, however I instructed them to belief me and I’ve had their belief in me to this point,” he mentioned.

Kathir’s household had a spare elements manufacturing manufacturing facility. Although he was concerned with the manufacturing facility work earlier, Kathir was extra fascinated with making use of make-up, showing on stage, entertaining audiences and incomes applause.

Kathir, who has been a performer for 30 years, says that at first, there have been a number of lookalikes for Rajinikanth and MGR however just a few for Kamal Haasan, an element that helped him set up himself as a performer.

“On numerous events, I’d be in numerous states. Throughout Onam I’d be in Kerala, for Dussehra I’d be in Karnataka, and on the remainder of the times in Tamil Nadu, Andhra and different areas,” he says.

After the pandemic struck, Kathir says, he confronted each issue and “humiliation”; the necessity for cash made him push a vegetable cart. “I used to be not sensible like different performers to have a part-time enterprise. Because the Covid-19 pressured a blanket ban on all occasions, I had no work. There was cash simply sufficient to have three meals a day. I took up a vegetable cart and started promoting fruit and greens round our city. Think about an individual wanting like Kamal Haasan promoting greens at the doorstep. It was ‘humiliating’ however I had no different choice. I mentioned to myself that I used to be not dishonest or doing something mistaken and that I used to be simply doing a job. However one way or the other, by God’s grace, that darkish interval is now over and we’re beginning to get reveals once more,” he mentioned.

Kathir campaigned for Kamal’s Makkal Needhi Maiam occasion within the latest elections and says he had met his idol on a few events however didn’t get a possibility to talk to him.

Requested if he ever felt he had been dwelling the lifetime of one other individual and never his, Kathir replies within the damaging. “Folks say we’re losing our lives and we’re only a shadow of the celebs. I do know I’m not Kamal Haasan, however I’ve been doing this for 30 years and I can not come out of this. I can be joyful if individuals bear in mind me as Kathir Kamal reasonably than Kathir Vel,” he mentioned.

It has been an identical case for Vijayakanth Kumar (50). Born as Venkatachalam in Namakkal, he grew to become Vijayakanth Kumar due to his resemblance to actor Vijayakanth.

“It has been greater than 25 years since I began performing as Vijayakanth. Temple festivals and different cultural programmes are my major supply of earnings. I’m the one incomes member in my household. Although different professions one way or the other managed the financial disaster through the pandemic, our career was fully affected by the lockdown. My household had solely two correct meals a day. For earnings, I labored as a helper in ration outlets for Rs 200–Rs 250 per day, however just for 10-15 days. On the remainder of the times, I used to be jobless,” he says.

Earlier, his earnings improved after he began taking part in tv reveals. Additional, after Vijayakanth floated his occasion in 2005, Kumar began to attend political campaigns to entertain crowds. “In 2011, when Captain’s DMDK (Dravida Murpoku Desiya Kazhagam) contested polls in alliance with the AIADMK, I attended many political campaigns. Throughout one such event in Namakkal, when Captain (Vijayakanth) got here to marketing campaign, I used to be there. Because it took time for him to achieve the place, the organisers requested me to entertain the gang. Once I was strolling down a road, individuals thought I used to be the actual Captain and began bursting crackers. It was an event I can always remember. I’ve had such good reminiscences, however now, because of the pandemic, we’re having a tricky time,” he mentioned.

“I used to get Rs 4,500- Rs 5,000 per present. Now, I get round Rs 2,500. Additional, they ask us to bear the bus fare, which can come round to Rs 600. For Rs 1,500-Rs 2,000, we’re travelling to faraway locations as a result of we desperately want the cash to handle our bills,” he provides.

Many different performers we spoke to shared related experiences. Many mentioned that the shortage of standard earnings had taken a toll on their physiques—their main supply of earnings. They urged the federal government and artist affiliation within the state to assist them with the loss they suffered through the pandemic.

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