Once Tamil actor MG Ramachandran endeared himself to female fans with his chivalry -- a carefully cultivated on --screen attitude that ultimately fetched him political power and the Chief Minister's gaddi. Director Gautham Vasudev Menon -- whose Ajith-starrer, Yennai Arindhaal, opens over the weekend -- has taken this cue to place his heroes in the mould of characters which men like Cary Grant or Gregory Peck also essayed with aplomb.
Little wonder, then, that Menon chose Ajit to play the lead in Yennai Arindhaal. In recent years, the star has refined his screen image, portraying men who place women on a high pedestal, showering them with not just love but also respect. Obviously, Ajith's women fans have multiplied much in the same way Ramachandran's did.
Touted as the quickest movie in his career, Menon's Yennai Arindhaal can be seen as the last of the cop trilogy. The first, Kaakha Kaakha, had Suriya as a policeman battling organised crime in Chennai, while the second, Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu takes a city detective (Kamal Hassan) to New York on the trail of a gruesome murder in which a woman is sliced into bits!
In all these three films, Menon relied on big actors (Suriya, Kamal and now Ajith) to get his yarns spinning. Given the kind of hero worship witnessed in Tamil Nadu (with wooden cutouts of popular artists being anointed with milk, honey and sandal-paste, and then garlanded with fresh jasmine), Menon knows the trick to get the masses into movie halls.
And Ajith is no crude hero. Like Suriya and Kamal, Ajith can be suave and sophisticated - a scoring point with the multiplex millions. Ajith is supposed to portray four different parts in a story we know little else about. Menon likes to keep it this way. However, there is a one-liner about what Yennai Arindhaal is all about. It is about a boy who wants be a doctor but grows up to become someone else.
Menon has also toyed with purely romantic fare. His Vaaranam Aayiram (with Suriya) and Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa (with Silambarasan) were the usual boy-meets-girl stuff, though a trace of Shakespearean tragedy runs through both. Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa was made into Hindi, Ek Deewana Tha with Prateik Babbar (Smita Patil's son) and Amy Jackson. Here Menon changed the climax to make it straight rather than the convoluted one in the Tamil version.
Often biographical as Menon had said, his romantic works or angles have been strongly influenced by his father. Essentially middle-class in his approach to his brand of cinema, Menon is yet to get into the big league in Tamil Nadu. Like Mani Ratnam or Kamal or Rajinikanth.
Will Yennai Arindhaal change this?