Actor Chiyaan Vikram is celebrating his 51st birthday on Monday. He is one of the leading actors of Tamil cinema, commands a huge fan following, has bagged several awards, including one National Award for best actor, and is touted to be Kamal Haasan of gen-next. But, if we wind the clock 15 years back, he was nobody. His films did not do well at the box office and he managed to stay afloat in the industry playing supporting roles in films of big stars. His life is a true inspiration for a generation of struggling actors that proves talent, hard work and perseverance will overcome any obstacle.
Almost a decade of failures:
Vikram started his career as a television actor with the Doordarshan series, Galatta Kudumbam, in 1988. Two years later, he made his debut as a leading man with En Kadhal Kanmani. The film was his first box office disaster in a series of failures that was about to follow. He struggled to find good roles in Tamil, Malayalam and Telugu. Even some of his most appreciated performances fell short of giving him a much-needed break. Between 1990 and 1998, nobody would have foreseen that Vikram would be in the league of superstars like Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan in future.
A stint as a dubbing artist:
In order to stay employed, Vikram worked as a voice-over artist during his struggling days. He also dubbed for many popular actors, including Prabhu Deva, Ajith, Abbas. But, even during his trying times, he never accepted a dubbing job on Sundays.
Vikram’s celebrity family:
Vikram’s father John Victor alias Vinod Raj was also an actor. He only played supporting roles in his career. Vikram’s mother Rajeshwari was a sub-collector and her brother, Thyagarajan was a popular actor in Tamil. At a time when Vikram was years away from making a mark in the industry, his first cousin Prashanth, Thyagarajan’s son, was already a big star.
Sethu, which marked the debut of director Bala in 1999, gave Vikram the much-needed breakthrough in his career. With this film, he told the world that he was ready to do whatever it takes to deliver a convincing performance. He had no qualms in shaving his head and be chained at a madhouse. The film established both Vikram and Bala as the talents to look out for in the film industry. The actor also won the first state award for his performance.
When Vikram pipped Hrithik Roshan at National Awards:
Vikram was basking in the back-to-back commercial success of films like Dhill, Kasi, Gemini, Dhool and Saamy. He was at the peak of his career. And then came Bala’s Pithamagan, which proved his calibre as an actor again. The jury preferred to give the award to his performance in the film as an eccentric graveyard caretaker over Hrithik’s performance in Koi Mil Gaya.
Extreme body transformations:
For his second film with Shankar’s I, Vikram had to go through some extreme body transformations to appear in three different avatars in the film. To play a hunchback role in the 2015 film, which was made on a budget of Rs 90 crore, he lost a whopping 35kg and weighed about just 50 kg. And again he had to gain weight to play a model and a bodybuilder.
Now that’s inspiring.