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Generation NEXT

Kollywood's `star children' are slowly stepping out of the shadows of their parents, says SUDHISH KAMATH


EVERYBODY SAYS "It's all in the genes".

And Kollywood's Generation Next reacts:

"Yes, it's all in the jeans".

It might sound the same but it isn't really. Suriya isn't Sivakumar Jr. Nor do Yuvan and Karthik try to recreate Ilaiyaraja.


Unlike yesterday's crop, that had star fathers blatantly branding their sons around with flashy nametags (From the Top Stars to Little Stars to Little Superstars to what next... Jumbo Stars, Short Stars, Fat Stars anyone?), there are those in the batch of the 2000s, who have stepped out of the shadows. Those who have refused to hold daddy's fingers and have learned to walk on their own. By falling. By rising. By themselves. The types who write their own destiny. No apes. No clones. No clowns. Pure heroes.

Having said that Kollywood's jean generation is not without its blues. Every story starts off rosy like the movies, then the troubles and the struggles creep in and finally something like "Kaakha... Kaakha" happens to someone like Suriya. Next stop, Maniratnam. And a new star arrives, in his own right, earning his place under the spotlight.

Suriya had to wait for 13 films before he turned lucky. "Dad scared me a lot. If I had gone following all that he said, I would have never come so far. We don't discuss cinema at home... Nothing is permanent here. You don't get a salary at the end of the month. It could happen anytime... you won't be accepted and suddenly it will all go away. There's too much competition. He was not too keen to let me join films," recalls Suriya.


After finishing his B.Com at Loyola College, he promptly shrugged off all suggestions to get into movies and worked as a garment export merchandiser for two- and-a-half years. When work got monotonous, he succumbed to the pressure of offers from the industry. "Till the last minute, I wasn't prepared. I had never gone for horse riding classes. I had never got my photos clicked. I had braces on my teeth. I didn't know anything. I went for crash courses to learn to act and dance. I had to do something because I didn't want my dad's money". The next thing that happened was: Vijay and Suriya "Nerukku Ner."

"Initially, I couldn't select my films, I didn't know what I was doing. So I slowed down. I watched movies, observed actors. I didn't have friends in the industry, I didn't want to take my father's help. I even stopped watching my father's movies. I didn't want people to compare me with my father. I had to do something different. Malayalam movies interested me... realistic and still interesting. That's when Siddique's "Friends" with Vijay happened," says Suriya. "I had a different role in that, playing an angry young man. It was while I was shooting for that, when technicians gave me the confidence". That did the trick. Another angry young man in "Nandhaa" and then the role of a lifetime.

* * *

Yuvan wanted to be a pilot. But before he could take off to flying school, he got aboard Kollywood after a couple of movies happened "unexpectedly".

And before he turned 24, he was 25 movies old. "It happened suddenly. But after my first couple of films, I didn't get any offers. At times, it's an advantage to be the father's son. But people also expect more from me because I'm my father's son. I used to listen to lot of jazz, R&B, Hip Hop. I'm focussing on youngsters... I'm very choosy about the subjects I work in. I think "Dina" was the turning point. After that "Poovellam Kaettupaar", "Thuluvatho Ilamai" and then "Kaadhal Kondain," says Yuvan. "Kadhal Kondain" cemented him as one of the most sought after music directors.


So does he get help from his father? "He doesn't even know what I'm working on. I would ask his opinion only if it's very critical. But yes, he does give me tips— he tells me to pay importance to lyrics".

He and Karthik Raja, who is six years older, help each other out in their projects. "There's no competition at all. We are different people with different styles. Speaking the truth, I still don't know where I am... I am just working for the best".

* * *

Gangai Amaren packed his son off to the UK. Venkat Prabhu did accounting and finance. But returned to account for his place on the stage with "Unnai Saran Adainthen". His only tryst with movies before was that he sang for "Anjali". So he got back and started singing again for demo-works of Yuvan and Karthik and working closely with Charan, with whom he shared the passion of doing something offbeat. "For long, we were planning to do an offbeat project but nothing worked out. Then Charan made me play this role for his movie. No friend would have done something like that, he gave me the lead role and took the negative one. I don't go ask for `chance' anymore. I hadn't received got appreciated for singing but for this film ("Unnai Saran Adainthen") I got more recognition than I got when I was singing. Film is such a powerful medium. So many people from places like Erode and Tiruppur liked the deglamourised look. I was in the UK for seven years but they thought I could do the role because I lived in the village. The credit goes to Kani ("Samudirakanni"). I owe it to Charan". Venkat has now signed for "Ganesa" again, with his buddies.

* * *

At 14, Sridevi was infected by "Kaadhal Virus", but she fell in love with Kollywood much before. Vijaykumar and Manjula's daughter Sridevi is the youngest of the sisters — Kavitha, Anitha, Vanitha, Preetha and brother Arun Kumar. "But I was the first from the generation to start acting. I was a child-artiste in "Rickshawmaama" (starring Satyaraj directed by P.Vasu). We know the whole industry, so I was very much interested. They were quite happy at my decision. After all, I was the first among all to start acting. I eat cinema, drink cinema. And I'm very choosy about my characters".


But all the excitement comes with its own price. "There's a lot more pressure. It's very difficult. They expect much more out of everything. They feel it's in the blood, that's not true at all. It's all hard work. My parents are my plus points, they are my minus points," says the St. XII student from PSBB K.K. Nagar. Sridevi recently signed for "Devathaiyai Kandain" with Dhanush.

* * *

Dhanush thankfully, had his brother Selvaraghavan and director father Kastoori Raja to make sure he had a safe landing. "Jayam" Ravi had his brother Raja and editor father Mohan to do so. Prashanth, probably the senior-most among Generation Next has been around for over a decade, and still continues to toe his father Thyagarajan's line, waiting for a real `Winner' that works both at the box office and with the critics.


And there's Simbu, launched by his father T.R, who has a long way to go before he tries to slip into shoes of superstardom.

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