'Jailer' villain Vinayakan TK: An outlier all set for pan-India fame
The outspoken, powerhouse actor, Vinayakan, is receiving accolades for his role as a menacing villain in Rajinikanth's 'Jailer'. Who is this Malayalam actor?
"I hug my mother when I feel like, I cannot do it just because the media want that shot," Vinayakan had once famously said when television journalists asked him to hug his mother. This was after he had received the Kerala state award for best actor in 2016.
That's Vinayakan TK, the unconventional Malayalam actor, musician, and dancer.
And, he couldn't have put it better when he said in a recent interview with a Malayalam media house, "I am not eccentric or stuff like that, as media people put it, I am an open person - I just don’t care about society, other than abiding by the system of law. We should respect the Constitution of our country, which was created by Dr Ambedkar and had many additions later."
Needless to say, because of his outspoken behaviour, Vinayakan is no stranger to controversies. Even as he is receiving accolades for his role as a sinister mafia don, in his latest Tamil film, the Rajinikanth starrer 'Jailer', he is also in the midst of a controversy facing boycott calls from a section of Congress workers in Kerala on social media. This is because he had made some disrespectful remarks about the late Oommen Chandy, the former chief minister of Kerala, after the Congress veteran leader passed away last month.
In 'Jailer', Vinayakan plays the role of Varman, a ruthless Malayali idol smuggler who is quick to brutally kill anyone who comes in his way. His character is a memorable one, as he is pitted against the indestructible Muthuvel Pandian (played by none other than Rajinikanth) and Mohanlal's Mathew (a cameo). In fact, Varman is portrayed as the 'absolute villain' of the film.
Vinayakan's film career
Vinayakan, who is celebrated for his raw and intense performances, began his career as a contemporary dancer before making his acting debut in the film ‘Manthrikam’ in 1995.
However, it was his role in the critically acclaimed film ‘Kammattipaadam' (2016) directed by Rajeev Ravi that catapulted him to fame. He essayed the role of Gangadharan, aka Ganga, a deeply marginalised young Dalit from Kammattipaadam. It is a character that may have strongly resonated with Vinayakan since he too hails from a similar neighbourhood – a slum located close to the Ernakulam junction and the state transport bus station.
The film is on how the Dalit community is compelled to relinquish their land to real estate syndicates, leading to the emergence of modern urbanisation in Kochi.
His searing portrayal of Ganga, earned him the coveted Kerala State Award for Best Actor that year. He even eclipsed his co-actor Dulquer Salman who played the conventional lead role in the film. With this achievement, he managed to smash the image of the stereotypical hero.
His distinctive looks and acting prowess helped him to carve a niche for himself in the film industry, often portraying complex and rugged characters with authenticity.
From Ganga of 'Kammattipadam' to Ayyappan, a panchayat member in Lijo Jose Pellissery’s masterpiece ‘Ee Ma Yau’ (Jesus, Mary Joseph), Vinayakan stayed close to his down-to-earth characters. His performances even today continue to captivate audiences and he has reaffirmed his position as a raw powerhouse of talent in the Malayalam film industry.
Vinayakan has carried off comedy roles as well, which he had done early on in his career, like the comic sidekick in 'Chatikkatha Chandu' and 'Dude' in the Aadu series. He then effortlessly shifted to playing more intense characters in films like 'Thottappan', 'Kali', and 'Iyyobinte Pustakam'. This shift vividly demonstrates his versatility.
His realistic performances resonate deeply with his audience, establishing him as an iconic presence in Malayalam cinema. His willingness to challenge conventional norms and embrace characters that demand depth and authenticity sets him apart in the industry.
However, in other languages like Hindi, Telugu, and to some extent in Tamil, his parts were often confined to playing the stereotypical portrayal of dark-skinned henchmen. This continued until he encountered the role of Varman, opposite superstar Rajinikanth in 'Jailer'. Here, he plays a nuanced kind of villain.
Despite being very vocal about his pro-left, pro-Dalit political stance, Vinayakan has had major run-ins with people. In 2019, Vinayakan faced legal troubles when he was charged with making derogatory remarks amounting to sexual harassment against a Dalit woman poet during a phone conversation. He was arrested and released on bail and the case is in the court now. This incident raised discussions about gender insensitivity, the responsbility of public figures, and the power of social media in shaping public opinion.
Last year, he once more found himself in a contentious situation when he used inappropriate language and behaviour towards a female journalist. While he initially faced a backlash, he later issued an apology, pointing out that his words were misinterpreted and unintentionally hurtful.
Often, he has been in the news for his enigmatic social media updates because he frequently shares images, screenshots, or links to news articles without any personal captions, leaving his followers perplexed.
“I am a laid-back person and I do not feel like writing my mind on social media. I just post things, without captions. If I write captions for those posts, it would make it easy for the reader. But I want them to think, that’s why I keep them cryptic,” he explained in an interview last year. "My questions on public platforms are not addressed to any individuals but to this society," further clarified Vinayakan.
His outspoken nature and willingness to address social and industry-related issues have sometimes led to polarising reactions. Nevertheless, his contributions to cinema and his willingness to engage in dialogues about pertinent matters have also earned him respect from those who value his commitment to authenticity and self-expression.
The woman poet who lodged a complaint against him some years back supported Vinakayan when he announced his directorial venture.
She wrote on Facebook, “I welcome the news that actor Vinayakan is becoming a director with pride. As a person who wishes for Dalit representation in all sectors, I see this too as a representation of the Dalit people. I had already made it clear that I will always be with the actor concerned when it comes to the casteist abuse that he faces and that I will strongly pursue the case of verbal rape.”
In the news now for ‘Jailer’, social media is gung-ho about Vinayakan, and believe this actor once dubbed by critics as Morgan Freeman of Kerala, is poised to become a highly sought-after pan-Indian actor. Probably, following in the footsteps of another talented Malayalam actor, Fahad Faasil.