Whether due to nature or nurture, Gautham has given a solid performance – bringing a fresh innocence to the screen. All eyes are now on him to continue the family legacy, but also to defend his title as Tamil cinema’s new, “chosen” romantic hero – especially since he is the first hero Mani Ratnam has introduced in 13 years. A little over a decade ago Ratnam gave us Madhavan in another monumental romantic debut in Alaipayudhey.
Although all Tamil films usually contain some romance, such that all heroes enter as ‘lovers’ in some way – there’s nothing like debuting as one of Mani’s romantic leads. In 2000 Madhavan stole the hearts of young girls everywhere as the flirtatious Karthik, who had eyes only for Shakti. 13 years later Gautham has swept up some of that same following, along with new fans, as the charming Thomas, whose heart beats only for Bea. Any actor considers it an honor to be cast in a Mani Ratnam film, but to be chosen as his lead for your debut brings a singular level of merit, and in many ways Mani Ratnam gave Madhavan and Gautham very similar launches.
Both stars received the debuts of a lifetime when they got the chance to portray their dramatic acting, subtle comedic timing and classic romantic charm in their first roles that showed them pining for girls society told them they should not love. Although both their debut characters can be categorized as romantics, they also underwent transformations, showed us a wide range of emotions and had their respective shades of grey. Karthik was in many ways a selfish and inconsiderate new husband, and Thomas, as an impressionable youth willing to sin in the pursuit of money and power, has much more obvious negative qualities.
Any Mani Ratnam film is a career booster for an Indian actor, but inAlaipayudhey and Kadal the iconic director gave Madhavan and Gautham a superior inauguration through complex characters in two very different settings – but both of which focus on them eventually appreciating the meaning of true love. In typical Mani-style he provided just the right mix of “bad boy” and “doting lover” that all girls dream of in both of their feature performances, and although they debuted as romantics the scope with which they performed and the realism of their debut characters has and will prevent typecasting.
Today Madhavan is a pan-Indian heartthrob with an immense international fan following after starring in many critical and commercial Tamil and Hindi blockbusters. Today Gautham is only one film old, but it won’t stay that way for long, as his stellar first performance has already made him a household name. As two of Mani Ratnam’s greatest discoveries Madhavan and Gautham have given new meanings to this generation’s version of young love. Their outstanding debuts are of course a testament to their talent, but with Mani Ratnam as their first director introducing them as epic romantic heroes they almost instantly became the stuff of dreams. So this Valentine’s day when cinema fans reminisce on their favorite Tamil love stories and the men who led them, gratitude should be shown onto the dream-weaver Mani Ratnam, who gave us two actors who can make fans everywhere laugh, cry, panic, swoon and fall in love.