In today’s world surviving is one of the most difficult things to do and this is true in the film industry as well. Box office results have either built or destroyed the careers of many individuals in this industry and I must say surviving 20 years in such an industry with no backing, is a miracle of sorts. It is all the more laudable when one manages to not only survive but to thrive in such an industry and this is what the darling of the masses Ajith Kumar has accomplished. With no big introduction and no one to show him the ropes, the man lovingly called Thala made his debut in the industry at the tender age of20. Ever since his debut it is impossible to find a production house or political party behind the man Ajith Kumar. In other words this man in every sense embodies the phrase “a self-made man”.
Not one to toot his own horn, it’s not uncommon to find words like “reticent and self-effacing” being used to describe him. He chooses to explain the twenty odd years of sweat, blood and tears with the words, “It hasn’t been easy.” This is perhaps one of the biggest understatements in light of what Ajith has been through. He has undergone 15 surgeries, 14 of which are spinal surgeries and a knee surgery which very few know about. It’s hard to imagine that a man who has done some of the riskiest stunts in the industry has undergone this much. Despite all this he chooses to put his life on the line time and time again as seen in his most recent outing Billa 2, where he hangs out of a helicopter at 10,000 feet (No, the stunt was not the result of CG effects). An assistant director who worked in Billa 2, tweeted that one of the first things removed from the list was the need for a stuntman (dupe) as Ajith insisted on doing all the stunts by himself. Speak about dedication and sacrifice.
In his on screen career, he has convincingly carried off a variety of roles without the aid of complicated costumes or make up. In fact, some of his most popular roles have required him to play two or three contrasting characters in a single movie. For example, in the movie Vaali he plays twin brothers- charming Shiva and the mute but intense Deva. Without any difference in costumes he convincingly carried off both roles. It’s hard to imagine that both brothers were played by one man. It did not stop there, he went on to perform many other roles that won him accolades earning him a place among some of the best performers in Indian cinema. Movies like Amarkalam, Citizen, Villain, Varalaru, Kireedom, Billa (which established him as a style icon), Mankatha (an outstanding negative role) and Billa 2 (one of his most subtle performances while portraying a character with grey shades). He is known to give more than a 100% to every project he is a part of. It must be said here that Thala certainly knows how to throw surprises beginning with his selection of directors many of whom (Saran, S.J Suryah, A.R. Murgadoss etc) did not have a film to their credit when he worked with them. Not one to take security in formulaic fair he chooses to experiment with his roles. In fact no one has any idea the role he will portray next on screen.
People may wonder what makes this man such a huge star both on and off screen. The answer lies in the way he chooses to live life on his own terms. Despite being part of an industry where the slightest error in judgment could mean the end, Ajith chose to participate in the Formula BMW Asia (2003) when his career had reached a peak and overall finished in 7th place which is no mean feat for someone who is not a Formula car racer by profession. It must be noted that instead of being appreciated for competing with some of the best racers in the world, he received a lot of criticism and many of his successes on the race track went by unnoticed. Apart from his passion for racing, he is also known to be excellent at aeromodeller. To set right some of the common misconceptions about this craft, the aircraft used is actually a scale model of an actual full sized aircraft. Being the perfectionist he is Thala does not just fly these planes but has built many of them. As for his other interest photography, not one to do anything half- heartedly, he has quite a collection to prove that he is as good as any professional.
Synonymous with Ajith Kumar are his fans. He is reputed to have one of the most loyal fan bases in the country, which has many people asking, “how” or “why”. The answer is he is a leader who leads by example. Even those that aren’t fans find it difficult to find fault with the man, Ajith Kumar. It is not uncommon to hear of stars who misuse their fans for selfish reasons, however in the case of Thala he reminds his fans at every opportunity to look after their families. A man of principles, Thala abides by them even when it costs him dearly. It is his principles that caused him to disband all his fans clubs though they were a record breaking number. He refuses to get involved in political issues believing that the Government will do that which is necessary and does not unwantedly comment on any sensitive issue. It doesn’t stop there, those who have had the opportunity to work with him hold him in the highest regard and many of the younger lot of actors swear by him. Over the years his co actors (male and female) describe him as the perfect gentleman, honest, bold and grounded.
We know the higher one goes the more of a target one becomes and it is no different with Ajith. Even though there is so much to learn and appreciate, people seem to be hell bent on pulling him down. This is not new, in the past they did this through the print media but today they use the social network. As they cannot find fault with him as a person or an actor they have a hay time during the release of his movies and do everything they can to sabotage his work. The interesting thing is no matter how harsh and unfair the criticism is, his response is dignified silence. As a fan I don’t believe I have the right to tell you whom you should admire and whom you shouldn’t but I do believe I have the right to give you a glimpse of why thousands of us admire and respect the man we love to call Thala.