Over the years, Ilavarasu has proved his mettle as an actor of calibre. Muthukku Muthaaga is a new feather in his cap
Did you know that Ilavarasu who came up with a stupendous show in the recently released Muthukku Muthaaga as the caring father and loving husband, started his career as a cinematographer? The Prabhu-starrer Panchalankurichi marked his debut as a lens man, after which he went on to work in a dozen films behind the camera, including Ninaithaen Vandhaai and Iniyavalae, before director Bharatirajaa made him stand before it. Cheran is another maker who regularly taps his potential. Can you forget Ilavarasu, the carpenter, in Paandavar Bhoomi? “I'm still very much a camera person, and I keep myself abreast of the latest developments in the field. It's just that I'm biding my time,” laughs Ilavarasu. Meanwhile as an actor he has completed 54 films and continues to go strong.
Going by his spontaneity as a performer, he must be a sought-after character actor. “Not exactly, in cinema, actors gain recognition only if the film is a hit,” he shrugs. “Though I'm quite busy I know that commendable performances don't translate into meaty roles.”
Yet, Ilavarasu has the capability to make his presence felt in a minor part. Another aspect that draws attention is that he runs the gamut of emotions with élan. Rip-roaring comedian (Imsai Arasan 23 am Pulikesi), heartless father (Goripalayam), compulsive braggart (Porkaalam), diligent statue maker (Pokkisham) — time and again, Ilavarasu has proved that he can pull off any role. The poignant part he plays in Muthukku Muthaaga is a reiteration. Says Ilavarasu: “Rasu Madhuravan is a friend, particularly after Maayaandi Kudumbathaar and Goripaalayam. And his maturity in handling heavy emotions is amazing. When he told me the story of Muthukku … I was floored by the father's role. ‘The part is for Nasser,' Rasu informed and offered me another role, which eventually went to Rajkapoor.”
Ilavarasu couldn't bring himself to ask Rasu for the part. “But my wife suggested I talk to him. ‘Instead of going around looking crestfallen, it's better to get it out of your system,' she said. So I spoke to him, and he graciously gave it to me,” he smiles. Ilavarasu was honest enough to tell Nasser about it, and being a friend, the latter laughed it off. Now that his performance is winning him accolades, Nasser called up Ilavarasu to compliment him and with a chuckle added, “So this was the role you hijacked from me.”
“Frankly I never expected such an overwhelming response, I thought the plaudits will go only to Saranya,” says Ilavarasu. She plays his wife in the film. But he must have got an inkling of what was to follow, when Rasu Madhuravan came home after the final editing one night, held his hands and in a choked voice said, “You've done an excellent job.”
Apprenticing under ‘Stills' Ravi for the shutterbugs experience, Ilavarasu then joined cinematographer B. Kannan's unit and worked in 24 films. Kannan was an inseparable part of Bharatiraaja's creations. That was when he observed Bharatiraaja closely. “He would enact every scene,” recalls Ilavarasu. So when suddenly during a shoot, the director asked him to take position in front of the camera for a miniscule part, Ilavarasu did it with ease. The film was Vedam Pudhidhu. Pasumpon, Vijayakanth's Thavasi and more followed. A spate of acting offers changed Ilavarasu's route.
As an actor, Ilavarasu is a natural. “Probably following Malayalam films of the past ardently has helped me imbibe a lot from them. In those days I was a regular at Blue Diamond and Ega cinemas which often screened those films. Even now I yearn to work with the greats in Kerala,” he says. A dream that should be realised soon!