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Updated: October 4, 2013 15:37 IST

Success through spontaneity

T. SARAVANAN
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Cinematographer turned actor Ilavarasu. Photo: R. Ashok
The Hindu Cinematographer turned actor Ilavarasu. Photo: R. Ashok

Over the years, actor Ilavarasu has proved his mettle as a complete actor in the film industry. He goes down his career memory lane

One of the very few cinematographers-turned-actor in the industry, Ilavarasu is best known for his crisp dialogue delivery and has now consolidated his position in front of the camera.

“My father named me Ilavarasan but when I came to industry people called me Ilavarasu and it stayed,” he chuckles. From a compulsive braggart in Porkalam to a soft spoken hapless father in Muthuku Muthaga, the variety of roles he has donned speak volumes of his ability as an actor.

He apprenticed under ‘Stills’ Ravi for the camera experience and then joined cinematographer B. Kannan’s unit. He worked with him in more than 24 films.

“The credit goes to my first director Bharathiraja,” he says, “who would enact each and every scene to the actors.” As part of the crew while assisting cameraman B.Kannan, he watched Bharathiraja closely and picked up the threads. . . “Sometimes when a regular actor is absent,” says Ilavarasu, the director makes people from some other department to act. . “You should be ready to chip in whenever the call to don the greasepaint comes from the director. That is how I got a chance to become an actor and made use of the opportunity. There are many people like me in the industry,” he adds.

His first movie was Top Tucker starring Kamal Hassan and Radha which never saw the light. He next acted in Oru Kaithiyin Diary. . “The role was not worth mentioning as I was part of the crowd. But still when I stood in front of the camera for the first time, it was a different experience,” he recalls.

A native of Melur, Ilavarasu got a meaty role in Porkalam directed by Cheran, also from the the same town. His sharp dialogue delivery in typical Madurai style grabbed attention and offers rolled in for him following the success of the film. “ Knowing my limitations I was careful in choosing the characters,” he says.

A confident actor that he is, Ilavarasu never hesitates to give 100 per cent to whatever he does and also improvises on the roles he plays with the director’s permission.

As a cameraman he has worked in films such as Panchalankurichi, Sabash, Ezhayin Siripil, Periya Thambi, Iniyavale and Veeranadai. His camera work for the movie Manam Virumbuthe Unnai fetched him the state award for the Best Cinematographer in 1999.

“Being a cinematographer and an actor are two different areas requiring different mental preparation. As a cameraman you are preoccupied with location, lighting and the angles. A lot of introspection is also needed. So I become silent whereas, as an actor I have to speak a lot,” he says.

Initially, Ilavarasu got more of villainous roles but gradually he shifted to doing character roles. “There is an advantage in doing character roles as the choice is wide. Who would forget the dull-headed minister in Imsai Arasan 23am Pulikesi,” he smiles.

He believes his roles in Pasumpon and Thavasi helped him to etch his name in the higher echelons of acting. He has also ventured into Malayalam, Odiya and Kannada film industries and does dubbing forMalayalam films. “I never consider acting in a language alien to me as challenging, as excitement catches on. I know my strong points and I try to showcase them,” says Ilavarasu who has completed 97 films.

He has just finished Jannal Oram directed by Karu. Palaniappan and is now busy shooting with Ajith for Veeram directed by Siruthai fame Siva.

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