In 1991 the Tamil cinema audience were introduced to a suave and good-looking actor when Arvind Swami took on with panache the role of a step-brother (pucca credentials playing a young district Collector upholding the Law) against Tamil superstar Rajnikanth (an illegitimate son who is the right-hand man to a righteous mob boss – Mammootty) in Thalapathi. The movie was a commercial success and helmed by the man with the Midas touch – Mani Ratnam.
The next year he took the Indian cinema by storm with a follow-up act as a patriotic Government technocrat who is kidnapped by terrorists in Roja. He captivated audience on similar terms like Kamal Haasan in ‘Ek Duje Ke Liye’. Yet he wasn’t even around to enjoy his stardom as he pursued his Masters degree in Management in the US. Nearly twenty-five years later he has proved to be a reluctant actor – having done a handful of films and been away from the industry for a stretch. Yet he made a promising comeback playing a suave villain in the recent Tamil movie, ‘Thani Oruvan’.
Arvind Swami emerged in the long tradition of mild-mannered heroes such as Mohan and Murali, however he could never represent the underdog. A quiet demeanour still hid a self-confident and suave persona who seemed best slotted to play romantic leads – he did have a great following among the fairer sex to boot as well.
He shares a special relationship with Mani Ratnam who seems to have acted as his friend, philosopher and mentor. Together they have delivered popular hits and we can expect the association to continue in future as well. Apart from Mani Ratnam movies, Arvind Swami has done only a few films that attracted critical acclaim. My list of his Top 3 movies includes as follows –
Post the success of Thalapathi and Roja, Arvind Swami collaborated with Mani Ratnam yet again to deliver this critically acclaimed movie. He has evolved as an actor and is able to handle to the complex subject with ease. The first half is fun and frivolous as he serenades Manisha Koirala and shares the happiness of newly wedded couple. It has its moments of drama as well since the inter-religious union is frowned upon by their respective families and Arvind Swami manages to convince Manisha Koirala to trust him and escape to Mumbai to follow her beau.
Five years ahead the young family with cute twins in tow are still part of the Maximum city. By then a rapprochement has been effected with the warring parents as well. Things take a serious turn during the Bombay riots in the aftermath of the Babri mosque demolition as the gore and violence tears the city apart. The climax is heart wrenching and finally sanity prevails. It must have been an emotionally draining experience as the movie dealt with serious social issues and the turbulence that rent apart people who were in peaceful co-existence.
It is actually a Malayalam movie by Bharathan and a heroine-centric one wherein Sridevi simply stole the show. Yet Arvind Swami too does well in enacting the sad life of a shaundi priest. Yet again the initial sequence are happy ones as Sridevi sets about seducing him and succeeds.
A sad turn of events separates them and the void leaves him emotionally crippled. He sets about visiting holy cities and tries to come to terms with the tragedy. Things only worsen to an extent that he becomes a shaundi priest. Yet the climax offers him a moment of redemption and he rises to the challenge. A movie that was way ahead of its times and Arvind Swami shows discernment in choosing such a story.
The movie had a much delayed release in 2006 by when all the lead artistes were no longer active in the industry. Produced on a small budget and impacted by the delays in release, the movie didn’t attract the audience it deserved. It is a vintage Mahendran movie that deals with woman-centric subject.
Arvind Swami effectively underplays his character and is mellow and subdued for the major portions of the movie. There aren’t many happy moments in the movie but he shares a lovely relationship with his wife essayed by Gouthami.
Arvind Swami re-appeared on the movie scene by playing a character role in Mani Ratnam’s Kadal but the movie didn’t do well at the box office. However his latest venture playing a fully blow villain character has been a smash success at the box-office. We are sure to see more movies from him including ones with Mani Ratnam.