However, Vishal shocked friends and foes alike by jumping into politics and filing his nomination for the recent RK Nagar bye-polls in Chennai. The seat had fallen vacant after the demise of former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa. But, in what came as an anti-climax, his nomination papers were rejected by the Returning Officer on the grounds that two signatures of his proposers were fudged.
Vishal, as could be expected, raised a hue and cry and hinted at a conspiracy, but it was to no avail. His detractors in the Producer’s Council, like director Cheran, seized the opportunity to take potshots at him for neglecting his duties as Council President and for choosing to plunge into politics instead. They even went to the extent of launching a sit-in protest at the Council premises. But, like his innings in politics that ended even before it really began, the agitation too fizzled out.
Vishal has earned the reputation of being a doer, especially after he wrested power at the Nadigar Sangam from veterans like Sarath Kumar and Radha Ravi, who were holding the fort after Vijaykanth bowed out and opted for a full-fledged career in politics. The Sangam, which has senior actor Nasser as President, has filed a suit against the previous incumbents alleging misappropriation of funds and the case is pending in the courts.
After the victory in the Nadigar Sangam elections, Vishal set his sights on the Producers’ Council – the fiefdom of long-time filmmakers like ‘Kalaipuli’ Thaanu, KR, Alagappan and others. With the solid backing of the younger set of producers, including the likes of actor, director and producer Prakash Raj, his team swept through the polls. However, unlike in the Sangam, which has been functioning as a compact unit, the Council remains a divided house and there are several dissenting voices being heard.
Vishal, who has a degree in Mass Communications, started off as an assistant director in Arjun Sarja’s Vedham in 2001. He made his debut in Chellame in 2004. But it was his later films – Sasi’s Dishyum, Linguswami’s Sandakozhi and Tarun Gopi’s Thimiru – that secured his place in the Tamil film industry.
A typical Vishal film had its quota of stunt sequences, in which he excelled thanks to his wiry physique, and duets where he wooed heroines in exotic locations. The emotional content was kept to the barest minimum as the actor’s comfort level while enacting such heavy-duty scenes was suspect.
It was director Bala who uncovered the hidden depths to Vishal’s talent in his action-comedy Avan Ivan, which is still ranked very high in the actor’s career. Bala, who is known to be choosy when it comes to casting in his movies, relied of actor Arya’s recommendation and Vishal did not disappoint. In the story of two half-brothers, Vishal played Walter Vanangamudi, the softer sibling, while Arya proved to be his perfect foil with his tough Kumbideren Swamy.
The film offered Vishal the opportunity to do something different. Despite him having to strain his eyes to play the role of a man with a squint, the critical acclaim he received must have helped alleviate the pain. One particular scene stands out in the movie – Walter, a wannabe actor, in a bid to impress Suriya (playing himself) performs the navarasas – which only met with a lukewarm response in the box office.
His film career has been far from impressive – his flops have outnumbered his hits. While action extravaganzas like Malaikottai, Pandiyanaadu, Naan Sigappu Manithan and Sivappathigaram fared a trifle better, his later films like Ambala, Paayum Puli and Kathi Sandai were total flops. The only film that comes to mind when I speak of Vishal’s hits is Hari’s Thamiraparani. Kathakaliand Marudhu also performed only averagely at the box office.
The actor’s most-recent break came in Mysskin’s Thupparivaalan, where Vishal played a desi Sherlock Holmes, investigating a string of seemingly unrelated murders. Vishal, whose earlier cop film Sathyam failed to click with the audience, had a much better outing with Thupparivaalan, which opened to critical and commercial acclaim. His hyped-up performance as an antagonist in the Malayalam film Villain, starring Mohanlal as the hero, went unnoticed.
So where does this forty-year-old, strapping actor go from here?
He has no dearth of assignments and can even make his own films now. His father, GK Reddy, and his brother, Vikram Krishna, are both Kollywood producers too – so he can even fall back on them for a project if need be. For now, he has pinned his hopes on his upcoming films, Irumbu Thirai, where his one-time mentor Arjun will be crossing swords with him, and Sandakozhi 2.
However, his attempt to rush into politics, when superstars like Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth have marched into the arena, has come a cropper. Chances are that he has now decided to put his political plans on hold for now.
As an administrator, he has a number of plans lined up for the Nadigar Sangam, including a fundraiser tour to Malaysia and intensifying the battle against video piracy. Constructing a building for the Sangam too is of top priority.
There is no doubt we will see more of Vishal in the times to come – he is here for the long haul