Amidst the fanfare for star actors and their big-budget films, Tamil cinema is witnessing a spate of theatre actors gaining prominence as an increasing number of young filmmakers are showing interest to cast them like never before.
Theatre strengthens the pillar of acting, feels Lakshmi Priyaa Chandramouli, who has starred in Tamil film "Gouravam" and is awaiting the release of Tamil crime-comedy "Sutta Kadhai".
"Theatre strengthens your basics of acting. We spend so much of time preparing for one role in theatre that acting in cinema becomes really easy. Directors need not struggle with theatre artistes. All that they have to do is to tell them what they want and they will do it," Lakshmi told IANS.
"Theatre acting may be different from cinema, but it gives the actor a lot of confidence to take up any role. As a theatre actor, one won't have any inhibition towards any kind of role," said Lakshmi, who is part of Chennai-based theatre group Evam.
Theatre artists serve as acting consultants, believes debutant director Subu, who is helming "Sutta Kadhai".
"Lakshmi and Venky are of great help with regard to handling the expressions and emotions of other artistes (in the film). They are my acting consultants because they help in expressing exactly what I want to communicate with the rest of the cast," said Subu.
Venky aka Venkatesh Harinathan is associated with theatre group Stray Factory.
Vidyullekha Raman, who has been associated with theatre groups such as Evam, Landing Stage and Madras Players for nearly seven years, says the experience has helped her to be spontaneous.
"Since I take up comedy roles mostly, there is a need to improvise. I should credit my theatre experience for helping me master my improvisational skills. I can now give my director several variations in performance," said Vidyu.
Since her debut in the 2012 Tamil romantic-drama "Neethaane En Ponvasantham", Vidyu has starred opposite star actors such as Junior NTR, Vijay and Ajith Kumar.
Tamil cinema has had a history of theatres actors, says Anand Kumar, who was formerly associated with Koothu-P-Pattarai, a Tamil theatre group.
"I think the real superstars of Tamil cinema are those who entered through theatre. These were some of the best actors this industry has produced over the years. Back in the days, it was theatre that could eventually land someone a role in cinema," he said.
"Things have changed for good in recent years. People are more interested in joining film schools instead of theatre. Film schools may make one famous, but theatre makes good actors who will never fade with time," Anand added.
Do you feel film schools don't produce good actors?
"It's not the product of these institutions but the experience that I think will make the difference. Film school grooming is confined to a curriculum and some classroom teaching, but theatre is beyond four walls and a classroom," he added.
Some of the well known Tamil actors from the past with theatre background include Nagesh, Manorama, Nambiar and even legends like Sivaji Ganesan and M.G Ramachandran.
However, not all theatre artistes make great cinema actors, feels Karthik Kumar, co-founder of Evam theatre and entertainment group.
"Older theatre actors will find cinema incompatible. They are used to playing to the gallery so much that they would hesitate to change," he said.
Karthik's upcoming Tamil thriller "Kolai Nokku Parvai" features four theatre actors.
"The lead cast of my upcoming film features theatre artistes. Younger filmmakers are willing to cast them because they bring more to the table. They are more comfortable with their body and expressions," said Karthik, who has also starred in films such as "Saathiya", "Yuva" and "Veppam".