CONFLICT IS OFTEN THE CLINCHER for life’s big decisions. For Vasu, it was when the mighty MGR jumped from a building in a fight sequence from the movie Engal Thangam (1970). “I realised, I wanted to be like him,” says Vasu aka MGR Vasu, who has been playing his idol for 40 years.
Vasu is a member of Navarasa Paneer Kalai Kuzhu, a 15-person troupe of mimicry artistes considered a top choice for ‘start-up’ entertainment before AIADMK (All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) public meetings and election campaigns. The group, based out of Tondiarpet in North Chennai, is one of 43 troupes in Tamil Nadu that perform exclusively for the AIADMK, a party that MGR founded in 1972 on the strength of his popularity as a film actor.
All major state parties patronise a number of drama troupes, each of which features mimicry artistes who copy the vocabulary, voice and mannerisms of major leaders to a fault. The demand for their performances soars at the time of local body elections, when personality matters more than the party, and when the artistes often stand in for the leaders, who can’t visit every corner of the state.