In a time where actresses like Amy Jackson continue to thrive in the Tamil movie industry with substandard acting skills and zero knowledge of the language, it is strange to note that there is not one non Indian lead actor in recent history. We have compiled a list of foreign male actors who have graced the Tamil screens in various supporting actor or villainous roles. And the nominees are;
Danny – Singam 2
The best part of Singam 2 was not Surya’s over the top acting, it was the villain, Danny. Staying true to the shortage of names in the Tamil film industry, the actor, Danny Sapani plays an international drug lord who specializes in the trafficking of cocaine, while living exclusively at sea. The Brit executed his role well, and won accolades from the Tamil audience. In an interview, Sapani revealed that he was surprised to be approached for an Indian film, but threw himself at the opportunity. “I had never heard of director Hari, nor Surya and I couldn’t understand what a Tamil film would want with an English actor!” he shares. “I had to concentrate on creating a super villain to match Surya’s super hero. A man without limits, without a heart, lacking any morality, and an African,” We bought it, Danny! Good job.
Detective Anderson – Vettaiyaadu Vilayaadu
Vettaiyaadu Vilayaadu is fondly remembered for many things. Daniel Balaji as the spine chilling, nefarious baddie. Jyothika as the struggling single mother with a beautiful name, Aaradhana. The Ragavan instict. And of course, NYPD Detective Anderson. Played by actor Lev Gorn, Anderson and Ragavan work well together, and eventually uncover a mini graveyard of rape and murder victims. Gorn has appeared in numerous TV shows, including Law & Order SVU, Madam Secretary, NCIS and Blue Bloods. He has even worked with Robert de Niro in The Good Shepard! Gorn later shares his thoughts on the Tamil film production with The Hindu, “One day we were shooting a scene in which both me and Kamal Hassan were running with a helicopter flying very low. Both Goutham (Menon) and Ravi were literally hanging below the helicopter and shooting the scene. Not many would do it in the U.S. They would have got some of the best visuals instead,” We may forget how you look, but we will never forget your character, Anderson!
Dong Li – 7am Arivu
The name Dong Li needs no introduction. Vietnamese actor Donny Tri Nguyen goes above and beyond and does this character justice, making him one of the most unforgettable villains in Tamil film history. The introductory scene which involves him poisoning a stray dog is just as memorable as the finale fight sequence between him and Aravind/Bodhidarma (Surya). In fact, Nguyen is loved so much that he was hired to play the baddie again in Irumbu Kuthirai, opposite Atharvaa and Priya Anand. Fans of this South East Asian hottie can rejoice, as he is reported to be a part of Vijay’s upcoming blockbuster, Sarkar.
Winston Chao – Kabali
The Taiwanese actor Winston Chao played Tony Lee, a Godfather like character who is the head of the Malaysian gangster crew ’43’. Chao has been behind a string of successful Taiwanese television shows ans movies. His magnum opus, however, remains to be Kabali.
Dagbeh Tweh – Maryan
Boy did we hate this guy by the end of the movie. Playing the character Dog in the troop of Sudanese terrorists, Dagbeh Tweh was perfection at his role. Not much is known about him except that he has starred in two movies other than Maryan. Tweh plays a prominent role in the American war drama film, Beasts of No Nation and a French-Liberian war film, Johnny Mad Dog. We certainly hope to see more of this talented actor on the big screens.
Datuk Rosyam Nor – Kabali
While we would have loved to see this Malaysian stalwart play a bigger role in Kabali, it was quite satisfying to see him in a fight scene with the Superstar. Kabali is just one feather of many in his cap. Datuk Rosyam has won numerous awards in Malaysia and has even bagged the Best Actor Award in the Asia Pacific Film Festival in 2006 for his movie Bilut.
Bentley Mitchum – Little John
This movie holds a special place in the hearts of us Jyothika fans. Not only was it a fantasy filled spectacle, we absolutely loved the music, the cinematography and the all rounded entertainment factor the movie had to offer. Bentley Mitchum plays John Mackenzie, an American student who comes to live with Vani’s (Jyothika) family while researching the Mookuthi Amman Temple. Mitchum is one of the few non Indian actors to have played the protagonist in a Tamil movie, and much of the success of the movie is owed to his charm and likability. Mitchum shares with The Hindu how he was in awe of the song and dance sequence in Indian movies, “I thought it was bizarre. There are two people talking in a restaurant and suddenly they are dancing under a waterfall! I told Mr. Rao (director Singeetam Srinivasa Rao) that I was not wearing the right clothes and that there was no continuity from the previous scene. But I soon realised that that is how it works here.”
Aaron Aziz – Tik Tik Tik (2018)
Of course we had to save the best for last! Okay, he may be Singaporean, but he has starred in enough Malaysian productions to be a household name. To see a local face in the Jayam Ravi space themed flick was out of this world! In spite of a neck injury that he sustained a few years ago, Aziz soldiered on and refused to use a stuntman for his scenes. The scenes were shot in Chennai, India and Aziz shares that it was quite an experience. “I was scared at first. I didn’t understand what was going on. I can’t take photos on set. The director was shouting. So, it did feel a bit chaotic. But once I got the hang of it, everything just went smoothly,” he tells The Star. His acting was excellent, as usual. And he was (and still is) easy on the eyes. We want more!
The Tamil film industry may give men an incredible amount of screen time and leeway. But it isn’t the most inclusive when it comes to actors of other ethnicities. Yes, Tamil males are fiercely territorial in the film industry. We wonder why…