Long before the advent of Kung Fu Panda, there must have been a Kung Fu Pandian crouching somewhere, wielding a megaphone, in a dingy set in the dishoom dishoom world of Kollywood, training hulk-like haraam zaadeys to take a million blows from an apology of a hero.
Truth be told, life ain’t easy for the Kung Fu Pandians. Being stunt masters, they have to grapple with ideas, engineer new ways of venting violence, thrash them out with the director, stage the fights and morph tomato squirt fests into believable blood baths. And for all that inventiveness, in the end, some pot-bellied Captain or a balding Superstar will walk away with all the glories!
Thankfully, these under appreciated action men have One Big Compensation that no other profession offers - they get to keep the coolest names! For example, if your dad gave you a yucky sucky name like Sambandam, and you have this god given gift of teaching a podgy star to pummel a hundred rampaging rowdies, then you’re eligible to call yourself, Pummel Sambandam. Ain’t that awesomeness?
The fun of legitimately strutting around with a sobriquet as your name is something else. Imagine introducing your humble self as, “Hi, I am Super Subbarayan. You can call me Super!” Or “Hey babe, I am Fire Kartik. Wanna play with Fire?” Even this pick up line isn’t that corny, “Hello, I am Wham Bam Balaji. Yes, that’s right. Wham Bam. Thank you ma’m!”
The tradition of stunt gurus appropriating macho sounding names began in the early eighties with the release of a rash of martial art movies in Chennai. Anyone who could mimic these jaw-dropping stunts bagged the bragging rights for that genre. That’s how ‘Karate’ Mani and Judo Rathnam were born.
Then came Rambo Rajkumar and Rocky Rajesh inspired by the daredevilry of their guru Sylvester Stallone. The nineties saw the emergence of a whole new pack of action kings who didn’t want to sound very wannabe. So out went, naming the source. In came, alliterative names. Kanal Kannan and Anal Arasu exemplify this curious trend. For all their clever name play, one still feels the Vedi Vedantams of today, still don’t match the authenticity or the roar of a Jaguar Thangam.