CHENNAI: Veteran stage actor and multifaceted television and film personality Visu died in Chennai on Sunday. He was 74. He had suffered from kidney-related ailments for the last decade.
Born Meenakshisundaram Ramasamy Viswanathan in 1945, Visu, as he was popularly known, entered the film industry as an assistant director to K Balachander. An accomplished stage actor, he wrote several popular films, including the blockbuster Rajinikanth films 'Netrikann', 'Thillu Mullu', 'Nallavanukku Nallavan', and 'Mr Bharath'. Visu made his acting debut in Kudumbam Oru Kadhambam, which was scripted by him and directed by SP Muthuraman.
Known for his sharp wit and films exploring on social issues, Visu's evergreen hit, 'Samsaram Adhu Minsaram' (1986) was the first Tamil film to win the National Award for Best popular film providing wholesome entertainment.
Notably, Visu was also commissioned by the Government of Tamil Nadu to make his 1992 film, 'Neenga Nalla Irukkanum'. Based on prohibition, the film was the last onscreen appearance of then Chief Minister, J Jayalalithaa. It also won Visu his second National Award for Best Film on other social issues.
Having made his directorial debut with 'Kanmani Poonga', Visu went on to make iconic films like 'Manal Kayiru' and 'Penmani Aval Kanmani'. His films dealt with social issues such as dowry harassment, widow remarriage and joint family-nuclear family debates.
Much like his mentor Balachander, Visu was a pioneer of successful, family-friendly films on moderate budgets. Also, he was the primary draw in all his films, rarely relying on stars for voltage.
Visu was also celebrated for his stint on television. 'Arattai Arangam', his long-running debate show on Sun TV saw Visu travel the State debating social issues. He later hosted 'Visuvin Makkal Arangam' on Jaya TV.
Visu was last seen in 'Manal Kayiru 2' (2016), the sequel to his 1982 film. He is survived by his wife Sundhari and daughters Lavanya, Sangeetha and Kalpana.
"I'm proud that he got introduced as an actor through my film, 'Kudumbam Oru Kadhambam'. The film was adapted from a play and we made him reprise his role from the play in the feature film version too.
His dialogues in Netrikann elevated the film to the next level and the variation he showed while writing the father and son roles of Rajini is truly remarkable.
"Though he is known for his heartening family films, he was equally competent in writing mass dialogues for commercial films. He was a big name on the small screen too. I'm genuinely happy that many people benefitted through the charity he did through his talk shows, said veteran filmmaker SP Muthuraman.
"Ours was a 50-year-long friendship. I always knew him as a multi-talented and versatile artiste. My first outstation play came through Visu... I've worked in almost 30 films of his. We were always in touch, even till his last days. This is a huge loss,", said actor-comedian-politician SV Shekher.