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Vivekh: Tamil Actor, Comedian, Green Crusader Dies Aged 59

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Credits: Silverscreen India media library

Vivekh, the Tamil actor, comedian died on Saturday at a private hospital at 4:35 am in Chennai. He was 59. Vivekh was admitted at the hospital on Friday morning after suffering a cardiac arrest.

According to a statement issued by SIMS hospital in Vadapalani, where the actor was admitted, he was brought in unconscious by family members at 11 am on Friday. The actor suffered an acute coronary syndrome with cardiogenic shock, said hospital authorities.

After undergoing an Emergency Coronary Angiogram followed by an Angioplasty, Vivekh was later on Friday admitted in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) on extracorporeal cardiac support. “He is currently in critical condition on ECMO in the intensive Care Unit,” the statement from hospital authorities said.

Hospital authorities also said “This is a separate cardiac event, it may not be due to Covid vaccination.” On Thursday, the actor had been administered the first dose of the Covaxin Covid-19 vaccination at Omandurar Medical College, a government hospital in Chennai.

Vivekh, in a thriving career that spanned over three decades has acted in over 200 films, mostly in Tamil. He was first introduced to acting by late filmmaker K Balachandran in the latter’s 1987 Tamil drama film Manathil Urudhi Vendum. Since then, he has worked alongside actors like Rajinikanth, Vijay, Vikram, Suriya, Madhavan, and Dhanush, among others. He was set to collaborate with actor-politician Kamal Haasan for the first time in the now stalled film Indian 2. In 2009, he was conferred with the Padma Shri award for his contribution to cinema.

Vellai Pookal Movie Stills Starring Vivek
Vellai Pookal Movie Still

Vivekh’s comedy is packed with social messages on a range of topics including cleanliness, importance of education, social equality. In an interview with Silverscreen India in 2015, he spoke about the the type of comedy that he loves, “a right balance between being responsible and not being preachy”. “I had about 12 sections in my track, and I received tremendous feedback. At an event, Rajinikanth said that I could bring modern Bharathi to life,” he said, speaking about his comedy track in action drama Saamy (2003), in which Vivekh played Venkataraman, a Brahmin priest who calls out caste-based discrimination in the society and busts myths and  superstitions.

The late comedian had shared that his characters and jokes are inspired by real life. However, Vivekh said, “real life” had no impact on him when he was at work. He could effortlessly switch between the two. “We must remember that comedians like me can be funny on the sets, even if someone died in the family,” Vivekh said.

An ardent fan of Indian scientist and former President APJ Abdul Kalam, the late comedian was also a green crusader. He launched Green Kalam, an initiative to plant trees between 2010 and 2015 and planted about 25 lakh saplings. In 2019, he was appointed by Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami as one of the ambassadors for the state’s ‘Plastic-Free’ campaign.

In the the early 2000s Vivekh was one of the busiest comedians working in the Tamil film industry, working on more than 28 projects every year. When he took a break from cinema and was busy with the Green Kalam initiative and other social activities, he said filmmakers presumed he would not make a comeback. “In truth, I turned down a couple of offers because they were small films. But most directors forgot me. So, I am grateful to Velai Illa Pattadhari and Yennai Arindhaal. Those films helped me make a statement: I am not done yet,” the comedian told Silverscreen India.

While his screen time might have been short in recent films, “their reach was great and fulfilling,” he added. Vivekh was last seen in the 2020  romantic drama Dharala Prabhu, the Tamil remake of the 2012 Hindi film Vicky Donor.

As news of Vivekh’s death came in, tributes and condolence messages poured in. Actor Rajinikanth tweeted, “I am deeply saddened. The moments I spent with Vivekh during Sivaji film shooting will always be cherished. I extend my condolences to his family.”

Actor Madhavan who has collaborated with Vivekh in Run, Minnale, and Dumm Dumm Dumm, wrote, “Heart broken and stunned that you would embark on your heavenly journey so suddenly and early. The world is deprived of a truly good man who genuinely cared for everyone and everything in it. I will so miss your laughter, wisdom, and care. The heavens are lucky.”

Music composer AR Rahman wrote, “Can’t believe you’ve left us.. May you rest in peace ..you’ve entertained us for decades ..your legacy will stay with us.”

O Panneerselvam, the Deputy Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, wrote that he was “heartbroken and shocked” hearing Vivekh’s demise.

The actor was cremated with police honours on Saturday. Owing to his contribution to social reforms and the arts, the state government ordered that he receive police honours. According to The Hindu, 26 uniformed policemen observed a two-minute silence and fired three rounds in the air to honour the late comedian.

Vivekh is survived by his wife Arulselvi and two daughters Tejaswini and Amirthanandini. Vivekh’s son Prasanna Kumar died due to dengue complications in 2015.

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