Vandhaarai vaazhavaikkum Tamil cinema?

I’ve always wondered why actors in Tamil cinema see the need to change names? Everyone from Rajinikath to Ganja Karuppu use pseudonyms, which later becomes their real names. Why would people do that?

When I spent some time looking deeper into this, I realised there are various reasons for which people change names. The most interesting of them all for me, is the name change that tends to hide religion. Many actors change names to a neutral one from their real name that could specifically point to their religion.

Image courtesy:

Recently, while gaping at Arya, I realised he was born as Jamshad Cethirakath. Shaam (the erstwhile actor who was supposed to be the ‘dancing competition’ for Madhavan) also is a Muslim born as Shamsuddin Ibrahim. Khushboo was born as Nakhat Khan. In fact, even Joseph Vijay chose to use his ‘middle name’ Vijay as against calling himself Joseph on screen. John Kennedy Vinod Raj (who we all know as Chiyaan Vikram) shed his whole name.

My argument here is not that everybody adopts a Hindu name. Even Saravanan Sivakumar had to become Surya. So, the point to note here is not that one religion is more acceptable than another. The point is the acceptance of anything symbolic of religion at large. I am not getting into details of why each of them chose to change their name because each could have their own personal reason. But I am only going one step ahead to see if there is a trend, which could mean anything about the inclusiveness of Tamil cinema.

Image courtesy:

While nurturing that stream of thought, I also notice that there are people like Abbas, Mumtaz, Livingston, Nasser and Rahman who have survived in Tamil cinema. Even recently, people like Ajmer keep coming and do well for themselves. But in Tamilnadu, where names are used as a means of self-expression (heard of the Stalins and the Mysskins?), it becomes very important that people might need to change names to fit in or even survive.

If that is the case, it is definitely a shame! If you know any better and have experiences to share, please use the comments section. I’d love to hear from you!

P.S: Wikipedia links used because that is the one common place I could find information about everyone. If you notice an error, or if you know of another place where I can access legitimate information, please let me know.