12 years and 25 films later, Dhanush is still the same thin, dark guy with unconventional looks. Except he is a lot more confident now, and has done nearly every type of film there is.
Dhanush is a big believer in fate. And destiny. With him, there are no accidents. Everything that has ever happened to him has been entirely by design, he tells us solemnly. Not always his own, but by design nevertheless. “God has been guiding me throughout my life. This is something I’m confident about. There’s no other way a thin, gawky boy from Chennai could’ve made it so far.”
He cites his Tamil and Hindi debuts as examples. While the Tamil one happened at the insistence of his brother Selvaraghavan, and was perceived by everybody to be a natural course of action for someone ‘coming from a film family and all,’ his Hindi foray was a huge surprise. Many cautioned him against it, narrating stories of people who’d ventured up north to do films and failed. But, it didn’t make a difference to him. “We’re lucky to live in a world where social media holds so much power. It makes us all connected. There’s no North India-South India business. I’m an Indian actor working in Indian movies. There’s not much of a story there.” [quote align=’right’]” My story is rather unique. I didn’t have to go and look for my calling. It found me. That’s the greatest feeling ever, when you stumble onto something and fall in love with it.”[/quote]
Raanjhana, his Bollywood debut, proved to be a box office success, and won him critical acclaim as well. It made Bollywood sit up and take notice of the man they called the ‘Kolaveri Guy’. He admits he was getting tired of that particular tag and is happy that things have changed. “These days, I’m Kundan to them. The Kolaveri mention happens in the second paragraph of all my interviews now, thank God!” he jokes, “but on a serious note, Kolaveri did bring me recognition and was a turning point in my career.”
Dhanush was already an established actor when Kolaveri happened. He’d just won the National Award for his performance in Aadukalam and was in the mood to try something new. “It was an experiment more than anything else. 3 was a family movie of sorts, so there was more freedom to do all this.” The wacky song went viral and eventually became a worldwide phenomenon, making Dhanush a “poetu” and composer Anirudh Ravichander, a big star.
He has since written around 18 songs, all of them chartbusters. Add to this Velaiyilla Pattathari’s awesome run at the box office, plus his next Hindi film Shamitabh, and it is quite clear that Dhanush is on a roll. Things were not always this good, of course. “I have experienced the lows and highs of life. With this experience, comes the understanding that all of it is transient. I’ll enjoy the success for a while, but will have to move on soon. Dwelling on it won’t do any good.”
Dhanush begins to talk of a time when he was riddled with self-doubt. He was dissatisfied with his unusual looks and it was years before he learnt to accept himself. “I thought there was a lot wrong with me. Too thin, too gawky, too dark. Not handsome and definitely not hero material.”
[quote align=’left’]”These days, I’m Kundan to them. The Kolaveri mention happens in the second paragraph of all my interviews now, thank God![/quote]The journey towards acceptance, Dhanush admits, was frustrating. His inferiority complex put a damper on his dreams and aspirations. “In teenage, there’s a whole lot of confusion going on. I was confused as well. Add to this my low self-esteem, and it’s a miracle that I even agreed to act in Selva’s film.”
Dhanush was barely out of his teens when Thulluvadho Ilamai came his way, and he credits the experience for transforming him – from a unsure man-boy to a slightly more confident man. Though initially, he did have his doubts. “The trouble wasn’t with the acting or being in front of the camera; it was my fears.” After a brief pause, he continues, “I know of people who have always wanted to become an actor and worked towards it, but I wasn’t one of them. My story is rather unique. I didn’t have to go and look for my calling. It found me. That’s the greatest feeling ever, when you stumble onto something and fall in love with it.”
And so, Velaiyilla Pattathari with its story of a young man who fights to pursue his aspirations, appealed to him at a very personal level. When Velraj, his ‘favourite cinematographer’ narrated the story to him, he immediately signed on to produce and act in it.” It had everything I wanted in a script, and it also helped that I immediately identified with Raghuvaran. We wanted VIP to accurately capture the pain, hopelessness and desperation of engineers forced to do something else. And I think we have.”
If the audience response is anything to go by, the fiery dialogues that Dhanush spouts in the film has struck a chord with today’s youth. He feels the film worked at the box office because everyone who worked on the project really believed in the film’s theme. “Everybody on the sets identified with the story. The movie’s biggest plus was that it was so realistic. There was very little drama in VIP.” And did the six-pack help, we ask him. “No comments,” he grins cheekily.
Two Hindi films and Dhanush has picked up just enough Hindi to “survive in Mumbai.” He can hail himself a taxi or have a decent two minute conversation with someone. But, acting in the language is a tad difficult. “It is a painstaking process. First, I translate the dialogues into Tamil, learn it and act it out in Tamil. Then, I mug up the Hindi bits.” His co-star, Akshara Haasan, already knew the language and had an easier time. “She is a very talented girl and has all of us to support her. Akshara is a natural in front of the camera and is definitely someone you have to watch out for.”
Dhanush does want to set something straight for the record. Amitabh Bachchan was a very supportive co-star on sets, but contrary to rumours, he wasn’t coaching Dhanush in Hindi. “Shamitabh is an intense film and we shoot all day. We never have an opportunity to do more than exchange pleasantries with the rest of the cast,” he declares, “there was just no time for all that.”
But the actor does admit that “action hero” roles are the toughest to pull off. While Tamil fans are used to seeing brawny beefcakes battling it out onscreen, they have also learnt to accept the lean Dhanush punching out man after man. “Some people do question how such a thin boy can fight so many people. It used to be a source of frustration, but not anymore.” He doesn’t need acceptance for his action hero image, he says. It is enough that the fans have accepted him as a “National Hero.”
The Dhanush interview is a Silverscreen exclusive.