Dhanush doesn’t have the conventional looks of an actor but is a star in his own right. That frail figure and side-parting hairstyle could fool almost anyone into believing he is a middle-class guy-next-door. But that is what makes him relatable among the youth. In past interviews, the actor himself had admitted he was “not a hero-material” saying, “God has given me more than I deserve.”
When you see Dhanush perform, he comes across as a method actor, one who completely blends into the role he chooses. It could be Srinivasan in Balu Mahendra’s Adhu Oru Kana Kaalam, Kokki Kumar in Pudhupettai, or Raghuvaran in Vellaiilla Pattathari. Award-winning filmmaker and a regular collaborator of Dhanush, Vetrimaaran concurs. “He is a director’s actor. Moreover, Dhanush can easily get into the bottom of a character as he does a lot of preparation work,” he says.
Dhanush is a prolific actor, adds Mithran Jawahar, who directed the actor in Yaaradi Nee Mohini. “He is dedicated and has no pretensions,” he notes. Performance-wise, he credits Dhanush with versatility, which Jawahar thinks is his most invaluable quality.
A satisfied actor who is on the lookout for films, Dhanush mostly avoids being typecast. He has taken up all kinds of roles, from a youngster who suffers from bipolar disorder in 3 to the lungi-clad local don in the Maari franchise. Dhanush believes the script chooses the team and if he’s honest to it, the right things will fall in place.
Though he debuted in Tamil with Thulluvatho Ilamai, directed by his father Kasthuri Raja, he never saw a future in Tamil cinema. He was just 16. Like any other average youngster, he was clueless. I remember reading how one day Dhanush was getting ready for school but his father had asked him to be on the sets as one of the actors hadn’t turned up.
The idea of how a hero should be was never concrete in Tamil cinema. And this has played to Dhanush’s biggest advantage. What matters is he is accepted the way he is and that’s most important. R Balki of Shamitabh-fame, observes, Dhanush is one of the most intelligent actors he’s come across in Indian cinema. He says, “There’s so much a filmmaker could achieve with him.”
Dhanush has done at least 40 films so far and has seen a fair share of ups and downs. At one point, he had a slew of back-to-back hits. Then he did lacklustre movies like Thodari. However, Dhanush stands by his choices and never ceases to experiment, pushing boundaries. Did you know he is your rare commercial hero, who hasn’t played a cop till date? Well, yes.
To Dhanush, Kaadhal Kondein was a huge breakthrough. Often, he has said, without Selvaraghavan, he’s a nobody. His collaborations with his brother including Mayakkam Enna, earned Dhanush both commercial and critical acclaim, placing him in the top category of Tamil heroes.
In 2011, Dhanush won a National Award for his powerful performance in Vetrimaaran’s Aadukalam. At 29, he was one of the youngest performers to win such a prestigious honour. Then, he made his Hindi film debut, Raanjhannaa, directed by Aanand L Rai that got him an overwhelming response. In an interview, he had revealed how he turned down nearly 30 scripts before finalising Shamitabh, in which he shared screen space with Big B.
As an actor and a producer, Dhanush has always been convinced that good content would work regardless of the ethnicity of the audience. Would you believe that he decided to produce Kaaka Muttai after reading 10 pages of the script? For someone who wanted to be a chef, Dhanush has, indeed, come a long way in the film industry.
Dhanush turned a director in 2017 with Pa Paandi and is also well-versed with music and lyrics. Tracks “Kolaveri Di” (from Three) and the recent “Rowdy Baby” (from Maari 2) bear testimony to it. But Dhanush has had no formal training in music. But in sixth grade, he desperately wanted to play the piano, but his family couldn’t afford it.
Dhanush doesn’t have prefixes to his name like his peers: ‘Thalapathy’ Vijay or ‘Thala’ Ajith. Maybe, that’s why he could pull off an international project, The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir without inhibitions. It must be difficult to come to terms with the newcomer status as far his debut Hollywood venture is concerned. Yet, he risked and succeeded. Apart from sparkling intellect, what comes through is the humility of the man.
The last time I met Dhanush, two years ago, he told me he was keen on exploring the opportunities behind the camera. The actor said he had three bound scripts ready. Further, I asked Dhanush how does he look at his journey so far, to which he said, “I look back with a sense of gratitude and a feeling of surprise and wonder. I believe if you have an unflinching commitment towards something, even if you can’t reach it, it will reach you and here am I!”