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Dhananjay: Twenty One Hours challenged the actor in me- Cinema express

Dhananjay: Twenty One Hours challenged the actor in me

The actor talks about his first attempt at a thriller, and collaborating with ad filmmaker Jai Shankar, who is making his feature film debut

Published: 19th May 2022

Dhananjay is among those few actors who enjoy experimenting with roles, and that’s what pushed him to take up Twenty One Hours. This will also be his first attempt at a thriller. “It is always nice to hear from the audience that I have something different to give them every time. The subject is a goldmine for actors who enjoy acting,” says Dhananjay, who spoke to CE ahead of the film’s release this week.

Set in Bengaluru, Twenty-One Hours was filmed during the lockdown and stars Dhananjay as an undercover cop. “Being an under cop, there are different shades to my role, and my acting skills were put to challenge,” says Dhananjay, adding that the project helped him collaborate with National award-winning technicians.

Talking about working with director Jaishankar Pandit, Dhananjay shares that the filmmaker’s vast experience in making ad commercials across many languages came in handy. “My decision to take a risk with my career choices brought films like Ratnan Prapancha and Badava Rascal my way. Twenty One Hours is also a similar project. It was interesting to see how an ad film director would approach cinema, and I found his work to be fantastic.”

Dhananjay’s acting capabilities have been underutilised so far: Jaishankar Pandit

While thrillers are commonplace in our films, Jaishankar assures Twenty One Hours would be unique. “From a Kannada film industry’s point of view, the style and narrative of Twenty One Hours are not commonly seen. I’m personally a fan of the neo-noir genre, and I tried my best to bring this essence in the making of Twenty One Hours,” says the director.

Jaishankar, whose mother tongue is Malayalam, admits he is a true-blue Bangalorean. “Kannada was never an alien language to me, and I am glad I get to make my debut in this language,” he says.

How did his experience as an ad filmmaker help him in his feature film debut? “Ad film directors are extremely disciplined. Whether it is a product or service, we have to address market requirements. The detailing is as important as fixing the right characters. In Twenty One Hours, a missing Malayali-speaking girl is central to the proceedings, and to ensure nativity and authenticity, I’ve roped in a few Malayalam actors to act in the film,” says Jaishankar, whose film takes place over a 21-hour timeline that represents the title too. “Initially it was a working title, but later we stuck to it because it fell in place with the story.”

With Twenty One Hours, director Jaishankar wants to introduce the audience to a new style of making. “Today’s audience, who are exposed to OTT platforms, are mature enough about the content. Apart from strong content, Twenty-One Hours will also have all the features that a hardcore fan of Dhananjay would expect from his film. Even the mass components have been well crafted in the film,” he says.

Jaishankar takes time to thank his technical team — DOP S Thirunavukarasu, production designer Rajeevan Nambiar, music director Rupert Fernandes, stylist Uthara Menon, and the art director among others — and said it is their collaborative effort that has shaped Twenty One Hours to its present state. “These are the people whom I usually associate with my ad commercials, and I share a comfort level with them, and they helped to bring my vision to life.”

Elaborating on his decision to cast Dhananjay in the film, Jaishankar says, “I had just watched one of his films, Tagaru, and it was purely on an intuition that I chose to cast him in the lead. After seeing his performance in Twenty One Hours, I genuinely felt that the actor’s capabilities have been underutilised in his earlier projects. I have seen how I can push him in Twenty One Hours,” he says.

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