The unexpected journey of Dhanush
In this philosophical conversation, the actor talks about his career, learnings from Hollywood and his upcoming projects
It’s hard to wrap your head around how the 17-year-old scrawny boy who played Mahesh in Thulluvadho Ilamai, has gone on to play the titular role in an international film, seventeen years later. Dhanush has overcome body-shaming with his talent, and over the years, has consistently redefined his identity. With his performance in The Extraordinary Journey of Fakir gaining praise from all over, he admits to feeling a high when people enjoy his work. He likens the lack of planning in his own journey with Aja, the protagonist of the Hollywood film. "All the films and opportunities that have come my way, have happened by chance. It would be a lie to say I made calculative moves. It's a blessing to have met the right people at the right time; this blessing is beyond what I deserve. I believe an invisible force is directing things towards me. Every time I reach the next level, I look back and realise I never expected to get this far."
He believes that the experience of working on an international film has helped him learn and unlearn a lot of things. "It felt like I was back to school. I am not sure I will be able to verbalise the lessons I learned. I have discovered many do’s and dont’s in acting, but I can’t say what they are. Then, my flaws will become evident. (laughs)"
After Fakir, Dhanush reveals that he got a couple of offers from Hollywood. "I liked some of those scripts but I couldn’t do them due to prior commitments. Also, I couldn’t see myself fitting into some other scripts; so I have declined them all."
He turns philosophical as he reflects on his career. “‘Priority’ is a variable. When I was young, owning a remote control car was the highest ambition of my life, but once I reached my teens and was actually able to afford one, my priority changed. It’s the case with all of us, but we all tend to mess up our priorities often." He adds that on a macroscopic level, all of us face the same problems irrespective of whether we are rich or famous. "Avanga avanga vasadhiku mela dhaan prechanai iruku life la. If a person earns five rupees, life will give him a problem worth seven rupees. I am no exception to this rule."
And then, he throws a surprise by declaring that he is frightened of success, not failure. “I know what success can do to a person. A successful person won't even realise that he is burdening so many people with his actions until failure hits him. Very few people can handle these opposites and the balance."
Also, the National Award-winning actor shares that he finds it more challenging to act in 'commercial', 'masala' films rather than the performance-driven ones. "Cinema is surprising that way," he says, “When I sign a particular film expecting that it would pose me a great challenge in terms of performance, it turns out to be manageable. That gives me little job satisfaction. Inversely, while working on a masala or commercial film, I will step in, assuming things will be fairly straightforward. But then, it ends up being most challenging. Vada Chennai's Anbu, for instance, was easier to play than Maari. Anbu is streamlined, even though he has shades of grey. But when it comes to Maari, kaththi mela nadakkura madhri irundhuchu. I have to make sure Maari treads the thin line between good and bad, and retain the definition of the character."
On his upcoming projects, he says, "The bound script of Vada Chennai 2 is ready and we had shot 30 minutes of footage while making the first part. Everyone, who worked in the film, including me, is eagerly waiting for the project to take off. I wouldn't like to disclose how much shooting I have completed for my second directorial, but, yes, it is going on too. And yes, I will be playing the lead in the next Selvaraghavan film."