Dhanush: Asuran is Vetri Maaran's best with me
The actor, Vetri Maaran, and Manju Warrier discuss their upcoming film that’s set for release on Friday
It’s hard for a director-actor combination to generate huge expectations each time. The Dhanush-Vetri Maaran duo has struck gold every time so far. The gritty Polladhavan, the rustic Aadukalam, the intense Vada Chennai… And now, Asuran that marks their fourth collaboration. This one, according to Dhanush, is their best. “I confidently believe so. The audience might agree or differ with me,” he says.
An on-screen adaptation of Poomani’s novel, Vekkai, Asuran will document the bond between a father and his sons. “Every son has an equation, an unforgettable journey, with his father. Asuran is one such.” Dhanush plays the role of the father, Sivasami, this being his first outing, playing an aged character. While Ken Karunas plays one of the sons, London-based musician Tee Jay plays the other. The story is set in two time periods—the familial bond is explored in the 80s like in the novel, while Sivaswamy’s flashback portions are set in the 60s.
The hardest part of adapting a novel to the screen, Vetri Maaran says, is that a book offers a lot that isn’t adaptable for the screen. “Certain literary devices and flourishes don't have the same potency when translated to the screen. One has to leave what can't be used, figure out a path to the core of the story and then work towards adapting it for cinema,” he explains. This, he says, was one of his biggest lessons he learnt from his mentor, Balu Mahendra.
He admits that Asuran will not satisfy the expectations of people who have read Vekkai. “Both are different mediums. When you switch from one to another, there's a lot that gets left behind and there’s a lot that gets added too. The film, on its own, will deliver an emotion to the viewer. This experience won't be the same for the people who have read the book.” This is why Dhanush refrained from reading the book. “Reading the novel gives you certain expectations. As an actor, I didn't want that,” he says, adding that he will read it after watching the film.
It was on October 17, last year, that Vada Chennai got released. Now, almost a year later, Asuran is set for release. This pace is unusual for Vetri Maaran who is known to take a couple of years between projects. “Ella project-um seekaram than mudikaren,” he says, with a laugh.
The team had to battle severe weather conditions while shooting for the film and Vetri Maaran terms Dhanush’s dedication as ‘phenomenal’. “He is an actor who commits himself to anything he does. But the effort he put in to play Sivasami is extraordinary.” Dhanush, for his part, shares high words of praise for the team and its commitment. “I must say the technicians faced tougher ordeals. After finishing a shot, I had the liberty to rest for a while. But they had no breaks,” he says, and adds that he feels “embarrassed” to say that he has worked hard for the film.
Dhanush’s career betrays a few patterns. Among them is a tendency to work again with the same directors. “I keep working with Vetri Maaran because of the results he has produced earlier. Avara naa endha alavukku nambirukkeno, andha alavukku result kuduthurukaaru. He is also a dear friend. This combination is rare to find.” A versatile actor who has played many shades with ease, Dhanush admits to relying on directors to reinvent himself on screen. “Vetri always gives me new challenges, ups the ante each time with characters that have tremendous scope. It makes working with him exciting and I hope it’s the same for him.”
Dhanush’s filmography indicates another pattern: Many of his projects have brought in actors from across industries. We got Premam-fame Anupama Parameshwaran in Kodi, Sai Pallavi in Maari 2, and now, Mayaanadhi-fame Aishwarya Lekshmi is set to feature in his upcoming film with Karthik Subbaraj. Asuran, meanwhile, marks the entry of Malayalam actor Manju Warrier in Tamil. Ask Dhanush if this indicates that he follows other industries keenly, and he instantly refuses with an air of humility. “I suggest names only when I am asked. The final call is always made by the maker who chooses the actors. Frankly, I only know what happens on the sets. Enakku konjam knowledge kammi thaan.”
Manju Warrier calls Dhanush ‘a dear friend’ and remembers when he called her to enquire about Asuran. “Dhanush and Vetri Maaran are beloved names in Kerala; so when I got the call, I had nothing to think about.” She quotes their great track record and shares that she was excited to work with them. “The combination has always given good cinema. I was sure this wouldn't be any different. I didn't know what to expect in the first week. It felt like I was joining a new school. But the unit made me feel so comfortable.“
Dhanush returns the compliments by calling Manju ‘a phenomenal performer’. “It is easy to perform with someone when you can sense that they are acting. But what do you do when you don't even realise they are performing? That's scary. Right from day 1, I was just looking to learn from her,” says Dhanush. Manju shrugs it off, modestly. “I go to a new film as a blank page, so I can do justice to however the director wants me to portray my character. I don't think too much.” Ask her why it took her so long to agree to do a Tamil film, and Manju says it was just about getting the timing right. “I got a few Tamil offers in the late 90s, but for some reason, they didn't work out. But now, I feel it was all for the best. This film was meant to happen, and I am happy that Asuran is my first Tamil film.”