MUMBAI—His USP is his reel and real simplicity. Dhanush, the son-in-law of the megastar Rajinikanth, knows that he is close to the masses because of his unique qualities – next-door boy looks, a charming smile, and his ability to connect with all.
He meets the Mumbai media on the eve of the release of his third Hindi film after “Raanjhanaa” (which did modest business) and “Shamitabh” (which flopped) – his home production “VIP 2,” which stars Kajol, is also scripted by him and directed by his sister-in-law Soundarya Rajnikanth.
Excerpts from an interview:
Q: “VIP” was a huge hit. Is “VIP 2” a true sequel? Also “VIP” was not made in Hindi. So why did you think of making the sequel in Hindi?
A: “VIP”’s full form is “Velaiilla Pattadhari” that translates into ‘The Unemployed Graduate.’ We had expected it to be a hit but not on that scale. It garnered a lot of love because of its message that despite everybody’s day-to-day problems, life can be beautiful despite all negativity if we have belief in the basic essence of life – love. This means love in all ways – like his affection for his bike, his mother and his work. In “VIP 2,” we added a Hindi version as Kajol ma’am was there. The original film was in Tamil and Telugu.
And yes, this time the story continues. “VIP” was about this engineering student who finds it difficult to get a job but still, prefers to wait until he gets the right one rather than settling for anything less. Here he gets a job but gets involved in the corporate war, with a boss whose world is completely different – in principles, ideologies, and morals.
Q: Why did you think of Kajol?
A: When I was scripting the film, I was thinking of someone like Kajol to play the lead. I have grown up watching her films, like “Gupt,” “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge” and many more, including “Minsara Kanavu” that she had done as a big hit down South and which had been dubbed as “Sapnay.” So, one day, I thought, “Why have someone like Kajol? Why not have Kajol herself?”
I thought of approaching her, and she was kind enough to listen to the script. It was pitch-perfect for her character, and she graciously agreed to do the film entirely based on the merit of the script. I was told that it would be close to impossible to get her as she had not done any non-Hindi film for 20 years, but I thought, let’s give it a shot. Let’s not give up without trying. So now you see how important it is to try!
Q: Did you tweak the character after she came on board?
A: No. She was pitch-perfect as I said. The character has to be more important than the actor who plays her. But her seasoned performance elevated mine as well.
Q: On screen, were you then intimidated by her?
A: I am a very confident actor, so I do not get intimidated. You see, I have this faith in me that I can do justice to the character I play. So if I get someone better than me, I learn quickly from them and try to match them. That is also what happened when Mr. (Amitabh) Bachchan chose me for “Shamitabh.” It was exciting to work with him, and it was a great opportunity to learn.
Q: When will you work with Rajinikanth?
A: I have not yet had the pleasure and honor to work with him!
Q: Kajol is a spontaneous actor. What about you?
A: In that department, we are the same. I am not a method actor at all.
Q: So we will not see you, say, change physically for any role?
A: My uniqueness in looks is what stands out, so I have to choose my roles very carefully! I know my strengths and also my weaknesses and must do the right subjects and not highlight my weaknesses! My strength is that there are a 100 people like me on the road. They all relate to me. I am their representative! (Smiles)
Q: So will you get into politics?
A: I don’t understand politics! But there is enough politics in the film industry!
Q: In your third Hindi film, have you improved upon your Hindi?
A: No, I am not good at speaking Hindi still. I can understand Hindi very easily.
Q: You are known for your one-liners and dialogues. Do you think that can be diluted when your lines are dubbed by someone else?
A: I do, and no offense to whoever is dubbing my lines. But since I am weak in Hindi, there is no option. The person on this film is a professional and knows the sensibilities of Hindi-speaking audience better than I do. And one day, I hope to dub my lines!
Q: As a scriptwriter and actor, how was it working with Soundarya, who was also a co-writer besides being the director?
A: She is my best friend after her sister Aishwarya, who happens to be my wife! She knows me for 15 years, and we know each other’s capabilities. I have seen her develop as a filmmaker and as an actor, I was very obedient. But I am not going to lie – the writer and director kept fighting with each other! But it was good fun.
Q: What have you to say about the success of “Bahubali 2: The Conclusion” across the world?
A: That language is no longer a barrier when a film is good. “Dangal” is a great example too. The world has shrunk, and it is easier to cross boundaries. It’s something to be proud of as an Indian when foreigners discuss our films.
Q: Are you doing any other Hindi film?
A: Talks are on, but nothing is sure as yet. I am doing Aanand L. Rai’s next after his film with Shah Rukh Khan. And now that “VIP 2” has done well, I am going to write and act in “VIP 3!”
Q: Southern actresses have made it big here but not the heroes? Why do you think that is so?
A: I think that the reasons differ from actor to actor. Some superstars chose to stay home – I know that for a fact. Many filmmakers clicked in Hindi films but decided to focus on cinema here. There cannot be a general rule.
Q: You have acted in a Hollywood film, “The Extraordinary Journey Of The Fakir Who Got Trapped In An Ikea Cupboard” directed by Marjane Satrapi. How was that experience?
A: It was a completely different world, but after about a week, I cracked the style needed. The new culture, ways of working and filmmaking methods ultimately became great fun. And my role was such that I learned a lot about acting and presenting myself, and saw a lot of cultures, food, and people. Some of the actors were Oscar-nominated great names, and working with them gave me the great confidence that someday, I can become a great performer like them!
Q: We hear you will be producing a Hollywood film.
A: I am planning a collaboration in future. Let’s see.
Q: What is Aishwarya’s role in your life?
A: She’s my best friend, my biggest strength, and biggest critic. Above all, she is the greatest mother on this planet! My kids are now 7 and 11, and she has sacrificed a lot of her career for them. And she loves being a mom. I had often told her to work while I would sit at home with the kids, but she refused.