Dhanush has made an impressive debut as director with Pa Paandi, an unusual film about an old man who goes on an adventure of a lifetime. The story is surprisingly original and moves away from the usual tropes of Tamil cinema, and has touched a chord with the audience.
He’s among the few actors in Kollywood today who have diversified into other aspects of filmmaking, and successfully so at that.
A National Award winning actor, Dhanush made his debut in 2002 with Thulluvadho Ilamai which was a coming of age story about six teenagers. Since then, he has acted in a number of films, achieving success especially in portraying the character of an underdog.
Heroes usually fall into the chocolate boy category or the brawny all-powerful one – Dhanush created his own niche by playing characters who were not commonly represented on screen. His slight frame and callow appearance could be considered as disadvantages in an industry where male actors try to outdo each other in the muscle department, but Dhanush turned these factors into advantages by intelligent role selection.
He established himself as an actor to reckon with in his collaborations with his brother Selvaraghavan – Kadhal Kondein and Pudhupettai were both critical and commercial successes.
While the conventional hero was always righteous and a do-gooder, Dhanush’s roles often ventured into the grey. As his fan base grew, he capitalised on his image, playing to the gallery with “punch” dialogues and storylines that have been criticised, especially for their glorification of violence against women.
Recently, however, the actor said in an interview that he had become more conscious about the ideas his films propagated to the audience, considering he does have a large fanbase.
In Aadukalam, which won him the coveted National Award, Dhanush played the role of a cockfighter. While Tamil Nadu already knew about his stature as an actor, it was this gritty film about the politics within the cockfighting ring that got him noticed across the country. Dhanush’s upcoming film Vada Chennai will see him working with Vetrimaran once again.
Dhanush has also ventured into Bollywood with Raanjhanaa and Shamitabh and will soon be seen in his first international film, Marjane Satrapi’s The Extraordinary Journey of a Fakir who got trapped in an Ikea cupboard.
Dhanush has sung several Tamil songs starting from Pudhukottayilirundhu Saravanan. He has also sung a song each in Kannada and Telugu films.
His Why this kolaveri di, for which he wrote most of the lyrics, turned into a rage all over the world, becoming the most searched video in India on YouTube at one point.
With Wunderbar Films, which is owned by Dhanush and his wife Aishwarya Dhanush, the actor also got into film production. While they’ve produced masala entertainers like Velaiyilla Pattadhari and Naanum Rowdy Dhaan, they’ve also done films like Kaaka Muttai and Visaranai.
The woman-centric film Amma Kanakku, remake of a Hindi film, was also made by Wunderbar. Other than Vada Chennai, the next big film on Wunderbar’s list is the upcoming Pa Ranjith film with Rajinikanth which is yet to be titled.
While there are other actors too who have got into film production, they haven’t quite experimented as much as Wunderbar has when it comes to the kind of films they are willing to finance.
Dhanush appears to be keen on striking a balance between mainstream cinema and less conventional films, cleverly using his fan base and clout in the industry to push the latter category into the former.
The audience too is more accepting than ever of new subjects, smaller films, and fresh actors. It will be interesting to see what Dhanush does next as a director – the success of Pa Paandi will hopefully be enough encouragement for the actor to explore newer territories on screen.