Raghuvendra Singh grabs the one-in-a-million opportunity to meet superstar Dhanush
If you thought what the Prince of South was doing in Raanjhanaa, a film based in Uttar Pradesh, you’re wasting time. With Dhanush there are no accidents. Kolaveri di was the internet phenomenon that laid foundations for success stories like Gangnam style and Harlem shake. Even back then people asked who this short and frail-looking guy was. And why he was so popular? The man’s Rajnikanth’s son in law. In some circles that’s the equivalent of being Superman. But that’s not even his feat. Dhanush is that man who commands a tsunami of fans in Chennai. People hang perilously off stadium railings to catch a glimpse of the guy. A photo with Dhanush is worth more than Jayalalitha’s entire closet. He’s the great leveller. He’s the hero we all can be. If you go by his disposition and humility you’d think he was your introvert classmate from college. Instead, the reality is that he’s a National Award winning actor. He’s conquered the Filmfare Awards too. But most importantly he’s one of India’s biggest international icons.
And yet, in Raanjhanaa he’s playing a school boy hopelessly in love. And just like that he turns into a charming young man. If its surprises you’re looking for, Dhanush is your man. He’ll shock you, pleasantly of course, on every level – professional, personal and emotional. He’s eager to kick start an innings in Hindi cinema. And if his track record down South or in cyber space is any indication, Mumbai movie buffs better clear some space on their poster walls. Here’s a superstar like never before...
You’ve been acting since 2002, why did it take you so much time to debut in Hindi films?
The opportunity came now. Everything happens to you at a specific time and this happened to me now. I came across a script like Raanjhanaa only now and I felt that this role was tailor-made for me, so it’s happening now.
You must’ve got many offers after the success of Kolaveri di. What made you sign Raanjhanaa?
Raanjhanaa is the ideal film for me. The character is iconic which is good. I can connect with the character of Kundan. All I know is that it is made for me.
Was it challenging playing a Banarasi guy given that you hail from Chennai?
The only challenge was that I don’t know Hindi so getting a hang of the language was a little tough. But I had a great time because the writer Himanshu Sharma helped me with the dialogue; my lines and all. And they’re all beautiful human beings so we had a lot of fun shooting because we were exploring new places, new people. Thanks to these experiences the tough parts felt a lot easier. I wouldn’t say making Raanjhanaa was a challenge.
What makes Raanjhanaa different from all the other love stories?
Ordinary love is the extraordinary part of Raanjhanaa. You’ll forget you’re watching a film. You’ll feel you’re watching life. That’s what I felt on seeing 45 minutes of the movie. The speciality of the film will be its simplicity.
What kind of a lover are you?
A very expressive one. (Laughs) I’m not obsessive types; I like to maintain a positive attitude in any relationship which I believe is a healthy thing to do. I’m also the kind of lover who loves to be loved.
Do you believe in childhood love?
I believe in all sorts of love (Laughs). Love is not just one’s emotions directed towards another person. Love is a different and complex emotion all together. It’s not necessary that you have to always relate to your first love. Love is common and it can happen to anybody at any given point of time. It’s a feeling and it should be respected just the way it is. I follow all sorts of love.
What is the craziest thing you’ve done for your lady love?
Everything I did was crazy. (Laughs). I can make a film out of my first love.
Can you elaborate a little?
I can’t just pick one instance. I’d certainly love to talk about the woman of my life. I don’t want to offend anyone by lying.
Your fan following has increased many fold after the success of Kolaveri di. Does that make your wife, Aishwarya insecure at times?
Why would she be insecure? She is very happy. There is no reason for her to feel insecure about anything.
When did you fall in love with Aishwarya? And how did your love story kick start?
She happened to watch the first day first show of my film in the theatre and I was there to gauge the crowd response. It was my second film’s screening. She liked the film and after the screening she sent me a bouquet with a message, “Good job and keep in touch”. I think I just took that message way too seriously. (Laughs)
How was it working with Sonam Kapoor?
Sonam Kapoor is a darling to work with. She was lovely and very patient. Patient because I wasn’t well-versed with the language but she was calm about it and was also very cooperative. She never behaved like she’s a big superstar. She was down to earth. She was a helpful co-star. She brought food to the sets everyday and she’d also send me food without me asking for it.
How did Sonam help you? Did she guide you on the language?
As far as the language is concerned, Aanand Sir and Himanshu were there to help me most of the time. Sonam also helped me quite a bit on the spot if I needed help. What Sonam did the most was make me feel comfortable.
You’re known as the Prince of South. And you’re the son-in-law of the legendary Rajnikanth. Was there any sort of pressure while signing Raanjhanaa?
No, not exactly. Even in states like Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, they refer to me as Rajnikanth’s son in law. But when I come to the North, they call me Kolaveriwala. (Laughs). So wherever I go people point at me saying, “See see, Kolaveri wala... Kolaveri wala!” When I signed Raanjhanaa, I was the kolaveriwala.
Did you take any sort of advice from Rajni sir?
No, not at all. I take my own decisions.
What sort of a rapport do you share with Rajnikanth? Are ya‘ll good friends or like normal father and son in law?
We share a different and special bond. I’m telling you the truth. I cannot explain it, it’s something beyond words. It is very precious to me. We’re very honest to each other and that’s how it works most of the time.
Amitabh Bachchan was all praise for Kolaveri di. What sort of a bond do you share with him?
To be honest, I’ve only seen Bachchan saab from a distance. He’d attended my marriage 8 years back and I haven’t met him since. And then Kolaveri di happened, he also tweeted about the song, which helped it get recognition. He was one of the main reasons why Kolaveri di was such a tremendous success. Then I went on to doing a small jig of Kolaveri di at an awards function for him. I changed the lyrics and sang the song about him. For that, he gave me a hug which will always be close to my heart. It’s not that I’m really close to him or something, I have immense respect for him, great admiration and I look up to him. He is one of the greatest actors in our country. I don’t know him on a personal level, I’ve had acquaintances with him and I will cherish all those moments for a lifetime.
In what way has Kolaveri di changed your life?
In everyone’s life, there comes a high point. For some people, it may be a job opportunity, or even a purchase of a car for that matter. For me, that high point in my life is Kolaveri di. Let’s just say my life has changed.
Did it hurt you when Javed Akhtar criticised the lyrics of Kolaveri di?
Not at all. I’ve been in the industry long enough. Initially I used to get offended but then later I realised that every human being has the right to express his/her own opinions. Some people may like something whereas some might not. I’m glad that the song reached a legend like Javed saab. We’re all happy that it at least got there in the first place. I’ll go ahead and take his comment positively. It’s his opinion and I totally respect it.
How was it working with director Aanand L Rai?
Aanandji is my Secret Santa. I dream to be like Aanandji. He is one of the few reasons why I believe in Hindi films. He always thinks well about others. He is a very intense person. He treated me so nicely on the sets. I do not know what Raanjhanaa will get me after its release but working on it has given me a brother who’s a pure human being.
So does this association go beyond Raanjhanaa? We hear that you both are planning to produce a movie together?
We’re planning to. We’re still discussing about it. It’s in the initial stages as of now. Nothing much can be said about it right now.
Will you now sing in Hindi movies too?
Of course, why not? I would love to.
General opinions suggest that the South industry is more professional than its North counterpart. What was your experience like?
I don’t see any difference at all. It’s all the same. Only, the language is different. There is a slight difference in the culture. But that’s it. The emotions are the same; the love for movies is also pretty much the same. Cinema is cinema and a script is a script and acting is acting. I didn’t find any prominent differences.
Do you think its okay to remake South movies into Hindi?
Why not? There are times when Hindi movies are remade into Tamil, so there’s nothing wrong if the reverse happens. Subsequently, Tamil movies are being remade into Telugu and Kannada films. This trend is happening everywhere. It’s not that just Tamil films being made in Hindi. I feel it’s a good thing. It’s a safe bet.
Which of your films would you want to be remade in Hindi?
The movie that I’d have wanted to bring to Hindi cinema is already being made. There’s a film called Polladhavan (2007), which I would have definitely wanted to be made in Hindi. I would have loved to remake it but I hear that someone has already bought the rights to do so.
Do ever feel insecure of being in Hindi cinema? Are you concerned if the audience here will accept you?
No, I don’t have any such feelings. I am not nervous at all. In fact, I am very happy that I’m doing Raanjhanaa. And I’m working with some very good people who have been really kind to me. God has given me a lot more than I ever wished for. I don’t have any expectations from life, so I am never disappointed. I’m always open to surprises.
Can you share any memory of a crazy fan moment after Kolaveri di?
I think Kolaveri di itself is a crazy song. I feel every version of Kolaveri di except for the one by Sonu Niigaam’s son was totally crazy.
On the sets of Raanjhanaa you didn’t have an iota of starry attitude. You were like any other man. Are you like that in reality as well?
You have seen me just the way I am. I do not know how to act off the camera (Laughs). That has always been my biggest problem.
How did you get into acting?
I did not choose to get into acting. I always wanted to be a Marine Engineer, but then this career chose me.
How did it happen?
My father Kasthuri Raja was a director / producer. I remember that once there was an emergency and he had to start his movie within a week. He needed a school boy to play the role and I was in school at the time. It just happened back then.
It is said that marriage reduces a star’s fan following. Would you agree?
That’s something that hasn’t happened to me.
So is it okay if a star ties the knot at a young age or even before his/her career’s been launched?
Yes. People should get married whenever they feel is the right time to do so. I firmly believe in that.
What kind of a father are you?
I’m like any other father. There is nothing special about me; I am a normal father to my kids Yatra and Linga. Every father would want the best for their kids and so do I. Every father wants their child to be good at everything and even I wish the same for my kids.
They’re growing up in a celebrity family. How do you keep them grounded?
I haven’t taken any special effort to do that. The older one Yatra is 6 and the younger one Linga is 3. They don’t give me any trouble as yet. Even at their age they’re pretty sorted.
You’ve kept them away from the media?
I try to. As much as possible. Like any concerned father would.
What kind of work are you looking forward to in Mumbai?
The success of Raanjhanaa will be a telling factor in that area. Everything depends on this movie from here on. We’re all hoping for the best. We all have high hopes. I’ll come to know if people have liked me or not after they’ve seen the film. Until then there’s no way to know the way forward.
Which directors are you looking forward to work with?
I would love to work with Rajkumar Hirani, Anurag Basu, Anurag Kashyap and Abhishek Kapoor.
So you’ve kept a keen eye on Hindi movies off late?
No, not exactly. I’ve not really got the time to do that but these are the directors whose names are always on top of my mind. They’re the ones I’d love to work with.
Who are the actresses you’d love to romance on screen?
It depends on the director. (Laughs)
You have any friends in the Hindi film industry?
As of now, Aanand Sir, Himanshu, Sonam Kapoor, Swara Bhaskar, Mohammed Zeeshan and Hemal Kothari are my friends.