It's been 17 long years since Dhanush made his entry into tinsel town. He began a long journey with Thulluvatho Ilamai as an actor and winning a national award for Aadukalam. He made a mark in Bollywood in donning the producer's hat for many films including one with his father-in-law Rajinikanth. He wielded the megaphone for Pa Paandi. And now he has done so for an international film — The Extraordinary Journey of a Fakir, titled Pakkiri in Tamil.
Ahead of the film's release, Dhanush speaks to DC about his journey, working in an English film, what he learned and unlearned from it, how scripts choose him rather than the other way around and why failures affect him.
How has the extraordinary journey been of being Fakir:
It was a learning experience. So much to learn and unlearn! It was an opportunity to learn new things. Actors from different countries have acted in it. How they approach, their standards, new methods with different technicians, all were new to me. It was like going to school, in school you learn, but here in Fakir, it was unlearning for me.
A French British and Nigerian actor and from India, apart from me, there are a few actors and kids. Honestly speaking, I learnt a lot from them. If you ask me what did I unlearn, I can't specify. It is more like understanding than my explaining. If I do, then you will know my flaws.
What's The Extraordinary Journey of a Fakir all about:
It is a simple premise and people can easily relate to it. When we start from a humble beginning, we yearn for so many things. We wouldn't know what to choose and it would be messed up priorities. We would not know what's needed and what is redundant. Life takes a boy with such mixed feelings through a journey and teaches him what's essential.
Coming to think of it, I was in that position in real life. I have yearned for a remote control car when I was in first standard, and to posses one was my aim then. But the situation was that we could not afford to buy it then.
Now you have a priced Rolls Royce:
There's a saying in Tamil Yaanayai Katti Theeni podaradhu. It's the same way maintaining a Rolls Royce car. Ghost series 3. It is so huge to handle and I bought it at that time out of over-enthusiasm. Just because I bought it, I use it rarely. If you have any other local car, you can at least exchange it when a better version comes. Apparently, it is not possible with this luxury car.
No Tamil actor dreams of going to Hollywood. I am sure it was not in your wish list. How does it feel now that you got one with Fakir?
Right from my first film Thulluvadho Ilamai till now, things just happened, more than I planned or choose. I would say some invisible 'force and energy' is guiding me. Kadhal Konden, Adhu Oru Kanaa Kaalam, Pudhupettai, Polladhavan, Aadukalam, Mayakkam Enna, Hindi film Ranjhanaa, all these films materialised on their own. Likewise, this film Fakir also found me and not the other way around.
If I say it was all a planned move, then I would be lying. It is a blessing that you meet the right person at right time, and I think I am blessed with it. And I have got more than what I asked for.
The factor that inspired you to say ‘yes’:
I was very hesitant initially to accept the film. They asked me to read the bound script and then decide. I was convinced in a sense that there was a huge portion in the latter half of the film where they portray and project that India has more than what it has been projected to be in the international arena -like poverty, myths like snakes. Though the story starts with a boy from a poor background, that character will speak high of India, including its rich cultural history and he talks about spices too.
Tremendous response at the premiere:
It was overwhelming and fascinating. I felt very high. The audiences who were there from all over world were clapping and cheering. I addressed the media. Basically, I thanked them for their extraordinary response. I told them I just got lucky to have worked in Fakir.
Was adapting to their working style tough:
It was bit tough initially. English was not my thinking language. Only Tamil was dominating. That way, you would have difficulties in understanding. Eventually, I got used it.
Preproduction planning a must:
They are much more organised. They do meticulous preplanning, which saves much cost in production. The importance of preproduction is something I understood, realised and learnt at a shocking level. I would definitely want to follow this for my production ventures.
Is Tamil cinema recogniSed internationally?
One thing I can confidently say that they are watching Indian cinema very closely. They call our movies only as - Indian film, more so Bollywood. World has shrunk, with digital platforms dominating the market, if you are talented, you will be noticed for sure. Only in India and China the theatrical market is still sustaining and they make big numbers like Rs 100, Rs 200 crores. But in Europe or Hollywood, theatrical attendance has come down considerably and its more of digital world. It is still there but for big market players like Avengers etc…
In 17 years you have done both mass and class films. Between the two, which gives you more satisfaction?
It is like this - certain films I go with the perception it will offer me lot of scope for classy performance, but eventually it may end up without any challenge. Sometimes, I would think this has all masala in it, what am I going to prove here, but that would turn out to be very tough. That way more than Vada Chennai Anbu, Maari was very tough. The character Anbu was in a grey zone, but not confused. He was clear about what he wants. But Maari was like walking on a tight rope. He is neither good nor bad. He was ruthless and careless. You can't define him. It was a difficult shade of grey that I had to handle in Maari. So, I can't really predict which films give me more satisfaction.
Success and failures:
I won't lie that I take both in equal stride. If my film does do well, I would regret hundred percent. I do my introspection as where I went wrong. More than failure, I am scared of success as it is difficult to handle and you would not know how success changes a man and take him to a different situation.
What was Rajinikanth's advice when you bagged this Hollywood film?
He was happy and he knew that I am doing this project and congratulated me. But he does not have the habit of advising others. He is yet to watch the film.
Did you read the novel:
I did not read the novel for obvious reasons. I only read the screenplay. I tried to give my take on the character Aja. Even though the director of the film Ken Scott did quite a lot of research in Mumbai, he was very receptive in taking lot of feedback from me given the fact that we belonged to this place. I relied on him totally for the melodramatic portions. It was combined effort.
I think it is the future. Soon it will turn out a digitally dominated era.
Censor is required:
Censor is a must! I admit I have acted in bold films, mouthed swear words, kissing scenes. When I go and watch the film with my kids, I feel the pinch. All the same, I can't do injustice to my character that I play and my film. It comes with my work. Just because I do my, children who watch the film should not get spoilt. Hence, classification, which has age restriction to watch a film, is essential.
What did you miss while shooting for the film?
One is my mother tongue — Tamil. Other is my food.
Maintaining the physique:
I am blessed in one way — it's genetic that my constitution is like this. I avoid fried food and by nature not fond of sweets. I take more protein than carbohydrates. I work out regularly. After 30, your BMR will come down , you tend to put on weight however you eat. So exercising is very important. But not eating is a crime. Eat the right food.