Happy Birthday Dhanush: The unexpected, unconventional hero

There is a conversation that I had with a couple of friends in Mumbai that stayed with me. We were discussing cinema and this was a period after Ranjhanaa and Shamitabh. Bollywood had recognised and acknowledged the powerhouse of talent that Dhanush was. But on the ground, there was still reluctance to accept him as a ‘hero’; he doesn’t fit the ‘conventional template’ of one. It is like how there is a joke made on the lead in the web series Little Things, about the hero being a Dhanush. I remember feeling something close to pride about Kollywood and thanked the stars that we were different. If otherwise, we wouldn’t have found a terrific talent like Dhanush.

Dhanush is a hero that no one expected him to be. I don’t think that he would have thought of it as well. His first film Thulluvatho Ilamai turned out to be a hit, people wrote him off as a one-time wonder. Dhanush and Selvaraghavan struck back again, stronger and better, with Kadhal Konden. Both dark films, Dhanush gave a third hit with the enjoyable Thiruda Thirudi. We also discovered that this wiry, lean youngster could dance up a storm as well.

It wasn’t hard to guess that Dhanush had talent. But success in the entertainment business is a combination of several factors. Dhanush faced a string of failures after Thiruda Thirudi. And then Pudupettai happened. One of the best films from Dhanush till date, Pudupettai was path-breaking for the actor. As he had always attempted, he followed this realist drama with the commercial Thiruvilayadal Arambam. Amid several misfires, Dhanush kept giving us stellar films such as Polladhavan, Aadukalam, Mayakkam Enna, Maryan etc. The lean physique never changed, but the intensity in his expressive eyes kept increasing. So much so that we didn’t question how he thrashed up bad guys who were larger in size. We didn’t have to, his face said it all.

The most interesting fact about Dhanush’s career is that he has worked with most of his directors more than once. He found stellar combinations in Selvaraghavan and Vetrimaaran, fresh new voices in the industry back then. Kadhal Konden showed us Dhanush could act, Polladhavan gave us hopes of a well-made film that is commercial as well, and in a state of frustrated engineering graduates, Velailla Pattathari heightened Dhanush’s mass appeal like no other film. Dhanush chose his scripts and the voices behind them with a sense of understanding as to how Kollywood works. It was a combination of talent, sheer hard work, dedication and also a smart choice of scripts that have made Dhanush who he is.

And now, Dhanush has a Hollywood film in the pipeline, ready for release. The Fakir actor is an inspiration to anyone who wants to challenge the norms, fight against the tide and prove that if you’re persistent enough, there will be success. There is a line in Pudhupettai, where a character says ‘Vitradha da Kumar u’. Dhanush never gave up and that’s a lesson we all can take for ourselves.

This was first originally published on https://indianexpress.com/. You can find it here.

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