It is confirmed: Tamil actor and producer Dhanush will make his international debut as the charlatan Ajatshatru Ogash Rathod in an allegory about immigration that is being directed by the acclaimed graphic novelist-turned filmmaker Marjane Satrapi. Dhanush has a fine multi-racial cast to accompany him on his journey to Hollywood. Satrapi’s untitled live action feature, which is an adaptation of Romain Puertolas’s French bestseller The Extraordinary Journey Of A Fakir Who Got Trapped In An Ikea Cupboard, stars Uma Thurman, Gemma Arterton, Barkhad Abidi, Abel Jafri and Seema Biswas, who will portray Dhanush’s mother. Dhanush’s love interest will be played by Alexandra Daddario, who has appeared in the Percy Jackson films and the American television show True Detective.
“Dhanush has these almond eyes, ravishing smile, a big acting range and an extremely expressive face,” Satrapi told Scroll.in. “When you are a director, you can tell if an actor is intelligent or not. In the films of Dhanush that I have seen, he has embraced each and every role. I saw a lot of Indian actors, but once I saw Dhanush, I became obsessed with him. And when I finally met him in London, he was confirmed for the role.”
Dhanush could not have asked for a better platform to showcase his unconventional leading man talents. He has appeared in Hindi films, broken the internet with the song “Kolaveri Di” and produced the acclaimed children’s feature Kaakaa Muttai over the past few years, all along appearing in Tamil cinema. He joins a small and hopefully growing band of homegrown talent that is finding work in international productions in the wake of the success of Irrfan Khan in Hollywood, such as Priyanka Chopra in the television series Quantico and Deepika Padukone, who has signed up for the latest XXX movie, The Return of Xander Cage, with Vin Diesel.
The 2013 source novel for Dhanush’s international debut depicts the adventures of Rathod, who claims to be a fakir. He makes his way from Rajasthan to Paris, where he falls in love, but ends up on a truck that is illegally transporting refugees to England. The story begins in India, moves from Europe to North Africa, and concludes in India. “We will be shooting in Jodhpur in Rajasthan most probably in June,” said Satrapi, who has travelled to the country just once before for a two-day trip 27 years ago.
The Iranian-origin comic book writer and illustrator first rose to fame in 2000 with her two-part autobiographical graphic novels about growing up in Tehran and migrating to France. The Persepolis comic books were adapted into an animated movie by Satrapi and Vincent Parronaud in 2007. In 2011, Satrapi co-directed with Parronaud a live action film based on another one of her graphic novels, Chicken With Plums. She has stuck with the live action format since, and her most recent movie was the horror-laced comedy The Voices in 2014.
When Satrapi read the script based on Puertolas’s novel, she was attracted to its visual and narrative possibilities. “It is a fun adventure that is also a love story, and at the same time, you have the profound subject of immigrants and they way they are treated,” said Satrapi, who has tackled similar issues in her writings. “You have something sensible and and important in the background, which is the way I like it, and you also have magic, love, hope, adventure and all of these ingredients. The story gives me the permission to make a film that talks about all of humanity.”
Ajatashatru Ogash Rathod is the creation of a former French police officer and border guard whose responsibilities included the investigation of illegal immigration rackets. Puertolas has also debunked magicians and self-declared miracle workers on YouTube, but his videos were blocked after a complaint by the magician David Copperfield. He has contributed to the screenplay of the movie adaptation of his novel, which is described as being in the mould of such fantasy-laden dramas as The Grand Budapest Hotel and Midnight in Paris.