Tamil actor Dhanush has earned a reputation for showing off his acting chops in offbeat productions. This was apparent right from one of his earliest films Kadhal Kondein (2003), in which he played a psychopath. The tendency to play the outsider continued with films such as Pudhupettai (2006), Aadukalam (2011) and Maryan (2013).
But much as he is identified by these roles, Dhanush is also known to be part of Tamil cinema’s “mass” men. The 33-year-old actor has played numerous commercial roles that have earned him star stature in Tamil cinema, be it the happy-go-lucky slacker in Polladhavan (2007) or a Chennai hoodlum in Maari (2016). But it is the role of Raghuvaran, an unemployed graduate with a heart of gold in Vellailla Pattadhari (2014), which proved to be one of his most popular. In his latest role in the sequel VIP 2, Dhanush reprises the character that doesn’t seem to get a break.
“Even after the completion of Vellailla Pattadhari, I was still not ready to come out of Raghuvaran’s world,” Dhanush told Scroll.in. “The characters stayed with me and I didn’t feel like coming out of that space.”
The movie will be released in August in Tamil as well as a dubbed Hindi version. This might have something to do with the fact that the film stars Kajol in only her second Tamil role after Minsaru Kanavu (1997). The cast includes Amala Paul, Samuthirakani and Saranya Ponvannan.
“I had decided to work on the sequel and started sketching out the plotline,” Dhanush said. “But it took shape, when the character of Vasundhara entered and Kajol ma’am was our first choice.” Dhanush’s Raghuvaran will be seen taking on corporate biggie Vasundhara (Kajol) in the sequel.
Unlike the first film, which was directed by Velraj, the sequel has been handled by Soundarya Rajinikanth, whose sister Aishwarya is married to Dhanush. “It was long decided that Soundarya and I will do a film under Thanu sir’s production house,” he said. “We didn’t know what film it was going to be. That is when I had the bound script of VIP 2 ready with me. So I suggested the idea of collaborating for this film. She read the script and we both decided that this was the best film to start off with.”
The film has been produced by S Thanu along with Dhanush’s production company Wunderbar Films. The company’s name, which means wonderful in German, has something to do with Quentin Tarantino’s alternate history drama Inglorious Basterds (2009). “German characters keep screaming the expression ‘wunderbar’ throughout the film,” Dhanush revealed. “That word stayed with me even after I got out of the theatre and so I started making short films under the same banner. When I decided to produce feature films, I stuck to the title because I became emotionally attached to it.”
Wunderbar Films will also be producing Kaala Karikalan, starring Dhanush’s father-in-law and directed by Kabaali director Pa Ranjith.
In Hindi, VIP 2 has been titled VIP 2 Lalkar. Dhanush tagged the Hindi release as a simple way to tap and explore markets beyond Tamil Nadu. “Kajol ma’am is of course a legend and people know me too quite well in the Hindi industry,” he said. The actor made a well-received debut in Anand L Rai’s Raanjhanaa (2013), following it up with R Balki’s Shamitabh (2015), alongside Amitabh Bachchan.
Dhanush’s acting journey is taking him beyond Indian shores. He plays the lead in American filmmaker Ken Scott’s The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir. The movie is based on Romain Peurtolas’s bestselling novel The Extraordinary Journey Of The Fakir Who Got Trapped In An Ikea Wardrobe and sees Dhanush as the chartalan godman Ajatashatru Rathod from Rajasthan who travels through Europe in an Ikea cupboard. “The most basic and important aspect of getting into the skin of a character is keeping the story in mind, and that is exactly what I did for the fakir’s role as well,” he said.
Dhanush was approached by Mumbai production company Little Red Car Films for the meaty role. “I read the script and instantly took a liking to it and decided that I was definitely going to take it up,” he said.
Apart from featuring in more than one film a year, the actor has also dabbled with direction with Power Paandi (2017), in which he plays a stuntman. He has other acting assignments in the pipeline, including Vetrimaaran’s gangster thriller Vada Chennai and Gautam Menon’s Enai Noki Paayum Thotta. “There are only two parameters I look at before choosing a script,” he said. “Characterisation and the screenplay – if these two are in line, everything else falls into place.”