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Dhanush at his best

The audience was sold on his performance in his Bollywood debut Raanjhanaa, but Tamil star Dhanush is used to acclaim. His latest Tamil film, Mariyaan, is creating waves. In the US, the film opened higher than Hindi releases. Lena Saha reports.

regional movies Updated: Jul 25, 2013 22:17 IST
Lena Saha
Lena Saha

The audience was sold on his performance in his Bollywood debut Raanjhanaa, but Tamil star Dhanush is used to acclaim. His latest Tamil film, Mariyaan, is creating waves. In the US, the film opened higher than Hindi releases, as trade analyst Taran Adarsh posted on Twitter. Dhanush will feature in Raanjhanaa director Aanand L Rai’s next film, besides three Tamil projects.

We look at his best performances in Tamil cinema so far.

Aadukalam (Arena), 2011: Dhanush won the National Award for Best Actor for this film. He plays the rustic and fiercely loyal KP Karuppu, who makes his living through cockfights in this tale of trust and betrayal set in Madurai. Amid high drama, Dhanush plays his part with a subtlety that is the antithesis of the “enna rascala” – the stereotypical, over-the-top hero of Tamil movies. Watch out for his extraordinarily fluid expressions in the song, ‘Otha sollala’, where he dances with gay abandon on the roads, using his veshti (lungi) for maximum spontaneous effect.

Mayakkam Enna (What is This Hypnotism), 2011: In this sleeper hit romantic drama directed by his elder brother Selvaraghavan, Dhanush’s performance is arguably on par with the one in Aadukalam, only less celebrated. Playing a down-on-his-luck, aspiring wildlife photographer named Karthik Swaminathan, Dhanush brings layers to his character that could have easily been missed by a less-skilled actor. In keeping with Karthik’s introverted, pessimistic nature, the film dwells on silences. But in these silences, his eyes convey everything from joy to frustration and self-loathing.

3, 2012: Kolaveri di, the viral song from 3, which he sang, made Dhanush a household name. Though the film sank at the box office, he bagged the Filmfare award for best actor in a Tamil film. Watching him play a school-going adolescent in the first half, you forget that the actor was 28 at the time. When the character of Ram ages, Dhanush moves you with his portrayal of a married man battling bipolar disorder. The dim-witted ending is the only dampener.

Pudhupettai (Survival of the Fittest), 2006: Dhanush plays a crass teenager from the slums called Kokki Kumar, who flees home after his father kills his mother, and goes on to become a brutal gangster. Another winner from his elder brother Selvaraghavan, the film is worth watching for Dhanush’s superlative acting. The scenes to remember include Kumar being trained by a senior goon, his encounters with a prostitute and when he forcibly marries his henchman’s sister during her wedding to someone else.

Adhu Oru Kana Kaalam (Those were the Best Days), 2005: Once you get past the vulgar and tackily shot song in the first few minutes, you will be treated to a poignant love story with brilliant performances by the lead pair, Dhanush and Priya Mani. Dhanush impresses, first as the rich, happy-go-lucky teenager with raging hormones, then as the guy in love with his maid’s daughter, and finally as the man separated from his ladylove and languishing in jail for a freak killing. The film is realistic, but the happy ending seems contrived.

Pollaadhavan (Ruthless Man), 2007: A mass entertainer in which Dhanush plays an aimless, lower middle-class youth, whose life takes an unexpected turn. His character Prabhu may look awkward in oversized shirts, but Dhanush makes up for it with his acting skills. In the climactic face-off with the villain, you see him in a Bruce Lee-like avatar. The film borrows the basic premise from Vittorio De Sica’s classic Bicycle Thieves. But here the bicycle is replaced by a Pulsar motorbike.

Kadhal Kondein (I Fell in Love), 2003: In his second film itself, Dhanush showed spark with his portrayal of the tortured orphan, Vinod, who turns into a psychopath in college. This film marked Selvaraghavan’s directorial debut. The production values are tacky, the rest of the cast is ordinary, but Dhanush salvages this tragic story of unrequited love with his earnest and raw performance.