Karthik Subbaraj’s Suriya film would show me in a new look: Dhananjay - Hindustan Times
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Karthik Subbaraj’s Suriya film would show me in a new look: Dhananjay

Jun 11, 2024 12:37 PM IST

Daali Dhananjay reflects on Kannada cinema's evolution and future prospects in this exclusive interview with Hindustan Times.

He is popularly known as Daali Dhananjay after his character, Daali, in the 2018 film, Tagaru. Dhananjay, who came into the Kannada film industry with no godfather a decade back, is now one of the top heroes in Sandalwood. He is also producing and presenting films of newcomers to give fresh talent a platform, something he takes great pride in. (Also read: HT Interview | Vijay Sethupathi: ‘Producers didn't promote my recent film well despite my repeated reuquests')

Dhananjay talks to HT about his upcoming movie and more.
Dhananjay talks to HT about his upcoming movie and more.

The Pushpa actor has his new film Kotee with director Param up for release on June 14 and in this exclusive chat with Hindustan Times, the talented actor talks about Kannada cinema, working in the Allu Arjun blockbuster and more.

What’s your new film Kotee (Crore) all about?

It’s a drama thriller and a family entertainer. It’s a film a common man and every middle class person can relate to. It’s like Rathnan Prapancha and Badava Rascal. I enjoy gangster films but in between I love doing common man films where people can relate to the character, to the situations in the film. When director Param narrated the script of Kotee, I liked it. This was my dream also at one point, to make 1 crore. We all think right – what if someone gives me 1 crore or what if I find one crore when I'm walking on the road?

I remember my friend telling me he'll go to Dubai, earn 1 crore and come and build a house, give my family security and he did it. When I heard the story, I could totally connect. I felt it would connect to a larger audience and the script is also very good. I didn't know that Param could write so well for a film. He's from the TV industry but what he has written as a film and what he has achieved as a director is very good. Kotee is a cab driver who wants to earn money in a very ethical way and it’s his story.

Interestingly, you presented Daredevil Musthafa in 2023 which was a superhit.

I work as an actor but I have my production house too where I want to produce films for new directors and new talent. I have produced three films (Badava Rascal, Head Bush, Thagaru Palya) and presented two films (Daredevil Musthafa, Orchestra Mysuru) – these feature new talent and new directors. With regard to Daredevil Musthafa, I am a great KP Poornachandra Tejaswi (writer) fan. I also knew Shashank Soghal (director) as he was my junior in college. I’ve seen the entire film take shape and I loved the film. I presented it because I wanted the film to reach a wider audience. If any films work, I am the happiest person because I want every film in our industry to work. I want to see people in theatres; I don't want the theatre culture to die.

A decade in Kannada cinema, how much has the film industry evolved?

We have evolved a lot but right now, we are going through a bad phase like every other film industry. There is new talent coming up here which is good. For example, if you take me – I’m not from a film background but here I am having made it as an actor and producer. The Kannada industry definitely has opportunity and space for newcomers. But as an industry, I think we need more talent coming in. Some people say that the stars in the industry should do a greater number of films to keep theatres and the industry thriving. But I think it's their personal choice. This is why I think we need a talent hub, so when there are no star films releasing, there are good films with new talent releasing. It's very important for an ecosystem to run and it can't be dependent only on four or five stars. Every week I get two or three films to watch as people want me to present them but I can’t present all the films. And as I watch these films, I’m seeing a lot of hope for the industry - with their craft, their approach, the stories they want to tell. We will do well in the future.

There are many successful pan-Indian films (KGF, Kantara, Vikrant Rona) and talent (Pawan Kumar, Prashanth Neel) emerging from your industry. Do you want to start working on such projects?

I want to be part of good films - I don't know whether these will become pan-Indian successes or not. That's a very different ballgame. I would be very happy if all the industries watch my films. I will try to do good films and if that reaches the whole of India, I’ll be very happy.

You’re a part of Pushpa, which is one of the biggest pan-Indian films!

I always wanted to work with director Sukumar so it was like a dream come true for me. It was a very interesting process. Working with Sukumar was very good as there was so much learning. And as a pan-Indian film, I loved it and especially when people called me Jaali Reddy in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. It made me reach more audiences and that definitely helped me.

What is the one highlight of Pushpa for you personally?

It's Sukumar's writing and Allu Arjun's commitment. It's very difficult for an actor to be in the same character for years and Allu Arjun is doing that. His commitment towards the character, Pushpa, the whole team's commitment and Sukumar's writing, is really good. It’s very inspiring!

Are you not looking to work in other languages too?

I have done a Telugu film now called Zebra which is the next release. Recently, I got an offer from Karthik Subbaraj for Surya sir's new Tamil film. But they wanted a different look which I couldn't take up because I have my other Kannada films lined up here. The shoot would have been simultaneous. I couldn't change the look and adjust the dates also so I couldn’t take up that role. I really wanted to do that film. If there are good characters offered to me from good teams, I will do it. I want to work with every ace director. As an actor, it's good for me, as it's a learning process.

What is the one genre you want to do and haven’t done so far?

Historical (period drama) films! That's been my dream since childhood. There are two projects. There is one film called Halagali by director Sukesh Nayak. This is about the uprising of Bedaru (hunters) in Karnataka during the first war of Indian Independence. It’s a very interesting story. The other subject we are exploring is about Nadaprabhu Kempe Gowda, the founder of Bengaluru. They should take off soon if things go well.

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