With the success of Asuran, Dhanush proves he's a rare Tamil star who strikes the balance between scale and substance
The success of Dhanush's non-formula film like Asuran will encourage a new breed of filmmakers and actors to come out of their comfort zone.
When Dhanush debuted in Tamil cinema with Thulluvatho Illamai in 2002, there were brutal criticism for his physical appearance. A lot of below-the-belt comments were passed, saying he is a skinny hero who does not have any basic qualities to be a mainstream actor.
But Dhanush shut all the naysayers with his sophomore film Kadhal Kondein, which earned both commercial and critical acclaim. The raw and intense performance of Dhanush as a mentally disturbed youngster fetched him a lot of positive accolades. His third film, Thiruda Thirudi, won commercially, and made him a leading star in Tamil cinema.
However, a lot of questions were raised on his box office credibility after films like Pudhukottayilirunthu Saravanan, Dreams, Sullan, and Adhu Oru Kana Kaalam failed miserably while only Devathaiyai Kanden was declared a decent hit.
At the age of 23, Dhanush impressed everyone by playing a ruthless gangster in his brother Selvaraghavan’s Pudhupettai. The film depicts how a slender-looking underdog becomes a kingpin of the underworld in Chennai city. Among the crowded gangster films in Tamil cinema, Pudhupettai has earned a cult status like Kamal Haasan’s Nayagan, directed by Mani Ratnam.
Dhanush owes big time to two filmmakers in his career — his elder brother Selvaraghavan (Thulluvatho Illamai, Kadhal Kondein, Pudhupettai, Yaradi Nee Mohini, and Mayakkam Enna), and his good friend Vetrimaaran (Polladhavan, Aadukalam, Vada Chennai, and Asuran). Undeniably, Selvaraghavan gave the initial push to Dhanush, and helped him to establish himself as a strong performer but Vetrimaaran proved that even in the critically-acclaimed zone, an actor could become a star.
Yes, if you carefully observe Dhanush’s career, most of his highest grossers are his films with Vetrimaaran. When Polladhavan got released, it was highest grosser for Dhanush. Later, Aadukalam (fetched a National award for Dhanush) created similar magic, and even the 'A'-rated Vada Chennai performed well at the box office.
Asuran, the recent collaboration of Dhanush and Vetrimaaran, has been declared as a blockbuster by the trade. The film registered more than Rs 50 crore gross at the worldwide box office, and is all set to breach the actor’s career-highest (in Tamil), Velai Illa Pattadhari. There is a misconception raw and violent films will not do well at the box office but Asuran broke the myth.
While good performers like Suriya and Vikram only concentrate on big-budget extravaganzas, Dhanush is the only actor of this generation who got a great eye for the quality content. His content-driven films, like Polladhavan, Aadukalam, Vada Chennai, and Asuran are profitable to the producers mainly because of the right budget and strong content.
All these above said films of Dhanush do not have any big-budget commercial gimmicks, like grandly shot songs in exotic foreign locales, VFX-filled high-octane stunt scenes, and gallery-pleasing punchlines yet they yielded very good revenue to the producers. But most of the other actors in Tamil cinema are willing to experiment only with an exorbitant budget. In case if the film fails, producers will have to bear the brunt. Of course, a few experimental attempts of Dhanush, like Shamitabh and Maryan, failed but they were exceptions.
Among his contemporaries, Dhanush is the only hero who forayed into Bollywood and scored a hit with his debut Hindi film in Raanjhanaa. He also pushed the boundaries by signing an English-French film The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir. But many stars in Kollywood reject offers from other languages as they do not want to take any risk in unknown industries, and prefer enjoying their sizable local market.
There is no big surprise when a mainstream commercial film scores big at the box office but when a film like Asuran, which does not have any so-called formula wins, it will encourage a new breed of filmmakers and actors to come out of their comfort zone.
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