Face-to-face with well-known stage and screen actor, TV host and talk show moderator ‘Delhi’ Ganesh.
For the best part of the interaction I feel I am witnessing a one-man show. ‘Delhi’ Ganesh’s mono-acting skill has to be seen to be believed! “I find it easy because I’m not inhibited. And I observe people’s idiosyncrasies,” he says. The courteous ‘conversations’ of the Odhuvar at the Kapaleesawarar Temple, Mylapore, who acts out all his queries without stopping his chants for a moment, the terse responses of the purohit in the house opposite, who came over to use his telephone often long ago, and the humility of the Maharaja who visited the temple in Thiruvananthapuram every evening with much fanfare, parade before my eyes as Ganesh mimes their expressions and body language.
His act is such a hit among his friends that one of them had organised a special stand-up comedy session by Ganesh at his daughter’s wedding! “The invitees who were chatting with their relatives and friends pulled up their chairs closer to watch me perform. They were in stitches most of the time and their reactions made it a rewarding experience for me,” remembers Ganesh.
It’s not just comic takes, he acts out even unpleasant situations vividly. His experience with a director of soaps, for example. “I can give you his name, you can quote me. He’s sadistic. When I say I have to board a flight at 3 in the evening, he assures me I can move out at 1 p.m. I’m waiting for my shot from morning, but I’m not called before the camera even once. I get up to leave, when his assistant comes to tell me I have to shoot. I flare up and my pressure mounts.” He acts out the exchanges at the shooting spot with impeccable voice modulation! ‘Gifted’ is the word to describe Ganesh’s spontaneity.
Power of love
“Acting in soaps proved a health hazard to me and I withdrew,” he continues. “People get upset when I say most of the time serials are for those who are desperate for work. Unless it’s a director who is easy to get along with, I don’t do megas anymore.”
He prefers to work in an atmosphere of geniality and mutual respect. “Yesterday I was shooting for ‘Kalyana Samaiyal Saadham.’ I play Prasanna’s father-in-law in the film and the scene involved many children. I chatted with the kids and followed it up with a joyous photo session. It was such fun that in the evening when I left, the kids and their parents came up to the car to see me off. That’s the power of love,” smiles Ganesh.
Making his entry in cinema with K. Balachander’s ‘Pattina Pravesam,’ this erstwhile sergeant with the Air Force has worked in nearly 500 films so far. He’s proved his mettle in sentiment and emotions, and revels in comic roles. Who can forget the liquor addict he so effectively essayed in ‘Sindhu Bhairavi’ or his rib-ticklers in films such as ‘Michael Madana Kama Rajan’? The hilarious interaction, where Ganesh interprets Nasser’s unintelligible cries as the Gayatri Mantra, is still one of the funniest scenes in ‘Avvai Shanmughi.’
“Gemini Ganesan was in splits when the scene was being shot. Kamal couldn’t laugh out loud because his makeup would peel off. Later when director K.S. Ravikumar suggested that we prune the scene a little, both of them wouldn’t allow it,” Ganesh recalls.
Ironically, Ganesh was at first hesitant to do the role and told Kamal so. “Frankly, I hadn’t expected my role in ‘Avvai Shanmughi’ to be so significant. I was apprehensive. But Kamal said, ‘Humour isn’t new to you. You can do it.’ I owe the name I got in the film to Kamal,” Ganesh acknowledges.
Beginning as a theatre artist with Dakshina Bharatha Nataka Sabha, Delhi, Ganesh decided to move to greener pastures, viz., Chennai. “Theatre actor T.D.Sundararajan, who was in Delhi then, motivated me. Of course, that wasn’t the only reason. The girl I wished to marry wanted me to come down. Soon she became my wife,” he laughs.
Ganesh still loves theatre. When Shraddha began with offbeat stage ventures, he was part of the group’s second play, ‘Doosra.’ “Even now, people in the U.S. and elsewhere want me to present plays there. I’ve requested Anand Raghav to write a full length comedy for me,” says Ganesh. The veteran’s son Maha plans to toe his father’s line. “It will happen soon,” is dad Ganesh’s cryptic take.