“I went to meet director Radha Mohan dressed as a sardar.” And actor Ganesh Venkatraman landed the role of Joginder Singh — Prakash Raj’s son-in-law to-be — in his first film Abhiyum Naanum. “I watched Radha Mohan’s first film Mozhi, and every single character in the film stayed in my mind long after. So, I did a little bit of homework before meeting the director and it opened up new avenues,” says the actor.
He followed it up with films such as Unnaipol Oruvan (with Kamal Hassan), Kandahar (in Malayalam with Mohanlal and in Hindi with Amitabh Bachchan) and Dhamarukam (in Telugu with Nagarjuna). “It gave me a big exposure. Just observing the stalwarts on the sets is a learning experience. The preparation, hard work and the sincerity with which they approach work is amazing. And it influenced me to approach cinema sensibly.”
Variety on offer
Ganesh gears up for a bright year ahead as three of his films are getting ready for release. He says Theeya Velai Seyyanum Kumaru is a signature Sundar C. film. Ganesh plays one of the four main characters along with Siddharth, Hansika and Santhanam. “It’s a situational comedy that plays out in an IT company, with a love triangle that is funny, yet convincing. Santhanam plays a love guru,” he says.
In director Saravanan’s Ivan Vera Mathiri, Ganesh, Vikram Prabhu and Vamsi play the three main characters. “Saravanan (of Engeyum Eppodhum fame) comes from director Murugadoss’ school of filmmaking. So, it’s a slice-of-life, stylish and mass, action thriller. I play a cop, and the story revolves around incidents that happen in Chennai.”
Next is Roopa Iyer’s Chandra (in Tamil and Kannada), a period film on the last generation princess played by Shriya Saran. “I play a suave and stylish prince who has returned from the U.S. and is besotted with the princess. Roopa Iyer has handled the subject from a woman’s point of view, and it has come out very well.”
Ganesh wants to do films that are engaging, something he would enjoy as audience. “Cinema is on the cusp of change and cinema rasanai (appreciation) is changing. We have people in remote villages appreciating Korean films on martial arts. Audience want to enjoy a new experience in the two to three hours they invest in a film. I ensure that my roles are enriching for me as an actor and for my audience, too. I also make it a point to work with seasoned technicians, cinematographers, art directors, directors and assistant directors… cinema is a collaborative effort.”
The changing dynamics of cinema, he says, has opened a world of opportunities for newcomers and independent cinema. “We have a healthy market for all genres — thrillers, sit-coms, family entertainers — there is space for everyone who has talent and is willing to work hard. The success of independent films such as Kadhalil Sodhappuvadhu Eppadi, Mouna Guru, Naan, Pizza and Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanom, proves this. We should explore more of horror and romance genres,” he says.
The last three years have been satisfying, Ganesh recounts. “I am lucky to have worked with directors who offered me a variety of roles. I go by their vision. I don’t want to get stereotyped,” says the Electronics engineer from Mumbai.
He is now a happy Chennai boy. “The best way to hone your craft as an actor is to be a student and observe life. It reflects in your work. After every film, I totally detach myself from it and start afresh for a new experience.”
Keywords: Ganesh Venkatraman