Ganesh Venkataraman talks about what it took to get his first big break in Kollywood and his role in “Panithuli”
When director Radha Mohan first met this clean-shaven, urbane, good-looking actor, he smiled politely with no intention of casting him as a Sikh boy. The next day, he bumped into a young Sikh man and got chatting. At the end of their conversation, the Sardarji pulled out his fake beard and introduced himself again: “Ganesh Venkataraman, Sir. We met yesterday for the role in ‘Abhiyum Naanum'.” And that was how he landed his first big role in Tamil cinema. Ganesh's portrayal of Joginder Singh got him noticed. He got a call from Kamal Haasan's office for “Unnaipol Oruvan”. He then went on to do “Kandahar” with Amitabh Bachchan.
As he prepares for the release of his first solo hero film “Panithuli” that's set to hit the screens later this month, Ganesh sits down to talk about moving to Chennai, for good this time.
“Even if you diversify, you should never leave your core. Tamil is my core. So I had to move. I had to be here to promote my film. Also, if I am based here, there are no extra expenses for my producers,” says Ganesh.
“Panithuli”, a thriller set in the U.S., is directed by Natty Kumar and is a bilingual (called Tum Ho Yaara in Hindi) that stars Ganesh along with newcomers Shobana and Kalpana Pandit.
The makers plan to release the Tamil version first and then decide on the Hindi release. “I speak great Hindi because I started my career with Hindi theatre. So we shot each scene twice, once for Tamil and once for Hindi. Telugu and Malayalam films just happened. It wasn't planned. I take whatever comes with an open mind.”
Incidentally, Ganesh first made his debut playing an NRI in the famous Hyderabadi film “The Angrez” that ran for about a year in Andhra Pradesh. “I don't know what it is about me getting roles of an Indian in the U.S. I had never been to the U.S. before I did Angrez. My agent asked me to talk to the director with an American accent and that was it. I got to do ‘The Angrez'.”
In “Panithuli”, Ganesh plays Shiva who finishes engineering from Chennai and goes to the U.S. “Shiva is a guy who believes that he can live on love and fresh air while his love, Meera is the ambitious one. She sends his application to the U.S. The story is about what happens to him in the U.S. It's a very unpredictable film. Even during the narration, I was not able to predict what would happen in the next scene. The co-director, Jay is a research scientist. We shot for 30 days in Chennai and 62 days in the U.S.”
“Whatever I expected in a launch film is there in “Panithuli”. There's dance, comedy, suspense and action. I tried doing the stunts myself. In fact, I had to do snowboarding and on the third day, I did the stunt myself. We had a Hollywood cinematographer named Chris Elridge. He was an expert in snowboarding. So as I was snowboarding, he was also doing the same and recording it on a Red One camera. You get very few roles like this in your lifetime.”
After Panithuli, Ganesh's next release is “Dhamarukam”, a Telugu science-fiction directed by Srinivas Reddy. “It's one of the biggest budget films in Nagarjuna's career. It's a love triangle between Nagarjuna, Anushka and me. Mine is the anti-hero character and I am very kicked about it. The postproduction is on now.”
Ganesh also stars in Kavithalaya's “Muriyadi”, with Sathyaraj. This is the remake of the Malayalam film “Passenger” and the long delayed film is expected to release later this year.
Does he ever worry about getting only urban roles?
“For me, the script is always the hero of the film. If I need to play an urban guy, it's great. At least, I am playing a character close to me. They tell me... ‘Unga look North Indian madri irukku, nativity subject suit agathu.' (Your urban looks don't suit rural subjects). I don't have to do everything. Besides, it's up to a director to mould an actor in to a character. I can always wear a lungi, stick on a meesai and start swearing in native Tamil but I am not going to do that because I have never done things to get people's acknowledgement. Why should I go with the trend if there are 20 other actors who can do that as well?”