Dhananjaya interview: On ‘Kotee’ and why he loves the middle-class hero

Watch: Actor Dhananjaya interview: On ‘Kotee’ and why he loves the middle-class hero

Kannada star Dhananjaya talks about ‘Kotee’, what impressed him about the script by director Param and the crucial phases of his 11-year career

Updated - June 10, 2024 06:33 pm IST

Published - June 08, 2024 06:32 pm IST

Dhananjaya, fondly called Daali due to the popularity of his manic character in the 2018 blockbuster Tagaru, has completed 11 years in the Kannada cinema. He is awaiting the release of his upcoming film Kotee, directed by Param.

The actor speaks to The Hindu about the movie and his journey that saw him struggle to establish himself as an actor, before becoming a successful star and producer.

Dhananjaya in ‘Kotee’.

Dhananjaya in ‘Kotee’. | Photo Credit: Saregama Kannada/YouTube

The general elections and the Indian Premiere League (IPL) challenged the film industry. Now that both the events are over, do you think Kotee will bring audiences in?

The IPL indeed keeps people occupied, and that impacts movies. The tournament is a popular entertainment option. Also, people are busy watching matches due to the online betting system. We have struggled to draw people to theatres in the last six months. I feel the likes of Shakhahaari and Blinkshould have received more love than they did when they were in cinemas. People are now talking more about them after they came online. There is still no one concrete solution to the problem of empty theatres. Good movies succeed more often than not, and we hope the same for Kotee.

Going by the trailer, Kotee seems like a thriller involving a common man. Will the film balance the thriller elements with social drama?

Kotee is not a regular thriller. I won’t reveal much about the movie. I can assure you is that it is a good and relatable film about a middle-class man. The film will keep you engrossed. It has a fresh story, and you won’t be able to compare it with any other movie. I loved Parameshwar Gundkal’s writing. When I was reading the script, it felt like I was reading a small novel.

You have your fans on one end and the OTT-exposed audience on the other. Also, you love to experiment as well. Amid this, as a young star, what are you aspiring to be?

I am enjoying my versatility. There was an expectation from my fans to play a character like Daali from Tagaru in every film. I am trying to break that image with each film. It is easy to follow the ‘masala’ film formula, but I am trying to be different. When I read the script of Rathnan Prapancha, I knew those who loved my short film, Jayanagar 4th Block, would like this movie. They are a set of people who love to watch family dramas. On the first day of the shoot for Rathnan Prapancha, my fans were shocked to see me in formal attire riding a Splendor bike. They felt this image makeover wasn’t ideal for my career. As an actor, you can cater to the same audience or impress a wide range of people. I chose the latter path.

Dhananjaya in a still from ‘Kotee’.

Dhananjaya in a still from ‘Kotee’. | Photo Credit: Saregama Kannada/YouTube

After hits such as Rathnan Prapancha and Badava Rascal, you starred in Twenty One Hours, Bairagee, Monsoon Raaga and Once Upon A Time In Jamaligudda. None of those four films made a mark. Did they break the momentum of your career?

During the pandemic, when the film industry got shut, I was one of the few actors working. After the first wave of the pandemic, till April 2022, I worked nonstop, day and night. The money I received by playing a villain in one film (Bairagee) or a supporting character (Twenty One Hours) in another helped me make Badava Rascal and Head Bush as a producer, and both the films turned out to be hits. The success of the two films increased my market, and the producers are confident on investing in me. Also, all the films you mentioned made small profits and kept the industry running. I did 4-5 back-to-back movies because I was in a situation where I had to make money and invest on projects I believed in.

ALSO READ:‘Gurudev Hoysala’ to ‘Kabzaa’: Are Kannada films facing the heat of IPL 2023?

If the three Shettys (Rakshit, Raj and Rishab) from Mangalore championed culture and language through their films, then movies made by you or featuring you have told the story of the middle class...

Be it Badava Rascal, Rathnan Prapancha, or Kotee, they all tell the story of the middle class. A common man who loves his family is the hero in such films. Great actors such as Dr. Rajkumar and Anant Nag had championed this genre during their prime. Tagaru Palya, which attempts to portray a humorous drama revolving around a ritual in a village, showcased the culture seen in and around the Mandya district. Another such example is Orchestra Mysuru. Culture of the orchestra is dead in India. We have moved on to music reality shows. But, the movie showed the lives of orchestra singers in Mysuru who struggle to make a living out of their dying profession. Uttarakaanda, my upcoming big-budget movie, will be shot entirely in North Karnataka, and the characters speak Kannada in the local dialect.

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