Those outside Tamil Nadu may have heard of Dhanush due to ‘Raanjhanaa’ and viral songs like 'Why this kolaveri di' but his body of work in Tamil deserves to be better known.

Actor Dhanush with beard in Asuran
Flix Kollywood Friday, December 18, 2020 - 14:51

Fans of Tamil cinema are delighted that actor Dhanush, who has routinely set the screen on fire in several Tamil movies, is in the cast of The Gray Man along with Chris Evans and Ryan Gosling. What's more, the film will be directed by the Russo brothers who made Avengers: Endgame.

This isn't Dhanush's first foray into Hollywood films. He was previously seen in the forgettable The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir in 2018. However, this film is clearly on another plane altogether. Dhanush is known as much for his expressive and emotive acting as he is for his dance skills. With his lithe frame and fiery dialogue delivery, the actor has played the underdog to great success in several films. Although his films have been criticised for misogynistic dialogues and the glorification of crimes against women like stalking, a staple in Tamil cinema, his acting has won him a wide fanbase, especially among the youth.

While those outside Tamil Nadu may have heard of Dhanush due to Raanjhanaa and viral songs like 'Why this kolaveri di' and 'Rowdy Baby', his body of work in Tamil deserves to be known better. Here's a look at five Dhanush films from the Tamil industry that won critical acclaim.

Kaadhal Kondein: This was Dhanush's second film and his brother Selvaraghavan's directorial debut. The two of them had previously worked with their father Kasthuri Raja in Thulluvadho Ilamai, a coming-of-age drama in which Dhanush played the lead and Selvaraghavan co-wrote.

Kaadhal Kondein is a psychological thriller about Vinod, a young man with an abusive past, who becomes obsessed with his classmate, Divya (Sonia Agarwal). Released in 2003, the anti-hero was not very common in Tamil cinema back then, and Dhanush's raw portrayal of Vinod made the audience root for him. The film is available for free on YouTube.

Pudhupettai: Three years later in 2006, Dhanush and Selvaraghavan gave us the gritty gangster drama where the actor takes the plunge into the world of crime as a callow young man. The film also throws light on the nexus between politics and crime.

As Kokki Kumar, Dhanush once again excelled at being the bad boy hero with a history. This film too starred Sonia Agarwal and had Sneha playing the role of a sex worker. Kokki Kumar was leagues away from the virtuous, kind-hearted and morally upright hero and Dhanush's unapologetic portrayal won him praise. The film is available for purchase or rent on YouTube.

Watch: Scenes from Pudhupettai

Aadukalam: The 2011 thriller directed by Vetrimaaran won Dhanush his first National Award. In the film, set in the midst of rooster fight rivalries, Dhanush played Karuppu, a quick rising star in the circles. The film explores the politics and shifting dynamics in the sport, as Karuppu's fame is resented by many around him.

Taapsee Pannu played an Anglo Indian woman named Irene in the film. Taking us through a trajectory of emotions — loyalty, love, friendship, betrayal, forgiveness and regret — the film became a favourite with critics. Dhanush and Vetrimaaran would go on to become one of the best actor-director combinations in Tamil cinema. The film is available on Sun Nxt.

Vada Chennai: Vetrimaaran and Dhanush came together again for this ambitious gangster drama that released in 2018. With several characters, story arcs and dubbing issues, the film left the audience divided. However, Dhanush's performance as Anbu, a gangster, and his struggles in the middle of gang rivalries, won him critical acclaim. His chemistry with Aishwarya Rajesh was also appreciated by the audience.

Vada Chennai straddles multiple timelines, from the '80s to the new millennium, and has a sequel in the making. The film ran into controversy due to objections raised by residents of North Chennai about how their area had been portrayed. There were also rumours that the sequel had been shelved, but Dhanush, also the producer of the film, rubbished the speculation. The film is available on Disney+Hotstar.

Asuran: Yet another film with Dhanush and Vetrimaaran, this film which came out in 2019 is among Dhanush's biggest hits. The story is based on Poomani's Vekkai and saw Dhanush playing Velmurugan, a middle-aged father to two boys. His wife was played by Malayalam actor Manju Warrier, who made her debut in the Tamil industry with this film. The story revolves around a Dalit family and their struggle to retain their rightful land. The film also shows sequences based on the Kilvenmeni massacre of 1968.

Asuran too has Dhanush in the role of the underdog but the film is distinctly different from the films he did in his 20s. Dhanush wore the exhaustion of a middle-aged man, troubled by his baggage, comfortably and once again impressed the audience and critics. The film is available on Amazon Prime Video.

Also read: 'Paava Kadhaigal' review: An uneven anthology film on gender, caste and honour

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