"Rajinikanth’s fans won’t forgive Dhanush”

By announcing his separation from his wife Aishwarya of 18 years, actor Dhanush has risked the wrath of Rajinikanth’s fandom

Actor Dhanush
Actor Dhanush

Subhash K Jha

By announcing his separation from his wife Aishwarya of 18 years, actor Dhanush has risked the wrath of Rajinikanth’s fandom. This could mean all of Tamil Nadu, give or take a few pockets where Dhanush’s attempts to do an anti-Rajinikanth (“I never wanted to be known as a superstar”) impressed an elite audience.

Hours after Dhanush and his wife Aishwarya announced the end of their marriage, I was on the phone with a major Tamil actor who placed the blame on the breached marriage squarely on Dhanush.

“This is not a bolt from the blue like Samantha and Naga Chaitanya calling off their marriage. No one, not even their closest friends or even the couple’s parents, had seen that one coming. This is different. Rajini’s fan clubs won’t like it,” the actor whispered into my burning ears.

Rajinikanth’s daughters did not marry into happily-ever-after partnerships. The impending separation was killing Rajinikanth for years. When his younger daughter Soundarya separated from her (first) husband Rajinikanth was shattered. He pleaded with his elder daughter Aishwarya to call off the plans to call off her marriage, if not for the sake of his image, then for their two sons who are still young. Yatra is 16 and Linga is 12. If I was their parent I’d keep them away from school for at least the next one month.

Sources in the know tell me, Aishwarya tried hard to keep the marriage going. She continued to ignore Dhanush’s rumoured adventures outside marriage, as most wives in the Indian entertainment industry do.

I have no clue why this couple decided to call it quits at this point of time. As my Tamil actor-friend, himself quite a known player in the Tamil film industry, snidely suggested, “Maybe Aishwarya wants to re-marry, as she has every right to. It can’t be Dhanush. He will never marry again. He doesn’t need to.”

No one who knows anything about the Tamil film industry is anywhere even remotely shocked. This separation was coming for a long time. Dhanush and Aishwarya were heading in opposite directions for a while.

In 2012 I remember Aishwarya Rajnikant Dhanush (as she called herself) directed a fascinating Tamil thriller called 3. It was an out-of-the-box experimental film that attained pre-release fame through Dhanush absurdist song Kolaveri D. In hindsight the song’s success was not only deservingly short-lived but also thoroughly embarrassing for all concerned. Worse of all, it eclipsed the merits of Aishwarya’s film.

If the KOLAVERI DI lyrics were a hotchpotch mix of English and Tamil, the singing style didn’t conform to any particular style and it was sung by a non-singer — despite all that, it became a super hit. Dhanush, who lent his voice to it, says his lack of comfort with the English language helped him in choosing the words to connect with people who are not fluent in the language.

Said Dhanush, “It’s just a song. Just a phase. It will pass. I am one of those people, who don’t know how to speak proper English. But I manage. Speaking the English language was initially a huge problem for me, so I knew how to connect with people like me. I knew what words to choose so that they connect with people, who are not fluent in English."

The song, composed by Anirudh Ravichander, was a part of Dhanush’s wife Aishwarya’s directorial debut 3. Dhanush had no illusions about the quality of the lyrics. "It’s not poetry. Whatever silly words came to my mind, I used it in the song. It’s just like any composition, nothing special. A group of us GenNext kids —me, Shruti Haasan, my wife Aishwarya and the composer Anirudh — were open to ideas. The tune was done in 20 minutes. As soon as I heard the song, the words simply came to my mind spontaneously. I wanted the words to be understood by everybody regardless of whether they know English or not," he added.

The actor admitted to me that the song had overshadowed his wife’s film. "It seems the song has become bigger than the film. But the film has a solid and novel script. Once people see the film they’ll see the song as just a part of the narration. Now I’m just going to focus on shooting the song for my wife’s film. Let’s see where it goes from there.”

3 released, bombed and there were whispers in the film industry that Rajnikanth had to pay off some of the debts.

Dhanush angrily responded to this rumour, “How I love the stories that are created just because I am married to a particular person's daughter.'3' has suffered no losses. And even if there are losses to be compensated for, God has been kind to me. I can take care of my own financial liabilities, thank you very much.”

This was 10 years ago during a time when no one imagined Rajinikanth's daughters would both end their marriages. One of them has found love again. One hopes the same for the other. One also hopes that Rajnikanth doesn’t take his daughter’s heartbreak to heart.

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