Actor-producer Delhi Ganesh is a content man today. With his subtle sense of humour, he continues to entertain the audience even at 72! Having worked in more than 500 films, in all the four Southern languages and Hindi, with almost all renowned actors and directors, he leaves his stamp on every role that he portrays on-screen — be it a comedian, supporting actor or an antagonist.
Who can forget some of his impeccable performances as the Palakkad cook in Michael Madana Kama Rajan (1990) and the prying manager in Avvai Shanmughi (1996)? Once the greasepaint is on, nothing deters this multi-faceted artiste from playing his part.
While theatre has always been his passion, films gave him recognition and fame. After a brief stint in the Indian Air Force, the actor in him was attracted to stage plays. Says ‘Delhi’ Ganesh, “I never thought that I would become an actor. It was never my wish. For a stage show, someone else was supposed to enact a particlar role and I ended up doing it. Initially, I was quite apprehensive, but once I took the stage, everyone appreciated my performance. That made me pursue acting. Later, I joined a Tamil theatre group in Delhi and started performing in different cities. Finally, I moved to Madras and joined Kathadi Ramamurthi’s troupe in early 1970s.”
Ganesh was working for the Food Corporation of India in Chennai when he was introduced to Major Sundarrajan, Visu, Cho Ramaswamy and Nagesh. K Balachander gave him a chance to act in Pattina Pravesam (the 1977-play that was later made into a movie). It was also he who suggested that Ganesh adds the prefix ‘Delhi’ to his name.
He went on to reminisce the days when plays were staged at Triplicane Parthasarathy Sabha. “We’d have three full-packed shows on Sundays! Such was the kind of response theatre drew. I’ve fond stage-memories that I cherish even now. Unfortunately, I am unable to involve myself in stage plays now.”
After quite a few plays, the actor went on to do a range of films like Unnal Mudiyum Thambi (1988), Sindhu Bhairavi (1985), Punnagai Mannan (1986), Nayagan (1987), to the recent — Papanasam (2015), 36 Vayadhinile (2015). He is gearing up for Mani Ratnam’s upcoming flick Kaatru Veliyidai. “I don’t being labelled as an actor. I’d rather say that I am an artiste. I feel that a good actor should do every type of role. At the end of the day, it is important to play the character convincingly.”
The versatile actor believes in realistic acting. With immaculate comic timing and his articulation skill, he redeemed many roles from mediocrity to a reasonable level of credibility. “Over these years, I have learnt a lot. Artistes of our times are from the stage; so, performance comes naturally to us,” he explains.
Ganesh is immensely thankful to Balachander and Balu Mahendra who during 1980s and 1990s, gave him characters that were older than his actual age. “I’ve had no issues with it. For instance, in my debut play, Dowry Kalyanam, I played a middle-aged man, but I was 28 then. As long as people enjoy my acting, I have no complaints. Not all drama artistes have made it big in cinema and I consider myself lucky. Through my roles in films I want to make the audience laugh and provide them value for their money,” he smiles.
Interestingly, Ganesh has never played the lead. “Opportunities always knocked on my door and I never went after them. I never had the chance of playing the male lead and also, I didn’t find dance sequences and fight scenes realistic. I feel the quality of the roles I play is more important,” he points out.
After Apoorva Sagotharargal (1989), he never took up many villain roles and he said the audience didn’t want to see him as a villain. The septuageneraian does ad films and television soaps when he is not busy with films.
Unlike many, Ganesh has had the privilege of acting along with stars like Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth for a long time. “I like both of them. Kamal has a ‘class’ appeal and Rajini, ‘mass’ appeal. But Superstar is an amazing human being to be around. I like Ajith, too. He’s non-controversial and keeps his opinions to himself,” he observes.
The actor is now seen acting for young directors. “Some are really brilliant and I feel motivated to work with the next-gen. They have fresh ideas, but I feel that young directors should define the roles of supporting artistes with care. I mingle with everyone on the sets as it makes me feel young!” he exclaims adding that he believes in the director’s conviction. Recently, he was also a part of Put Chutney’s ‘What if Batman Was From Chennai?’ “I never had any clue who Batman was! I never expected it to become such a big hit online. It was widely-talked about everywhere.”
This Kalaimamani recipient recently turned producer and launched his son Maha as a hero with Enakkul Aayiram. He also won the State award for Pasi (1979). “What’s there in awards? To me, people’s recognition matters the most. I have heard people saying I am an extraordinary performer. What more do I need?” he beams.