With his debut in the 1954 film Bedara Kannappa, Dr Rajkumar cemented his place in Kannada film history. Over six decades on, as his granddaughter readies for her screen debut in Suraj Gowda’s Ninna Sanihake, one cannot help but wonder how much of the legend’s acting prowess has been passed on to the third generation. For Dhanya Ramkumar, deciding to be part of Kannada cinema was no accident. Exposed to the glitter of stardom from a young age—she is the daughter of Poornima Rajkumar and well-known actor Ramkumar—her family is the who’s who of Kannada cinema: uncles Shivarajkumar, Raghavendra Rajkumar, and Puneeth Rajkumar, as also, her brother Dheeren Ramkumar, her cousins Vinay Rajkumar and Yuvarajkumar.
Acting may be running in the family genes, yet Dhanya is the first woman from the Rajkumar tribe to enter films. And there’s a negative to hailing from a family of successful film professionals, according to her. “There is so much pressure,” she says, adding, “But I try to keep it away and think of it more as responsibility. The expectations are natural, considering that I come from the ‘Doddmane’ family. I have learned so much since childhood, watching my grandfather and my uncles, and how they maintain a balance between their personal and professional life.” Dhanya also shares how her entire family is supportive of her career choice.
No prize for guessing that her biggest inspiration is her grandfather. Dhanya goes on to add how all the access she had to film sets played a vital role in shaping her dream of being an actor. “Growing up, I was a big fan of Rakshita and Ramya, both successful actors at the time. I remember sitting on the sets and watching them get their hair and make-up done for Puneeth uncle’s films, Appu and Abhi, respectively. I wanted to be like them,” she says.
Unlike many newcomers who aspire to make a strong debut alongside a star, Dhanya has opted to work with four-film-old actor Suraj Gowda, who is also making his directorial debut with Ninna Sanihake, which in English means ‘close to you’. The young actor explains her move, “I needed a film in which I would get seen. This entire film revolves around Suraj and me. He has done a fantastic job with the script.” But, she knows, a good script alone doesn’t guarantee a good film. It’s the actors who have to put in that extra bit of effort. The cast conducted workshops that helped Dhanya get familiar with the character and also helped her build rapport with Suraj, which consequently resulted in “good chemistry on-screen”. “I understood my character, Amurtha, well and could relate to what she was going through. Suraj was a big help as the director and co-star. He was my pillar of support,” she notes.
The film is about a live-in relationship, and as the character is today’s girl, the actor felt she could really relate to her many problems. Dhanya believes that the story has many takeaways and it’s something everyone can learn from. “Also, Raghu Dixit’s music is another big plus. At the same time, it’s only when people watch and spread the word, does a good film become a great film,” says the debutante, fully aware of the pandemic situation and its debilitating impact on the film industry. “Interact less, and just enjoy the viewing experience,” she advises.
The film is slated for an August 20 release.