Daughter of Poornima Rajkumar and Ramkumar, a famous actor in Kannada cinema and granddaughter of Dr Rajkumar, Dhanya Ramkumar is on cloud nine. Her Kannada movie Ninna Sanihake is releasing on August 20th and just before the big release, she has already been offered a role in a Tamil-Kannada bilingual. Although Dhanya has been keeping hush about it, she is elated on how the Tamil and Kannada film industry have been so warm and welcoming.

Ninna Sanihake will be one of the first few releases after the theatres have started to open. Dhanya is making a debut with another debut actor, Suraj Gowda. She is all starry eyed as she speaks to PROVOKE about her Kannada film release on the auspicious festive day of Varamahalakshmi.

1. Please tell us about your growing up days. What was your dream career in your childhood days?
I had the perfect childhood, filled to the brim with loving family members. Basically, in my growing up days, my cousins were my only friends. We would do everything together. We were and still are a close-knit family and would always go on holidays together. At the end of the summer break, we would cry to leave each other. Like normal kids in those days, we used to play games out in the sun and loved the outdoors. I actually jumped a few schools, starting with Vidyashilp to Presidency and then Bishop Cotton Girl’s School. After schooling, I did Journalism and Mass Communications from CMS College. Deep down acting was always what I wanted to do, but I never truly owned it up until I finished college. I was close to my family.

2. When and how did the journey towards being an actor happen? Was it a natural progression since your family was already in the film industry (granddaughter of actor Dr. Rajkumar’s and niece of Shiva Rajkumar and Puneeth Rajkumar who have already taken the Kannada cinema industry by storm). Also, their reaction on being the first girl from your family to enter the film industry?
I always wanted to be in the limelight. I would see the life of an actor around me and always wondered if this is what I could also do. In my head, I had thought that if I can’t be an actor I would be a singer. No girl had done any role as a leading heroine. I didn’t know if the family would like it or the general audience would accept it too. While I was working in the communications industry, I realised this was not something that was making me happy. A lot of people asked me if communications and PR is what I really want to do. I had given a statement out that I wouldn’t act in movies but after saying that it kept playing in my mind on why I said that. I felt I was made to be in the glamour industry.

So, eventually I came to my mom and told her that I want to do something that makes me happy. I told her that I want to study films and then act. I narrowed it down to a theatre school called Abhinaya Taranga Acting School. I felt theatre training is important for every actor. I studied under Gowri Dattu, the Principal at Abhinaya Taranga Acting School. My grandfather was also from a theatre background. And soon my debut film offer came and I signed on the dotted line. My family was shocked but were happy. They said be it boy or girl, as long as you do it the right way, it’s all fine.

I wouldn’t be lying if I mentioned that many people I worked closely with had a major influence in this decision that I took. My family has been very supportive and has given me all of their love and blessings. Dr Rajkumar is my maternal grandfather and my biggest inspiration in all walks of life. Shiva Rajkumar and Puneeth Rajkumar are my uncles, but I have to make my own standing in the film industry. My uncles didn’t really tell me or give me tips saying this is how you should act or not. But they did tell me that I have to follow certain ethics, now that I’m in the industry – sleep on time, eat on time and stay disciplined. They also told me to keep my private and professional lives separate. Oh yes, one acting tip they have given me is to be natural and be myself in front of the camera and keep the essence of an actor.

3. What are your other passions and hobbies? If not an actor what else would you have considered being?
I love to sing, so I would probably have been a singer. I didn’t train professionally but I was part of the school choir and that helped. I love to collect sneakers. I also love to travel and love to dress up and stepping out these days, specially after being stuck at home for so long.

4. You belong to a family where films must have been part of your lives? How challenging is it to carve out a niche for yourself?
I love challenges, it pushes you to give your best. Challenge is the best motivation one can have. There are pros and cons. I will never take them for granted. But at the same time with great power comes great responsibility. If a new comer is entering, they won’t be compared to their predecessors or have the family lineage to maintain. I know, there will be lot of expectations from me and I’m prepared for it. And rightfully so, as I feel I have to keep up to that expectation. I’m ever grateful for the opportunities that may arise but will never take them for granted.

5. What have been some of the biggest highpoints of your journey so far?
Everytime I would give a good shot, everyone gave a standing ovation and that was the best appreciation I could get being a newcomer in the industry. Up until then I had got that feeling only once, when I had won an award for a competition. It was such a thrill. My first ever experience with Ninna Sanihake has been the best. My close friend and co-star Suraj Gowda and the entire team have been more than comforting. I had the best time on set. Not one day I felt like I was “working”.

6. What does family mean to you? How was the lockdown period for you? What is a typical day like for you?
Family is everything to me. My whole childhood was fully of fun family time. I will always stand by them and never let them down. My first priority has always been and will be my family. Lockdown was pretty much of a slump and taught me a lot about myself. I was binge watching shows and movies. Watching movies is a good practice for an actor and that kept me going. But thankfully now things are finally picking up. I like to travel, I have a group of girls that I hang out with all the time. And yes, we take it as it comes.

7. Were there any kind of apprehensions entering the field of cinema or was it a cakewalk?
Yes, apprehensions were there, while I was growing up! Once I made up my mind however I’ve never looked back. There was self-doubt – what if I can’t do or I’m not good at it. Like every other teenage girl who deals with acne, I dealt with too and now thankfully it’s all behind. I started to look better and feel better as I started growing up. Now there are bigger issues to focus on – like my career and I plan to do that.

8. What is your vision and dream in this field that you’re in now?
I want to live a thousand lives through the lens. I want to be able to tell stories that need to be told and also work in socially viable films that help create much needed awareness. I’m now waiting for my release and can’t wait for people to receive it well. Generally speaking, I want to play really good meaningful roles and also experiment in the field of cinema. I want to bring forward stories that haven’t been told before. I want to create awareness on various issues that we are facing in our country and also at the same time, I want to do commercial blockbusters.

9. How different do you feel you are from the others around and what are the changes you want to bring about?
No two people are the same. Women in any industry strive to make a mark, harder than most men I would say! Things are changing and I’d like to be part of that change. I have changed a few things about myself too. I have cut down on going out to parties and want to create a little mystery around me. I guess that’s required to be in this industry. So, I hang out only in very close friend’s homes and try at home as much as possible.

10. What kind of bond did you share with your parents and with the extended family in your growing up years and how did the bond grow over the years?
My parents were always supportive of my decisions. My parents have been very open minded. My mum wanted to be an actor, although she didn’t have the courage to say it when she was young. So, when I told her about my wish, she was quite supportive. My dad was apprehensive, but now he’s open and has taken it well too. They have made it clear now that I have to earn and not be dependent on anyone else. They have always wanted me to stand on my own two feet and give my 100% to anything I put my mind to and I’m doing just that.

11. Are you a home bird or a party goer?
There are days when I want to stay home and binge watch shows and then there are days when I want to step out with my girl gang.

12. How often do you take holidays with family or friends?
Earlier it was twice a year essentially, but COVID has been a huge blow to this plan. Once on a family trip, all of us went to Greece and were there for a good month. It was fabulous. After that I got busy with college and then Covid happened and now I’m busy with my movie release. We used to travel with my parents and my brother to Dubai and other countries, but now since the pandemic we have been travelling with friends to places in India like Udaipur and other cities. We also did a trip with friends to Dubai.

13. What is your dream man like? Would you prefer to date someone from the industry or from outside?
Dream man is really something I haven’t thought about yet. I feel currently all that’s on my mind is my career. I feel that relationships are going to distract me and I don’t want any distractions at this point. I have to keep my focus on work.

14. Are you a romantic at heart in real life? What is the most romantic thing anyone has done for you?
I’m a hopeless romantic. Nothing really romantic has happened so far. Maybe that’s why I don’t prioritise it. My favourite actor is Shah Rukh Khan, the romantic hero, so you can imagine how much of a crazy romantic person I must be. I haven’t found anyone yet and that’s why I’m not in that vibe.

15. Any crazy fan message or incident you’d like to share?
They’re all so loving. I’m always so overwhelmed by their love. For my birthday a few came and gave me really cute gifts. If they come and want to meet me, I’m happy and don’t mind it at all.

16. Any memorable incidents you’d like to share with us during the shoot of your film? You have also sung the songs in your own voice. Tell us more about that.
Multiple actually. We shot a song in Kumta, where I had to climb up a hill and stay up there for a few hours in the scorching sun. It was a beach and we had to climb up the boulder and shoot in the scorching hot sun. My dad had come on the sets and for the first time that day I got nervous as he was around and fumbled on the sets. Definitely a moment for the books. After he left, I became fine and did the shots properly. I love these kind of adventures. Crying for me comes easily so I never need to use glycerine. I’m also allergic to glycerine so I keep a fan in my hand – onto my eyes and once I feel the scene and the moment, I can start crying.

17. What is your fitness routine like?
I work out thrice a week. I go to the gym and do a mix of cardio, legs and upper body. I eat pretty much everything I want. I can’t diet. I think I have a good metabolism.

18. What’s your style mantra? And your beauty regime?
My style mantra is ever changing. One day I want to wear sneakers and the other high heels. Over all though, it’s pretty suited to my body type. I’m fluid and free flowing. When I want to dress up and look hot I wear tight clothes. My beauty regime is simple, it’s all thanks to my dermatologist.

19. Who are your close friends from the industry?
Suraj my co-star to begin with! I’m also friends with Vikram Ravichandran and Shreyas k Manju. My entire family is also from the industry so I guess them too.

20. What is your dream role?
I want to be part of a heist. In a movie of course.

21. What are the projects you’re working on currently?
My first film Ninna Sanihake is set for a theatre release on the 20th of August. I’m in talks with a few films in Kannada and Tamil as well. I’m not allowed to talk about it much yet. I also can’t speak about the production house yet.

22. What are your future plans?
I want to be able to look back and say you did it! I would like to explore more in the field of cinema. If the script comes to me that involves kissing or such scenes I will adhere to only what is required for my character to play not otherwise. Even if it’s for an OTT platform I would not indulge in random kissing. Acting is an art and not just about being a star.

Rapid Fire

1. Your dream role?
Con artist / Heist

2. Your favourite movie? Favourite actor and actress?
Kasturi Nivasa and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. My Grandfather and Jodie Foster.

3. Your pet peeve?
People who interrupt while talking.

4. Some essentials that are always in your bag?
Lip balm, headache balm, mint, cards, phones.

5. Yoga or gym?

6. Indian food or global cuisine?
Indian food always.

7. Closest friends from the industry or outside?
Not from the industry.

8. Beaches or hills?

9. Veg or non veg?
Non vegetarian.

10. Fame or money?
Peace of mind.

11. Indian wear or Western wear?

12. Straight hair or curls?
Soft Curls.

13. The last good film/web series you watched?
Cold Case.

14. A book you’d recommend?

15. First thing you notice about a man?

16. One thing that makes you feel beautiful?

17. Politics, religion, business, sports or entertainment?

18. Go out with masks or rather stay home?
Mask always, life must go on.