Delhi Ganesh, celebrated as a Kalaimamani award-winning actor, has left an indelible mark on the world of Indian cinema. Renowned for his versatility, he has portrayed diverse supporting roles across Tamil, Hindi, Malayalam, and Telugu cinema, and has also lent his voice for dubbing. With a career spanning over 400 films since 1976, Delhi Ganesh’s influence extends beyond the silver screen to television serials and web series.

Before his cinematic acclaim, Delhi Ganesh was an integral member of the Delhi-based theatre troupe, Dakshina Bharata Nataka Sabha. Following his tenure in the Indian Air Force from 1964 to 1974, he embraced his passion for acting and transitioned seamlessly into the world of cinema. Bestowed with the stage name Delhi Ganesh by the eminent director K. Balachander, he made his memorable debut in the Tamil film industry with “Pattina Pravesam”.

What are your most enjoyable on-screen collaborations?
I enjoy comedy roles. I don’t like villain roles. In Radhika’s serial, I portrayed a villainous character where the antagonist attempts to harm her. However, as Radhika’s character was noble, the audience did not appreciate my portrayal, and some even voiced their disapproval. Consequently, Thuglak magazine published an article questioning, “Delhi Ganesh Ku Entha Role Thevaiya?” This experience led me to decide against accepting such roles. Subsequently, I portrayed a sophisticated villain in the movie “Aboorva Sagotharargal.”

Which character is closest to your heart?
I have enjoyed all the comedy roles I’ve portrayed throughout my career. Recently, during a felicitation event for director Singeetam Srinivasa Rao, where they screened “Aboorva Sagotharargal” and “Raja Paarvai,” director Mani Ratnam was present and appreciated my work. I always strive to do justice to the characters I’m given. However, the character I portrayed in the movie “Michael Madana Kamarajan” holds a special place in my heart. Additionally, “Aethirree” and “Aahaa” are among my favourite roles.

How has the portrayal of humour evolved in Tamil cinema over the decades?
From the beginning, the evolution of comedy in Tamil cinema has been remarkable, progressing from N. S. Krishna to Yogi Babu. In the past, there were five prominent comedians, all of whom were constantly occupied with work. However, in comparison to that era, there are now fewer individuals specializing in comedy roles. Female comedians such as Manorama, Sachu, and Kovai Sarala were prominent figures during those times. Surprisingly, there are fewer notable comedians in Tamil cinema today, and the reason behind this trend remains unclear to me.

What are some landmark comedy films or comedians that have significantly contributed to the evolution of comedy in Tamil cinema?
Currently, the landscape of Tamil cinema has undergone significant changes. Present-day movies predominantly focus on themes of community upliftment, addressing issues of cruelty, political and police harassment, which is good. Moreover, grand big-budget productions have become the prevailing trend, reflecting a shift towards narratives akin to those seen in Hollywood. With such serious and weighty subject matter, there is limited space for comedy to flourish. However, it is important to note that trends in cinema are ever-evolving, and a revolution may occur in the future where comedy reclaims its prominence on screen.

How has the globalisation of cinema influenced the comedic sensibilities of Tamil filmmakers and audiences?
It’s true that most Indian movies that have gained international recognition typically follow a grand and big-budget Hollywood-style format, rather than being comedy-based. This shift in focus has resulted in fewer comedy-centric films reaching global audiences. Similarly, in the past, when comedy legends like Stan Laurel were at the forefront, there was also a notable absence of comedy-based movies in the mainstream. This suggests a broader trend in the industry towards prioritising grandiose narratives over comedic ones.

What is your connection to stage drama?
I initially ventured into films through stage dramas. One notable experience was playing the role of an inspector in the stage drama “Thuppariyum Sambu,” which ultimately led to my role in the movie “Polladhavan” in 1980. While theater dramas still occur, the landscape has evolved with the rise of OTT web series and social media, reducing the scope for stage plays. Nonetheless, I recently had the pleasure of enjoying productions like “Ponniyin Selvan” and “Draupadi” by Komal. Additionally, some older dramas are being revived and repeated, adding to the richness of the theatrical experience.

Could you share some of your off-screen funny incidents?
I have had numerous amusing incidents on sets with Kamal Haasan. When I got married, my father-in-law, who hails from Trivandrum, used to visit Chennai frequently and often expressed dissatisfaction with various things. I shared this with actress Srividya during the shoot of “Aboorva Sagotharargal.” During a break, as I was explaining how I imitated my father-in-law, Kamal overheard and burst into laughter. This inspired him to create the character of ‘Palakkad Mani Iyer’ for the movie “Michael Madana Kama Rajan.” Additionally, actor Vijay, known for his jovial nature, always maintained a respectful demeanour towards me due to my sincerity, often keeping interactions minimal.

What would you like to tell the aspiring comedy artists?
Comedy is indeed an art, and it’s no easy feat. While making someone cry may come naturally, evoking laughter is a challenging task. Observation plays a crucial role; by keenly observing real-life characters, one can incorporate their quirks and mannerisms into acting. Only observational comedy tends to be genuinely funny, as attempting humour without proper observation may yield mixed results.

Favourite comedy scenes
Thillana Mohanambal- T S Balaiah train scene, Kadhalikka Neramillai story narration scene between Nagesh and Balaiah and Thiruvilayadal- Nagesh scene.

Best comedic timing in Tamil cinema?

Your memorable comedy dialogue?
Michael Madana Kamarajan first night scene dialogue starts with ‘Tappu Ilaiya?’