Actor Ganesh’s first feature film was the action entertainer Tapori (2002), in which he played the role of an antagonist. If that film had worked, Ganesh would probably not be the friendly, neighbourhood amara premi (meaning: immortal lover) that we now know and love. After bringing the roof down with his reality TV show Comedy Time (2003, 2009), Ganesh made us weep with Mungaru Male (2006). The romantic tragedy was a landmark film that launched the careers of everyone involved, including writer Preetham Gubbi, who collaborated with Ganesh for the fifth time in the recent romantic drama Banadariyalli (2023).
After Mungaru Male, a string of hit romantic comedies including Galipata (2008) and Sangama (2008) solidified Ganesh as a ‘romantic hero’ in the Kannada film industry. All of his films feature his signature dialogue delivery and emotional monologues, along with a beautiful love story. “I had attended a friend’s wedding in Madikeri and a line of women who were waiting to gift the couple started shouting, ‘Ganesh, we love you!’ I looked towards them and saw a bunch of women with kids. I realised that they were the Mungaru Male crowd. It had that much of an impact and created a brand for me. My brand is that I appeal to the family audience,” says Ganesh.
While his “brand” has never stopped him from experimenting with roles such as in films like Circus (2009), Style King (2016) and Geetha (2019), they have not worked for him as much as the romantic archetype did. Which is probably why people want to see him only in romantic roles. But for Ganesh, both kinds of films give equal joy. “I feel happy because I have put in my effort and did my best, irrespective of the film’s genre. Though I like to play other roles, I feel that we should also give what audiences want. For instance, I did a film called Pataki (2017) in which I played a cop. The film worked very well and had a great opening. However, I did not immediately do another cop role because there needs to be a gap.”
Besides Mungaru Male and Banadariyalli, Ganesh worked with his childhood friend, director Gubbi, on films like Maleyali Jotheyali, Dil Rangeela, and 99. Speaking about his relationship with the filmmaker, Ganesh shares, “We have a lot of fights and disagreements. We fight during the shoot as well. I would get an idea while acting and we’d have a lot of back-and-forth because of that. We do not carry it over after the shoot though. We used to feel bad about these arguments when we were younger, but we mostly communicate things through our assistants now.”
A person who has redefined romance for a generation, Ganesh claims that he is not that romantic in real life and that he was given that image by directors such as Gubbi and Yograj Bhat. “I am just a performer. I can act and say dialogue well on camera, but when they say, “Cut” I just sit in a corner. I am not that kind of person in real life. Personally, I like to watch thrillers. But if someone offers me a role in a thriller film, I might say no because that is not what I want to do professionally. I play romantic roles because that works for me and pays me well.”