Dhirendra talks Tanzanian roots and working alongside Hollywood’s stars

Growing up in Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania, Dhirendra always dreamed of entertaining the masses. He was always inspired by his father, an avid cinemagoer, and knew that he was destined to make movies. Absorbing films quickly became his favorite past time, when other children spent their days on family beaches, he would study his favorite films and television shows, mimicking what he saw on the screen. He was heavily influenced by Bollywood movies, Blaxploitation, Martial Arts films from China and Hong Kong and spy movies like James Bond. He found that even if a film was filled with special effects and stunts, it always had an inspirational message, promoting the triumph of good over evil, strive and you will succeed. Such messages motivated Dhirendra to become a storyteller himself, and with his innate talent and drive to succeed, he quickly become an in-demand actor.

“Acting provides an understanding of humanity. What initially starts as a subjective process from a characters point of view enhances objectivity, and allows us to be non-judgmental, express humility, and have a deeper understanding of humanity,” he said.

Now, Dhirendra is known in Canada as a recognizable face from one of the country’s hit TV movie series Jinnah: On Crime. The films, including Pizza 911 and White Knight, Black Widow allowed the esteemed actor to captivate the nation. He quickly rose to fame, starring in other hits like Da Vinci’s Inquest and Nina’s World, to name a few.

“Dhirendra is easy going, fast learning and an amazing talent. He is a skilled actor because he's focused and serious about his craft. Always willing to communicate and takes direction well, Dhirendra goes the extra mile when it comes to committing to the job. A charismatic personality, he's a joy to work with,” said Executive Producer Rick Remender, who worked alongside Dhirendra on SYFY’s Deadly Class.

Also impressing viewers around the world on the big screen, Dhirendra has worked alongside some of Hollywood’s most recognizable faces. One such movie includes the 2008 horror Possession, starring Golden Globe nominees Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Cruel Intentions) and Lee Pace (Captain Marvel, Pushing Daisies).

A remake of a successful Korean movie, Possession follows Jess, played by Gellar, a woman whose life turns surreal after an automobile accident leaves both her husband Ryan and her brother-in-law Roman, played by Pace, in a coma. Things take an even darker turn when Roman wakes believing that he is Ryan. As Jess tries to deal with these increasingly disturbing events, she also struggles with the possibility that either the spirit of her husband has returned to her or that something very sinister is at work. Dhirendra was attracted to the film for its psychological thriller, paranormal genre.
“The story has multiple layers of intrigue and suspense, and displays how love, grief and longing can steer a person away from reality. A momentary lapse of judgement can lead to one’s world turning topsy-turvy,” he said.

Dhirendra played the pivotal character of Dr. Rajan, a compassionate and perceptive person. Over a third of the film takes place in the intensive care ward of the hospital, and Dr. Rajan’s perspective becomes a key element of the story for the audience, seeing the relationship between Jess and Roman unfold through his eyes. In a vital moment in the film, Dr. Rajan’ clocks in on a touch of the hand between these two who play sister and brother in law, taking their relationship to the next level as Jess begins to be taken in by the web of deceit that Roman weaves to make her believe, that he is her husband in spirit. Also, in an alternate ending for some international markets, the film ended with Dr. Rajan’s voice acting as the narrator, relaying the epilogue.

Stylistically, the two Swedish directors brought a very Eurocentric style to the movie, where subtlety was key, featuring understated performances with sometimes extreme close-ups to go beyond the surface of what the character is saying. Dhirendra’s training in Europe made him a perfect match for the film.

“I loved being in the moment in every scene. This was a truly fun experience as the film was directed by two directors, Joel Bergvall and Simon Sandquist, working simultaneously. One oversaw performance and the other ambience and mood,” said Dhirendra.

Most of Dhirendra’s scenes were shot close up. With this layered cinematic ‘auteur’ approach, the challenge for the actor was to be minimal and ‘honest’ in every frame. A dream come true for an actor trained in the theatre, as, for the honesty to read one has to keep it under the ‘surface’. He was able to show audiences all around the world what he is capable of, and he did not disappoint.
Be sure to check out Possession.

Written by Annabelle Lee
Photo by Derek Stevens
Published March 14th, 2019

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