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"You're the first Tamil Hamilton and the first Tamil Mr Burr" - An Interview with Diluckshan Jeyaratnam

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Singer and songwriter Diluckshan Jeyaratnam has recently turned musical theatre actor. His onstage debut in acclaimed musical ‘Hamilton’ in Germany, playing both the titular role of Alexander Hamilton and Mr Burr, has led to a quick succession of announcements on his involvement in theatre productions ‘Avenue Q’ and ‘Wicked.’ Diluckshan will also be opening for singer Hariharan’s March 2024 concert in Germany. 

Diluckshan has been growing a loyal following online with his covers of creative takes on Tamil cinema hits and his own original music. He was not trained in Carnatic music, instead being mentored and playing alongside his musically inclined family. 

Despite his Tamil fluency, Diluckshan frequently collaborates with Tamil poets and lyricists like Rasmi Ram from the UK and Agilan S Manickam from Malaysia to write at the level of complex Tamil poetry that interests him, as heard in his most recent album 'Payanam.'

What was your experience on Hamilton like? 

Hamilton was the first time I was able to answer the question: ‘what are my dream roles?’ Whenever any one of my colleagues asked me, I was like, 'I don't know. I would love to do different kinds of things, but I don't have a dream role'. But then I saw Hamilton on Broadway in 2016, and that was the first time I fell in love with these two principal characters. Without knowing it, I kind of manifested it out to the universe. I was like, I really want to be part of the show one day. Then, it finally worked out in Germany, and it was incredible. It was everything I imagined but also much more because, obviously, the show itself was such a huge undertaking with two of the roles. But also... the people I got to work with… just so inspiring; really kind-hearted, warm, talented people. 

I also have that feeling of representation and diversity, which are really core values of Hamilton as a show. I feel it even stronger now. One of my colleagues back in Germany, was like, 'I don't know if you realize it, but you're the first Tamil person to be part of the show, and you're the first Tamil Hamilton and the first Tamil Mr Burr. 

Honestly... I'm still grieving it all having ended. Being back in Denmark is really wonderful, but I'm still missing it so much. It was great. 

Is Avenue Q your next project? 

I'm [going to] do some concerts at the end of November in Copenhagen, some Disney Symphony concerts. But Avenue Q is [going to] be like the next long show, so to speak. 

It was the first show I ever saw, like a professional musical theatre show. [I liked] the whole idea of actors walking around the stage with puppets… and they had to do puppetry, but at the same time sing and talk, and kind of also act with their faces at the same time. They would also dance sometimes while still doing the puppetry, and the puppets became so alive. I was really amazed by that. That is definitely [going to] be a huge new challenge for me. I don't know if you know the show, but it's really hilarious… It's an 'adult' puppet show… And I don't consider myself a comedic actor, so I'm very much excited to try that out.

Do you have a favourite song from that musical? 

‘Everyone's A Little Bit Racist.’ I love that song because, for me, it speaks the truth. I like a lot of the songs [from Avenue Q], but that one in particular, I love. 

Your most recent announcement was regarding your upcoming role in Wicked? 

They just announced it yesterday. I'm still not really over it. It's kind of crazy. It's a show that I honestly never expected that I would be a part of. It's one of those huge shows that [we thought] is never [going to] come back to Denmark. This is not Copenhagen. This is a much smaller town, but it has a huge musical theatre community. So the fact that we're doing it here, we're [going to] do it in our very own way, with our very own costumes and set design. I'm really excited to be part of that. 

Hariharan is a huge inspiration and the favourite singer of many Eelam Tamils. How do you feel about the upcoming Hariharan concert you will perform as an opening act for?

True, he is mine as well. He was the reason I began singing in the first place. I so badly wanted to do what he did, so I always tried to copy… what he did vocally. He was the first singer who made me [want to] try out singing just at home… It's very personal in a way, getting to open for him. Even if I wasn't opening, I would go to just watch the concert. That's how excited I was when I heard the news. But, getting to be an opening act… I never expected that. It's incredible.

It is clear you are passionate about the Tamil language. Do you see yourself telling Tamil stories in your art? 

The stories I want to tell are very much grounded in something personal… something I can relate to, something maybe that I've experienced, with a slight twist, to make it a little more fictional. 

[For example] I'm currently writing a story that is very much based on a moment in my life, but then I try to put some extra drama on top just to make the story more interesting and intriguing. So, the stories themselves have to be grounded in personal things. I want to tell them in [the] Tamil language. I would just love to tell those stories in Tamil because it's a beautiful language. It deserves beautiful stories. 

Five works of art which inspred Diluckshan

1. Pulp Fiction - Inspired by the writing of the characters and their dialogues.

2. Hamilton - Inspired by its way of storytelling through music, choreography and lighting.

3. Panchathanthiram - Inspired by its comedic writing mixed with mystery and tension.

4. Raavanan - Inspired by its visual storytelling. 

5. Mouna Raagam (soundtrack) - Inspired by Ilayaraja's storytelling through the score.  

Diluckshan hopes to continue his work in musical theatre. He is also attending film auditions and hopes to explore acting on the silver screen too.

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