He first directed the film Ethirum Pudhirum, loosely based on forest brigand Veerappan and his younger brother's death, starring Mammootty. Financial constraints and political controversies ensured its delayed release in 1999. It received critical acclaim and was awarded second place in the Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Film. The film's producer Purna Chandra Rao made Dharani the director of his next production, starring Vikram, Dhill. The film was a box-office success and his next film Dhool, produced by A. M. Rathnam in 2003, again with Vikram along with Jyothika, turned out to be a blockbuster. He worked with A. M. Rathnam again for the film Ghilli starring Vijay and Trisha which was again a blockbuster. It was followed by Telugu film Bangaram, featuring Pawan Kalyan in the lead, that received below average reviews. In 2008, he directed Kuruvi, rejoining the lead cast of Ghilli. Unlike the previous success in Ghilli, Kuruvi flopped despite its large opening. In 2011, he remade the 2010 Hindi blockbuster Dabangg in Tamil as Osthe, with Silambarasan in the lead role.