Suriya’s voice is fi lled with that indefi nable fatigue that comes with endless traveling and not enough sleep, perhaps. “I’m still trying to fi gure out the time zones,” he grins languidly. “I think my body hasn’t been able to process all the jet lag, even though I came home a couple of days ago.” The moment he starts talking of Singam 2, his blockbuster-in-the- making, however, all traces of exhaustion vanish, and it’s as though he’s just back from the shooting-spot, still completely involved in the movie. Over to one of the most bankable stars of this era, who manages to keep both mass and class happy
How has Singam’s sequel shaped up, so far?
It’s been a lot of work, I tell you. Also, I wouldn’t necessarily call this a sequel. This is also, in its own way, a standalone movie; it starts and ends by itself. The thing with Singam was, it appealed to all age groups. Sometimes, you appreciate a whole body of work, you treat it as such. This fi lm carries its own identity with characters and people that no one forgets, whom everyone always remembers. They keep referring to him on many occasions. Everyone liked Duraisingam. And this is the fi rst time I’m doing a sequel, because of the sheer love for a character. And so, we were able to do something more challenging – we’ve come up with more situations to push the envelope. It’s an entertainer, of course, but we’ve worked it to bring it to the next level.
An entertainer, you say; does this mean that this one too will have lots of punch dialogues? Like the fi rst movie?
See, what we showed in the movie was simply the way the people who live in a particular place, speak, whether it’s a village or city. Now, as far as Singam 2 is concerned, the hero spends most of his time in Thoothukkudi. He works there, and the film’s about what he feels, how he faces new challenges, how he reacts when he’s pushed, what level he tries to reach and all that. So, punch dialogues are not necessarily the main focus. He faces a lot of personal loss, and has to go through emotional phases. The dialogues simply reflect that.
Singam actually ended with a marriage, didn’t it? At which point does the sequel beginning? Right from where the original ended?
Ha. We didn’t really end with a marriage, did we? (smirks) Was there an actual wedding, or a thaali? The lead pair simply traveled together … and then, what happens? (laughs)
Clever. So, does the sequel follow essentially the same format? What about the villains?
Singam 2 is an entertainer in its own genre; it cannot become something else. The movie has to fit into those patterns. Duraisingam will do what he has to do. He has to take the emotions to the next level. So, how would someone like that react? So far, he’s always handled himself a certain way. But now, he faces new scenarios. He didn’t expect things to happen a certain way, but when they do, how does he go about it? He’s not just a cop in India, this time; he has to be an Indian cop who takes on crime in foreign parts, and take on foreign traitors. [smiles]
What was it like, working with the cast and crew?
It’s like family, you know, meeting the same people, right from the light-men to the photographers; I’ve worked with them before, and we were just meeting again. Everyone part of the film understood how things were supposed to work: the art director, music director – we all knew how things were done; what really worked. And here, I have to mention that Hari sir – well, the focus was all on him. He keeps things going all the time; director Hari does the work of ten men all by himself; it’s like he has the thinking abilities of ten different people. Ten different angles. I haven’t worked with one director so many times (laughs). He was the one who took me into this genre. Until then, I’d been doing experimental work; you know, movies that centred around the city. He was the one who brought me here to – what do they call it, I don’t even know if there’s a right word to use – well, mass films. Movies that reach the people directly; more mainstream. Take Singam 2. Everybody is talking about the trailer; it’s got so many lakhs of hits on Youtube. And everybody’s waiting to see Duraisingam on screen. So, you know, whatever works.
Any interesting anecdotes to share about the shoot?
This film has an amazingly huge cast. Lots of actresses too. You’ve already got Anushka. Then there’s Hansika. We also have Nasser sir, Radharavi sir … also, I’ve never worked with Mansoor Ali Khan sir before. Only seen him in shoots. It was a different experience, seeing him on and off set. [smiles] Rahman sir, too. I remember when I was in the eighth standard or so; I saw him when he worked with my father, on shoots. He used to take photos. I still have them. It was a different experience working with him and he still takes photos. He’s very interested in photography and we often talked about the good old days; he’d ask me about diet and fitness. I had a great time working with this film’s villain too. Danny is his real name and also his name in the film. Coincidence, right? He told me he came from a theatre background; and he wanted to see what a South Indian film was like. He was a big fan of Singam. He watched the film, wanted to be anther Prakash Raj. And he kept asking, Will I be doing this, that, everything? (laughs) He was charged every day. He worked out with me, went jogging and we talked about so many things: foreign actors, British actors, Hollywood …
Any word on Anushka and Hansika?
Their names are Kavya and Sathya, in the movie. Obviously I’ve worked with Anushka before, and Hansika was a revelation. This is the first time I’m working with her and she was such a happy person. I couldn’t make it out at first (laughs). I mean, usually, it’s the done thing to practice dialogues and all that, but this girl was all happy, having fun. It was, you know, very surreal. Like watching the next generation growing up in front of your eyes.
The next generation? You’re a part of it!
(Laughs) I’m 38. Also, it’s my feeling that they don’t take things that seriously. They’re able to switch off and on, you know?
Perhaps it’s because a heroine’s role is usually simpler than the hero’s, in mainstream movies?
Hmm (mulls over this). Still, some situations always need to be worked on. And she’s able to pull it off. She did very well, during the shoot.
What about the comedy department?
Vivek and Santhanam, of course, are a part of the film. Santhanam, you know, is huge these days; doing 2-3 films a day and still, considering the work-load he has, the way he just takes and delivers the lines is amazing. He shoots all night and comes in the morning, and it’s obvious he hasn’t slept at all – but he’s excellent. The stress never shows on his face. Sometimes, we forget words when we’re in the middle of a take, and go, ‘What was that, now?’ But he never does. I keep wondering how they work 24 hours and it simply doesn’t show. And trust me, they have to improvise. They don’t just come and act; to make someone laugh is not easy. They have to maintain the flow; need to know what will be fresh. Santhanam does so many films; he can’t afford to be lax. He has to be innovative.
What about Singam 2’s music?
It’s good. It’s the same team. We’re all so comfortable with each other; I remember, during the photo-shoot, I was all like, ‘Let’s do Singam 3.’ And we could do it, if people motivate us enough.
I remember asking you about Singam 2 in a previous interview, months ago. You were very evasive then.
Well. Hari sir is always very clear, in that respect. He knew what to do, what needed to come onscreen; after every shot, he’d always urge me to do it with more energy. Even for something as simple as turning, smiling and standing he’d try to do more. And I’d feel that he was right. He could think of things we hadn’t even considered. Every shot has to be tight, he’d say. There needs to be energy and entertainment. He has a good eye for that. A knack.
What’s the plan, after Singam 2?
I’m doing films with Gautam (Menon) and Lingusamy. In fact, shooting will be starting in parallel, for their films.
Not considering historic, period films, then?
I’ve been hearing a lot of scripts, and the truth is, for historicals, you need to be have many departments; lots of specialised people. It’s a serious process. Music, costumes … I mean, you can’t do something like that without thinking it through. You can’t start something and not know how it’s going to turn out.