The camera embraces him and his eyes mirror intelligence; over time, he has worked his way out and delivered blockbusters and with lightning speed. Today Suriya has emerged as one of the most riveting and versatile performers in South cinema, but that hasn’t changed him in the least. And that’s what sets him apart from the rest. Sashidhar Adivi decodes the real man behind the superstar as the actor looks back at his eventful journey with humour and affection.
For someone who is known to go to any extent to experiment with his looks, belief in destiny is not natural. Yet, Suriya believes in it! “During my initial years, I had to struggle a lot. It was as if I had no acting in me. I am not a born actor; I would say I am an actor because destiny chose me. When I was in 12th standard, appa’s (dad) astrologer-friend told him, ‘Your son will become an actor’. Appa thought he was talking about Karthi but was surprised when the astrologer was referring to me. He was like, ‘He hasn’t spoken ten words in his life. I don’t see anything of an actor in him’. When he went on to prophesy that I would have a love marriage, appa asked him to get out! Today, I am an actor and also have a Punjabi wife,” Suriya smiles. So has he learnt Punjabi from Jyothika? “No, I have taught her Tamil,” pat comes the reply.
As someone who constantly yearns to offer something new, Suriya has had to polish himself under pressure. “There were upsetting moments initially and now I know my limitations.”
WHAT IS THAT DRIVING FORCE
IN HIS LIFE?
“I have earned enough money and fame. So, I ask myself, ‘What can I give back? What should I do that will make me feel proud?’ I have my fans that respect and love me and I have a responsibility towards them. Their expectations are only growing. Even if I make an average film, they still love me. Kamal sir is someone I look up to. Be it ‘Nayagan’, ‘Mahanadi’, or any such great movie, he does things with lot of conviction. He doesn’t care whether a film is a hit or a flop,” Suriya opens up.
Good actors and good wine are similar in many ways, both mature with age. The actor has now reached a stage where he thinks he should make films that are memorable and not just for their entertainment value. “Take films like ‘Shankarabharanam’, ‘Eega’, ‘Baahubali’, ‘Manam’. These films have transcended borders. They are not regional. Their shelf life is much longer. I am not boasting that I am making Indian cinema proud. I am just happy and proud to act in and produce films like 24. Films like ‘Aditya 369’ and ‘Mr. India’ are very few and far between,” he says.
So does the have a target audience in mind when he chooses scripts?
“Who doesn’t want good entertainment? The audiences are smarter than filmmakers. When choosing a script I think of how futuristic it can be. I am trying to give something which is sensible. Audiences are more aware today,”
the charming actor analyzes.
His latest flick ‘24’ IS A FILM WHERE HE STRADDLES THREE CHARACTERS WITH CONTRASTING SHADES. HOW CHALLENGING WAS IT TO SWITCH FROM ONE ROLE TO ANOTHER, WE WONDER. HOW SURIYA LOOKS AT IT IS REVELATORY.
“As an actor, I think it is time I start contributing to cinema. It’s not like I always expect my director (to deliver the goods). I have been at this for 18 years now. At my age, Kamal sir was experimenting with versatile roles. So, it’s not something that I have pioneered,” Suriya puts it, with all humility.
The actor is also in awe of director Vikram Kumar’s energy and dedication. “He is so full of positivity, and that translates onscreen through his characters. He is an excellent storyteller. At the end of his narration for 24 which took four-and-a-half hours, at a stretch, I could not but help stand up and appreciate him. Imagine someone doing that without even a sip of water. He enacts every character in his movie, including the heroine. Such is his dedication.”
24 has received rave reviews and minted an approximate gross amount of INR 33.5 Crore from box offices across Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka and Kerala within its first weekend
Suriya feels that, despite the movie’s Sci-Fi genre, it remains an Indian film at heart. “It’s not a copy of a Hollywood movie. The father-son, mother-son sentiment and such elements are thoroughly Indian. The canvas, the backdrop, the sets, the gadgets, the trains, the locations – everything is dreamy yet real. When I heard the narration, I felt I had to help Vikram translate his story on to celluloid. What was initially planned to be a two year project was done in a one year. Fortunately, we had the help of my brother-in-law (Jyothika’s brother), who ensured that the best technicians were on board,” says Suriya.
Like his contemporaries in Kollywood and Tollywood, Suriya seems to be making efforts to broaden his horizons. “Director Chandrasekhar Yeleti and I have been toying with a couple of ideas for a long time now. I already lost an opportunity to work with Rajamouli early on and wouldn’t like to repeat that. Also, there are three stories which Trivikram Srinivas and I have been discussing. I don’t know whether it will be a bi-lingual.”
So now that Karthi has stunned the Telugu audience in ‘Oopiri’ (‘Thozha’ in Tamil), has the pressure gone up? “If I do a film in Telugu, it will have to be better than what Karthi did in Oopiri,” Suriya signs off, adding that a film with Jyothika will be announced by the end of May.
Meanwhile, the superstar’s Agaram foundation is getting bigger, thanks to its volunteer-driven model. “Our volunteers have taken the responsibility to help out about 1,300 students with processing applications, etc. We have also started a journal to promote environmental literacy. After a conference last month, I understood issues of which I was ignorant. Environmental consciousness is the need of the hour. Just last December, Chennai was flooded, but come summer, people are waiting for drinking water tankers.” Suriya says he wants to be someone who practises what he preaches.
“ My daughter has stopped using plastic bags. Global warming’s effect is already here. We have to make conservation a part of our lifestyle,”