Thursday, November 25, 2010

'I choose the best from what I get'

Suriya talks about his debut Hindi film, Raktra Charitra, why he chose Ram Gopal Varma's film and all about his career choices down South

He's one of the most loved stars down South, with a string of hits behind him. His boyish good looks and intense eyes made him an instant heartthrob, and over the past few years, the star - concentrating on massy fares - has seriously got the cash registers ringing. And now, with his first Hindi film, Rakta Charitra 2, the star hopes his act will appeal to an all India audience.

The first time the Hindi audience heard about him was when Aamir Khan announced Ghajini, a remake of the Tamil film that starred Suriya. The ever humble star is full of gratitude for Aamir's gesture of introducing him to the national press. "It was so kind of Aamir sir to call me before doing Ghajini. And when we started speaking it was as if we knew each other for years. It was amazing what he did for me, because he didn't need to. Most actors don't do it, including me. I remember when I did a remake of a Malayalam film, though I spoke to the actor, my interaction was not similar to how it was with Aamir," he says.

Which is why, the actor was rather happy that people in Bollywood were not entirely unaware of him. Yet, Hindi films were not something he planned, he says. The star's modesty prevents him from telling us how popular he is down South, but he states how he is content catering to the Southern audience. Ultimately the break came along because of his keenness to work with Ram Gopal Verma. "He's a filmmaker who attracts me. Whether Rangeela or Satya, he creates his own style and all of us down South have been influenced by his craft. We both wanted to work together and when this opportunity came alone, I wanted to do it," says the actor, who is married to actress Jyothika, who one will remember was seen years ago in Priyadarshan's Doli Saja Ke Rakhna. Today, they are a much adored couple staying in Chennai, with their little daughter.

The big question was also about Suriya learning Hindi. "I don't know much Hindi, but Ramu sir assured me that it wouldn't be a problem because my character of Suryanarayan Reddy is a South Indian and it would be normal for him to speak accented Hindi. I have dubbed for the film," he tells us.

Rakta Charitra 1 & 2 tracks the respective journeys of gangster-turned-politicians Paritala Ravi and Suryanarayan Reddy and their brutal rivalry. Part 1, starring Vivek Oberoi released last month and the film underperformed. Suriya is aware of this. "Yes, it didn't do very well, but I'm confident this is an engaging idea. It will be a very different film for the Tamil audience," he says, adding that the audience won't be at any great disadvantage for not watching the previous part. The first part of Rakta Charitra has been compressed into 20 minutes which will be seen in the second part.

Though Suriya never yearned to be a national star, he says he's nevertheless thrilled to get an all India release. He's also happy about bilinguals coming into the picture with Raavan and now Rakta Charitra. "Who wouldn't want a film that releases all over India and gets accepted? Also, if my film works in the South and earns a few more crores from other states, that would be great," he says.

The actor initially seemed more inclined towards edgy, sensitive films. He did Mani Ratnam's Ayitha Ezhuthu, that was simultaneously re-made in Hindi as Yuva. Then he had other films like Varanam Ayiram, Ghajini and Silluna Uru Kadhal. But off late he seems to be going all out with masala blockbusters, Ayan and Singham. The move has helped him gain supremacy at the boxoffice, but these films have been the run-of-the-mill, potboiler hits. Ask him about it and he says, "You know, I was sitting idle at home for 6 months after Varanam Ayiram. I just wasn't getting any script I liked. That's when I realised that I would have to choose the best from what I get. About Ayan, I thought the customs and cargo angle was relatively unexplored. I like the film's 'catch me if you can' tone. And the film was fairly well-researched an, so I felt it would offer the audience something new and exciting. As for Singham, it was an old commitment. I wasn't sure whether to do it, because I had played a cop in an earlier film, Kakka Kakka. But I eventually did it and the film was a hit," he says.
"When I sign a film, I like it to be a complete package, and offer a different experience to the audience each time. I don't mind whether the film is off beat or an entertainer. I can't cater to a small pocket of audience, I have to think about both my rural and urban audiences," he says, adding that he does care to keep his producers happy.

Tell him about contemporary Southern star, Vikram comment that Surya was earlier more in the Kamal Haasan mould doing edgy films while he was more like Rajinikant doing commercial fares like Kandasaamy, and how there seems to be a reversal with Surya turning to commercial cinema and Vikram doing a film like Raavanan. "Did he really say that? I'm not aware" Surya says. "There can be only one Kamal Haasan and Rajnikant and I cannot dream of being that. But I don't think Vikram will say that about me next year after he sees my line-up of films." The actor's next includes Murgadoss' next with Shruti Haasan, 7aam Arivu and another one with K V Anand (his Ayan director).

"Of course I care about my body of work," says Suriya, as we come to end of our interview. "I don't want them to be just Friday releases. I'd like them to be remembered for long. All films may not be up to the mark, but at least I'd like 75 per cent of my films to be very good." Reassuring words indeed from one of the most talented actors, who seems to have turned too boxoffice oriented in the last few years.


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