Act one, characters two - THE HINDU Article

One wall of his functional office parlour is lined with numerous awards, trophies and mementos. I wonder at their sheer number but then realise many of them are not what he received. “Yes, this is the family trophy showcase,” explains Surya. “There are those belonging to my father (Sivakumar), brother (Karthi) and Jo (Jyothika, his wife). I keep adding mine to this, periodically.” But, Surya doesn't get carried away by the awards. “I do acknowledge the fact that many of these are awarded by the public through a poll, some are judged by renowned jurists, some by an appreciative group or organisation and some by the government. I don't let it go to my head but understand that the roles I play have been appreciated and justly rewarded.”

With 29 films under his belt, including special and guest appearances, Surya is getting ready for the release of 7am Arivu, in which he plays a dual role, and not a triple one as reported in some sections of the press. “It is not really a double act, in the real sense of the word. I play a circus artist and a Buddhist monk during different phases of the movie. And, yes, I did many of the circus acts myself to lend that bit of authenticity to the scenes. I'd have loved to do more of the martial art sequences for the other role, but was not able to spare long intervals of time for training in Thailand,” says Surya. Why? Because, he is basically a home bird. “I try to spend as much time as possible with the kids at this stage of their life. And, spending quality time with Jo is an obsession. She is more a friend than just a wife.”


Probably the reason why Surya has managed to stay out of controversies and gossip. “I don't party or hang out in pubs. I try not to spend unnecessary time outside my home. Moreover, regular shooting schedules and back-to-back films sap you of energy and all one wants is to chill out at home. Fortunately, our family background and the way we have been brought up has helped us maintain a modest lifestyle without the trappings of power and riches,” says Surya.


Over the years, Surya has grown into an artist of substance. He has carefully chosen his scripts and directors, keeping an eye on the public acceptance of his roles. “My movies are meant for an entire family audience. I have learnt to choose scripts and roles accordingly. The odd movie, like Raktha Charitra, was done keeping in mind a national audience. In fact, I didn't want the movie to even release in Tamil, as I knew my audiences would not take to it. Nowadays, even for a Tamil film, I look at a larger audience, as most films are watched by people all over the country.”

In 7am Arivu, Surya has for company Shruti Haasan, who is making her debut in Tamil films. How was it working with her? “In the beginning, I was a bit in awe because she is Kamal-sir's daughter. I wondered how it would be acting with her. But, once we started shooting I realised that she was not just talented, but hard working and puts in all her efforts to make every scene perfect. Like her father, she is a storehouse of knowledge. For Shruti, this is her entry into Tamil and from what I have seen of the rushes, she has a bright future. To start with, her Tamil is impeccable!” says Surya.

Surya has done a variety of roles, but he is remembered by the characters he has played in films such as Ghajini, Khaka Khaka and Singam. Acting is in his blood considering his father Sivakumar was a great yesteryear actor. But, working in films now is totally different from what it was then. “I was told that during the days of my father and actors such as Jaishanker, there would be a release every week or fortnight throughout the year. Can you imagine the kind of frenzied work going on in the industry in those days? Of course, filmmaking was quicker even with the basic technology available then. Nowadays, just a song sequence takes more than a week. Despite technological advancement, production takes longer. Consequently, actors like me end up doing just one film a year. On the brighter side, I am able to give a lot more to the character in the film.” Surya agrees he is a director's actor. “I leave the entire characterisation to the director and follow every instruction. That way, what you get to see in the final product is not Surya, but the character envisaged by the director.”


Shooting for 7am Arivu has been a breeze for Surya. “I have worked with Murugadoss earlier and believe his instinct. He is a meticulous director who takes care of every aspect of the film. I am particularly charmed by the songs in 7am Arivu and the way they have been picturised. Harris Jayaraj has come up with excellent compositions and I am sure, some of them will become instant hits, even before the film's release,” points out Surya.

With 7am Arivu wrapped up, Surya has moved on to director K. V. Anand's Maatran, of which two schedules have been completed. “I have worked earlier in his Ayan and have seen how he has done Ko. Anand is remarkable, both as a cinematographer and director. He excels in detailing the script to the last word and plans every sequence so meticulously, even if it is there for a few minutes in the film. It is a treat to work for Anand and, after 7am Arivu, this film will be a different experience altogether,” says Surya.


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