Talking Movies: Suriya, as we knew and loved him
With Thaanaa Serndha Koottam releasing this week, the writer wonders if the film will bring us a Suriya we haven't really seen in recent times -- one having fun with his work
Some of us have not lost sight of the fact that it has been a while since the actor in Suriya was allowed to loosen up. Over the years, an increasing stiffness has come to be associated with the self-righteous characters he has played. Their stoic demeanour has come at the expense of the flair that once made the actor so appealing. The effortlesss charm of a Sanjay Ramaswamy (Ghajini), the casual dialogue delivery of a Sakthi (Pithamagan), have increasingly come to seem like long-forgotten qualities of endearment. The vast majority of characters he’s been entrusted to play in recent years have demanded monochromatic portrayals, and taken away from the sheer variety that once made us sit up and cheer the arrival of who we thought was the next Kamal Haasan — given the wide range of roles he was embracing and doing justice to. It’s perhaps that the rise of his stature has resulted in caution over his creative choices. It’s perhaps the all-pervasive pressure of success that has coerced him to keep things safe. Or it’s perhaps the consequence of doing three Singam films in seven years.
It is then a matter of considerable excitement — for me at least — that in almost every interview about Thaana Serndha Koottam, both Vignesh Shivn and Suriya have spoken about how the role of the protagonist is a far cry from the actor’s recent characters, and how his performance has deliberately been crafted not to be as ‘intense’… a word that’s used a lot to describe his recent choice of roles. The trailer of the film too suggests a certain breaking of shackles.
Since Singam in 2010 made him the loudest and the angriest cop in the country, it’s almost forgotten how well Suriya can and has done comedy. Almost every favourite Suriya film of mine has been one that has had him have fun with the material. Pithamagan is perhaps the simplest example of this. Who can forget his shrill voice, the mischievous glint in his eyes, as he cons those around him for a quick buck? The following year, another film — Perazhagan — again served as an example of his comic range… this time, while playing a hunchback to boot. The best bits of Ghajini for me were in the film’s flashback, which has the actor doing humour again, but of the more sophisticated, understated variety. It’s the film he followed Ghajini with — Aaru, with director Hari — that seems to have been a decisive game-changer. This is when he truly seems to have taken a step towards loud, ‘intense’ cinema, perhaps with an eye on the box office. To be fair, he’s tried to balance those films with the occasional Maatraan, 7aum Arivu, and Massu Engira Masilamani — films I imagine he’s thought of as being experiments in a way, products likely chosen to satiate the actor in him. They have, unfortunately, not fetched him desired results, and more importantly in the context of this topic, haven’t all proved to be films that have motivated him enough to loosen up.
This is why Vikram Kumar’s 24 was such a joy. Apart from being a genuinely well-written film, it allowed Suriya, in the villain role, to relax, to showboat, to have fun with the material. ‘Fun’, as generally misconstrued, needn’t always translate to humour; it can simply be an actor, after years, getting reminded that sometimes great commitment means… simply letting go.
Given Thaanaa Serndha Koottam is a remake of Special 26, the protagonist may not be allowed too much flamboyance. But then again, given Vignesh Shivn has promised that his film has been conceived not really as a remake, perhaps he just may be. Either way, it looks to have Suriya as we originally liked him — understated, casual in dialogue delivery, and seemingly being one of us. That alone is reason for much rejoicing.