Soori: Comedians have to outshine memes to make people laugh
The actor plays important characters in his upcoming releases, Sivakarthikeyan's Namma Veetu Pillai and Vijay Sethupathi's Sangathamizhan
Starting from appearing in blink and miss roles to being addressed as 'Parotta' Soori to becoming the identity of a lot of films, Soori has come a long way. He credits his success to the filmmakers who gave him memorable roles, and his family. “Avangalukaaga dhaan naan, enakaaga dhaan avanga," he says about his family. “My family will always be my top priority.” His upcoming releases, Namma Veetu Pillai and Sangathamizhan, are both family entertainers and he is happy that the genre is back. "We have lost the love for our families and are searching for it elsewhere. Technology has increased the distance between people. Sodhathoda vaazhaama phone la vaazharom. These family entertainers make people realise how much they have missed by living a robotic life."
Excerpts from the conversation:
What makes Namma Veetu Pillai and Sangathamizhan special to you, apart from them featuring your favourite actors, Sethupathi and Siva, respectively?
I usually get to play the friend of the hero in most films, but in Namma Veetu Pillai, Sivakarthikeyan and I play brothers. It was more like recreating the bond we share off-screen. Many times I forgot I was facing the camera. Those who have siblings will connect a lot with the film and those who don’t will long for it. Sangathamizhan won't have my signature body language and dialogue delivery. Vijay Sethupathi mama wanted me to take up this role and gave a lot of inputs to make sure this role was different from my others.
How do you respond to any negative reception to your comedy?
I invest the same hard work for all my films. Also, a comedy scene has the effort of the director too. It's normal for anyone to have hits and misses. There isn't a man who hasn't faced failures, and at the same time, nobody wants to fail intentionally. When a film fails, the comedy in it also fails. Till the 80s, we had a separate comedy track, and the success of the film didn't take a toll on the comedians, but today, the situation is completely different.
During my days as a background artiste, the biggest struggle of my life was getting to eat at least once in a day. So I started a restaurant named Amman in Madurai, a few years ago, with a menu comprising very modestly priced food. I believe this is my charity ground and I want to take it to more people by creating more branches. Despite being a vegetarian outlet, a lot of Muslim people in the area have begun to choose our restaurant over others.
What do you think is the biggest challenge of being a comedian these days?
Audiences have a lot of problems and are unable to focus on a film for more than five minutes. Often, they are looking at their phones and miss the jokes. They ask the next person, "Ennavaam? Edhukku sirikkaraanga?" We have to transcend all these barriers to even make them smile. Comedy is indeed serious business. If we draw reference from somewhere, people are already exposed to something similar, thanks to the growth of the internet. There are comedy TV channels and thousands of YouTube channels available to make people laugh round the clock. Almost everyone is a meme creator these days and most of them are pretty good. Making them laugh, despite all this competition, is the biggest challenge. "Nagaichuvai kulla avlo sumai."
Given the importance you ascribe to friendships, I have to ask you—have you ever regretted taking on a film for the sake of friends?
It’s a sad, long list. It’s not just one or two. I don't want to call out names, but there have been times when I have signed up films with a blind trust for some heroes and directors. They have backfired spectacularly. This injustice is being faced by a lot of actors like me and this must be addressed by someone. Many times, the writing is so mediocre that I have offered to rework the scenes. They refuse saying, "Idhuve super-a irukkunga; ipdiye pannunga." I have wanted to question such filmmakers further, but I have ended up adjusting, as I didn't want to hurt them.
What do you think is the downside of fame and glory?
Where ever I go, people recognise and love me unconditionally. Even if I ask them for a favour, they do it with a smile on their face. Actors are blessed. On the flip side, we hardly have a personal life. I really miss going out with my family, without being surrounded by fans. Being watched at all times is quite stressful, and I have to be watchful about the words I speak and the way I project myself to the world. But I totally understand the excitement people feel when they see an actor; it is completely natural.
You are known for a certain manner of dialogue delivery and performance. Are you keen on breaking this perception?
Definitely! I desire to do films like Naagesh sir's Ethirneechal. I have always sought to redefine myself as an actor. My film with Vetrimaaran anna will mark the beginning of that phase. It's an opportunity beyond all my dreams. The shoot will go on floors after the release of his film, Asuran. I am also entertainted by the stories told by new-gen filmmakers like H Vinoth, Lokesh Kanagaraj, Vijay Kumar and Karthick Naren. Pirichu meyaraanga ellaarum. I'm eagerly waiting to work with them.