Thamizh Talkies: The sun among stars
The writer is a producer and art curator
Icons are powerful—I mean the living, breathing ones, not of the apps on your smartphone. Some icons inspire with their work while others inspire with their personas. Few impress us with both. Who they are and what they do become aspirational and heartening. Suriya is one such icon. A National Award has been long overdue and it could have been given for any of his earlier standout performances (like in Vaaranam Aayiram, for example), but the timing of this one (for Soorarai Pottru) couldn’t have been better! It’s not just a “precious coincidence” to get the award as a birthday present (as Mohanlal had tweeted); it’s also a triumph against all odds with a film that didn’t see a theatrical release in 2020 due to the pandemic.
Any other star would have insisted on waiting it out. But Suriya had a lot riding on this film. It was a biopic of sorts, and the production scale was big. It was a film with a heart of gold and wasn’t a regular triumph of the underdog tale. Furthermore, it was also the first time Suriya and 2D Entertainment were backing a ‘woman filmmaker’; so, the task of ‘ensuring an opening’ was entrusted to Suriya, the sole ‘bankable factor’. The sale of a film is predetermined on the basis of actor-director-music director combinations. Here, Suriya was both the actor and producer; so, there was immense pressure to hold the release back. The world was reeling under the first wave of the pandemic, and so, an ‘opening’ was out of the window. The film had to be released somehow, and producers Suriya, Jyotika and the co-producer Rajasekar Pandian saw an opportunity where the world saw a problem.
OTT vs theatre is a hot topic till date, but OTT platforms are blessings in disguise for filmmakers seeking a legit avenue to release their film when theaters are closed. The move to release a big film like Soorarai Pottru on a digital platform was not supported by the film industry then. Even when Kamal Haasan had suggested that Vishwaroopam could be a ‘direct-to-home’ release as it would give a larger audience access to the film, it was met with only rebuttal. But this time, the situation warranted such a release, and this wasn’t new for 2D which had premiered Jyotika’s Ponmagal Vandhaal earlier on the same OTT platform in which Soorarai Potru opened to great response.
Sudha Kongara created history with her film in more ways than one. The might of a hero who went the extra mile was seen both on screen and off screen as Suriya ensured the film was mounted and promoted like a theatrical release. A seamless understanding between direction and production departments goes a long way in ensuring success—sometimes, as long as the distance between Chennai and Delhi!
The five National Awards for the film are feathers on the already decorated 2D crown. With Sudha Kongara’s success, one can see a ‘clearing’ for women technicians and talents to forge ahead. There is light at the end of a long road, and it perhaps is not a tunnel anymore for women filmmakers? This is still a question mark because one wants to see more companies like 2D come forward to work with women writers and directors, and front lined by major motion picture movie stars.
There are stars, and then, there is Suriya, who has consistently strived to dodge the regular and rise up to the top line of bankable heroes with stories he believes in. Some films work and some don’t, but his intent to give good cinema continues. The awards are a pat on the back for the effort taken not just for one film but a bunch of them. Soorarai Pottru is a representative of many, and its hero, an example to many. Perhaps Mani Ratnam foresaw this success and renamed him? Shine on like the sun you are, Suriya!