Perazhagan, Vel, Vaaranam Aayiram, 7aam Arivu and now, Maattrraan…. Suriya is all set to wow filmgoers in yet another dual role — as Akilan and Vimalan. “Really? I never realised that this is my fifth outing in a dual role,” laughs Suriya, who courts the audience on October 12 after last year’s tepid 7aam Arivu.
The actor signed up for the film impressed with director K.V. Anand’s narration. The two go back a long way — to the superhit Ayan. “You should see the kind of effort Anand has put in; the pace of the screenplay; the time (even two years!) he has taken to perfect the script with writer-duo Subha…”
Suriya plays the effervescent Akilan and the silent Vimalan, who are stuck together, through life and love. Kajal Aggarwal plays Akilan’s love interest. “Kajal is fantastic and has great clarity. Anand likens her to a computer. Tap the keyboard and you get what you want. Despite not knowing the language, she rocks.”
Considering Suriya’s bashful nature, how difficult was it to play Akilan? “Well, it is easier to play characters closer to the real you, such as Anbuselvan (Kaakha Kaakha) and Sanjay Ramaswamy (Ghajini). Talkative Chinna (Perazhagan), Sakthi (Pithamagan) and Akilan were difficult. To play them, I bank on the director’s vision and influences from friends.”
How does he rate his Akilan? “Ah! I love working. But, I don’t enjoy watching myself on screen. I tend to nitpick. I prefer moving on,” says Suriya, who shot for about 150 days, spread over a year, for the film. “I would play one brother, and essay the other after a month. It was a lot of effort to fix the emotions, the direction in which I had to look… But, it felt great.”
Maattrraan was supposed to be the first Indian film with conjoined twins as the subject, but two others raced to the big screen — Iruvan and the Priyamani-starrer Chaarulatha. “But, this film is not just about conjoined twins. There’s a father-son angle, a social awareness plot, and lots of romance,” says Suriya. “Anyway, Hollywood has done something similar, so have films in other countries. Why, even Tees Maar Khan had a track involving Siamese twins?”
Maattrraan is also being dubbed into Telugu, where Suriya has a good market, as Brothers. Sibling Karthi has lent his voice to Vimalan. “It was nice of him to spare the time. He thought I was stretching myself with too much work and chipped in. Everyone is very excited that two brothers have dubbed for on-screen brothers.” So, will we ever get to see the two sharing screen space? “Something really exciting has to come up for that,” says Suriya, now shooting for Hari’s Singam 2, a sequel to the superhit Singam.
How did he relate to the earnest, bristling Duraisingam? “I was afraid if I could pull off the punch dialogues (remember Singatha photo-la paathirupe, cinema-la paathirupe…), but it worked out well, thanks to director Hari. For inspiration, I looked at Alex Pandian in Moondru Mugam.” Singam 2, he says, “is not there just for the sake of making a sequel. The content is as good as, if not more powerful than, the original. I love pushing myself to portray characters that inhabit a different zone.”
As for Hari, Suriya is all praise for his “excellent pre-production. He takes so much time before shooting that it becomes a seamless process. His films are conservative, but have a different approach. They have mass appeal, and are rooted in small-town India.”
The conversation veers back to Anand. “He’s meticulous and always in search of novelty. Because he has been a photojournalist, there’s always this lovely mix of fact and fiction in his city-based subjects. He’s worked with so many directors, and is a combination of everyone, from Shankar to Priyadarshan.”
Suriya has also agreed to do a film with Gautam Vasudev Menon, titled Thuppariyum Anandan. “We’ve not yet finalised the script, though,” he says.
A learning experience
The actor also speaks about his stint as host on Vijay TV’s Neengalum Vellalaam Oru Kodi that concluded recently. “It was great meeting real people. It called for a different approach. It was all so emotional, unpredictable, unscripted. Initially, I did not know how to handle it. After a few weeks, I fell into the groove. Seeing myself on TV, I used to wonder, ‘Is this how I react to people?’ It was a huge learning experience.”
He also accepts the mixed response to 7aam Arivu. “Sometimes, you put in your best, but it does not work.” Suriya also wowed the Hindi belt with his role in Ram Gopal Varma’s revenge saga, Rakta Charitra. Critics raved about his silent anger, his expressive eyes and more. “Really?” smiles Suriya. Does he plan to go North for more projects? “Not really. I have good scripts here. I have to be offered something really different to make me move from here. This is my stronghold, I am happy here.”