It’s Suriya’s birthday today. Over the years, he’s metamorphosed from a shy actor to a confident star, and has also turned producer. From his debut in the 1997 Nerukku Ner with Vijay, Suriya has come a long way, picking scripts with care and making a name for himself as a director’s actor. Yes, in the initial days, he struggled to shake a leg, letting his expressive eyes speak instead, but he’s made amends of late. Have a doubt? Check out the pulsating ‘Sodakku’ number from Thaana Serndha Kootam.
Silverscreen draws up a list of five Suriya films that have to be watched for the sheer range, genre hopping and work that has gone into making the characters believable.
Imagine a henchman of sorts who can pummel people into submission but who can’t see a girl (Kalyani, played by Laila) in the eye. A man whose face is stoic but when he learns to smile, all you see is shyness. Finally, imagine a child who kills his alcoholic father and goes to a juvenile home only to find that his mother (Rajshree) refuses to talk to him. And finally, when she feeds him, his eyes reveal his joy and acceptance of fate. It takes effort to bring alive a character (Nandha), who is a mix of opposites. It also takes a director to help an actor see himself in that role. Bala did that with Suriya for Nandha.
Two years after Nandha, Bala teamed up with Suriya and Vikram to give us a film that will be remembered down the ages. In real life and reel, Suriya revels in characters that are not loquacious. Shakthi, the conman with a silver tongue, is a character unlike anything that Suriya has played. He’s effervescent and playful, burying a heart of gold beneath all the bluster. He makes friends with Vikram, who plays a man raised in a graveyard. He’s almost feral and avoids human contact. But, when Suriya’s character is killed, he turns human. The film won Vikram the National Award for Best Actor. But, you remember Shakti’s character years after the film released. He provided the much-needed life to a film that centered around death and destruction.
The world might have gone gaga over Aamir Khan’s physical transformation in AR Murugadoss’ Ghajini (2008), but three years before that, Suriya did all that and more, silently, for the Tamil original, co-starring Asin. He was perfect as Sanjay Ramasamy, the suave businessman who pretends to be a struggling model, and later as the man battling anterograde amnesia. The physical transformation apart, Ghajini was a film that allowed Suriya to showcase multiple emotions — the confident businessman, the besotted young man who tries hard to keep a straight face when told to model for briefs and the wronged protagonist who deals with his anger and memory loss, but is driven to seek revenge by the love lost.
Aaydha Ezhuthu (2004)
Can you forget Michael Vasanth, the student with revolutionary ideals, in a hurry? Cast in this ensemble Mani Ratnam film that deserved more love than it received, Suriya shone as a student leader who wants to keep politicians away from college elections. His love story with Geetha (Esha Deol), a neighbour gave us the lilting ‘Oar Unmai’, and moments to smile at, thinking of the things love makes people do.
His revolution, and the final showdown with Inba (a brilliant Madhavan) at Napier Bridge is still remembered for its realistic feel. Michael also inspires a whole generation of students to take to politics, including Balakrishnan (Siddharth). This was a film that was ahead of its time, and showed that students must take part in the decision-making process.
Vaaranam Aayiram (2008)
After their successful collaboration in Kaakha Kaakha, Suriya teamed up with director Gautham Vasudev Menon for this gem of a film that redefined romance, and acknowledged physical attraction, something most films sweep under the carpet. Some might consider it a tad long, but does that really matter when the sweeping arc of the movie takes you on a ride like none other. The film is as much about Krishnan (Suriya) and Malini (Simran)’s love as it is about the travails life throws at their son Surya (Suriya). He falls in love with Meghna (Sameera Reddy), travels abroad to meet her, sings and woos her, watches her die, returns a wreck, turns a drug addict, and suffers as his family suffers with him. He seeks redemption and finds it in the Army. He finds love again in Priya (Divya Spandana) to the lilting ‘Anul Mele Panithuli’ and the film narrates his relationship with his father. This is an ode to a father like none other. Also, to a tender love that can be lost and found again. And, whether or not Suriya and Gautham team up again, this is one film they can always be proud about.