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A chip off the old block

SREEDHAR PILLAISREEDHAR PILLAI

Surya's career has been on the upswing following the success of "Nanda" and "Unnai Ninaithu". Will his latest film, "Sri", create the same impact at the box-office?

IT HAD to happen. How long could the son of a talented actor like Sivakumar, dabble in something as boring as garment exports? So, one day, Surya decided to throw up his job and enter films. Producer Mani Ratnam and director Vassant were on the lookout for a new face at short notice to play the second lead along with Vijay in their film, "Naerukku Naer". Surya walked in to replace Ajit and a star was born.

After a couple of forgettable films, it was once again Ajit's fallout with director Bala that paved the way for Surya to be part of the "Nanda" project. His career has been on the upswing ever since "Nanda", which was not only critically acclaimed but also a big hit. This was followed by the Vikraman-directed "Unnai Ninaithu", which has been declared a hit in the B and C centres.

Surya has an innocent, new-to-the-world look which, no matter how hard he tries, he cannot disguise. On the eve of the release of his new film, "Sri", the actor is tense. Excerpts from the interview:

You seem to be tense over the release of "Sri".

I am anxious about the success of my film. In "Sri", I play a youth who is forced by circumstances to become a rowdy. It is a commercial film that is meant for the masses.

Tell us something about your entry into films.

After completing my B.Com from Loyola College, I was offered a role in "Aasai", but I was not interested in working in films. I joined a garment export firm and was doing extremely well. But soon, work became monotonous and I knew I could not continue working like that for the rest of my life. To do something different and take up new challenges was important to me. When director Vassant came up with the "Naerukku Naer" offer, I decided to give it a try.

There seems to be an attempt to boost your action-hero image through films such as "Nanda" and now "Sri".

In "Nanda", I played a guy who has a haunting childhood, who craves for his mother's love. But in "Sri", I play a happy-go-lucky guy, with a picture perfect family, who is forced once again by circumstances to become a local `dada'. I have no image fixation. On the contrary, I would like to play characters with different shades. In "Unnai Ninaithu", my role was that of an optimistic guy who loses everything for the sake of his love. I don't intend to fall into any `image' trap for the time being.

It is felt that "Unnai Ninaithu" did only average business.

It is a misconception. The film is a superhit in the B and C centres. I can show you the DCR's (daily collection reports) to prove my point. My fan mail has doubled and recently my fans in Erode mobbed me, where the film is running to packed houses even now. I have been able to reach out to people in the interiors and the credit goes to director Vikraman.

It was "Nanda" that made you a star and an actor.

Yes, "Nanda" is definitely the most memorable film in my 10-film-old career. It was the best thing that happened to me. It was once a once-in-a-lifetime role and director Bala had tremendous faith in me. He is a wonderful technician and a perfectionist. Though he took a long time to finish the film, the end result was very good as the film was not only critically acclaimed but also did good business at the box-office. "Nanda" made me realise how powerful a medium cinema is.

Did your father have any role in shaping you as an actor?

My father never interferes with my work. Before I entered the industry, he told me about the difficulties of being an actor. But, he left the decision to me. It is that quality in him that I respect the most. Even today we don't discuss films at home though he gives me his opinion about my career moves. My financial dealings are handled by my mother. I am very close to her.

Who are your role models?

Kamal Hassan, Karthik, Aamir Khan and Mohanlal are my favourite actors. I was amazed when I watched Aamir Khan in "Dil Chahta Hai" after watching "Lagaan". They are very flexible actors, who are willing to experiment. I admire their body language and would shape up like them.

What are your forthcoming projects?

Right now, I am busy completing "Mounam Pesiyathe" for the producers of "Nanda". Then, I will be doing Gautham Menon's film with Jyothika. Then, there is Bala's new film and a couple of projects with Fazil and Saran.

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