Suriya is without a doubt one of the most talented actors in the Tamil industry. And he has worked hard to get where he is. From appearing in forgettable roles that did nothing to boost his confidence, he transformed into a star to reckon with and grew out of his father, Sivakumar’s, shadow.
In an author-backed script, Suriya has rarely gone wrong. Though people raved about Vikram’s performance in “Pithamagan”, Suriya was the better actor of the two, pulling off the loquacious swindler with charm and conviction.
In “Nandha”, his breakthrough film, he transformed from being an unsure chocolate boy to a silent, simmering hero of many shades. And who can forget Anbuchelvan, the upright police officer from “Kaakha Kaakha” who sent the ladies into a tizzy and turned him into a craze overnight?
Cop movies are a popular genre and usually feature a superman in khaki, who dispenses justice from a high pedestal. But Suriya brought a certain vulnerability to Anbuchelvan that humanised the supercop. While much of the credit must go to director Gautam Menon, it was also Suriya’s ability to get under the skin of the character that made the film so memorable. His crackling chemistry with Jyothika helped too.
It’s clear that Suriya gives his all to his films. How else could he have convinced the audience that someone of his size and frame could beat up the gigantic Danny Sapani in “Singam 2”, without making it unintentionally comic? Notably, though he once again donned the role of a cop in the “Singam” series, he managed to make the rustic Duraisingam very distinct from the sophisticated Anbuchelvan.
But other than the “Singam” series, his last few releases have been disappointing, despite his best attempts to do something “different”.
“24” was not a bad film. Indeed, it was a lot better than “Massu Engira Masilamani” and “Anjaan” which came before it. But the natural performer in Suriya appears to have gone for a long walk since “Singam”.
It’s not that he is stuck in an image trap; Suriya has experimented with a wide range of roles from playing an assassin to a pair of conjoined twins. Unlike his contemporary, Vijay, who is content doing template films, Suriya has tried to be inventive. His films have varied from the masala action genre to science fiction.
It’s how he’s playing his roles that’s disappointing. There’s a certain degree of jadedness that’s crept into his performances, where you see more of Suriya on screen than the character he’s playing. He’s taken to gimmicks to establish a character rather than transform into the role, what used to be his USP. Has he become too complacent or is it a lack of confidence?
Unlike his earlier films where Suriya shared sufficient screen space with other competent actors, there’s been too much of him in his later releases.
“24”, for instance, had Suriya in almost every frame with the actor playing three roles. The characters of his co-stars, Samantha and Nithya Menen, were poorly written and didn’t impact the story much. It’s exhausting to watch one person trying to entertain you through the entire length of a film unless the various roles are as well written and demarcated from each other as they are in a “Michael Madana Kama Rajan”. Even if “Ayan” was a regular action flick, it had scope for other actors to perform, there was something other than star value in it.
Suriya usually does well in romantic sequences where the female leads have depth. But the heroines in his recent films have been boring cardboard cut-outs unlike an Asin in “Ghajini” or a Divya Spandana in “Vaaranam Aaiyiram”.
An industry insider close to Suriya believes that the actor must pull up his socks, considering there are younger stars like Sivakarthikeyan who are rapidly rising to the top. The versatile Vijay Sethupathy who delivers power-packed performances whether he’s playing an eccentric old man or a blistering cop, is in the running too.
Suriya’s “Singam 3” will be out soon and he’s next teaming up with Vignesh Shivan who directed “Naanum Rowdy Dhaan”. The source, who did not want to be named, added that Suriya may go back to making formulaic films, considering his experiments haven’t worked all that well.
That would be a pity because now more than ever, Tamil audiences are proving that content is king. Moreover, it’s his unwillingness to fall into the formula trap that made Suriya the star he is. It’s time Anbuchelvan twirled his moustache and got back in the game.
Note: The views expressed here are the personal opinions of the author.