Why Bollywood doesn't excite Suriya, the Aamir Khan of south India

by Sreedhar Pillai

In the southern film industry, the Suriya phenomenon can’t be denied.

He is currently the hottest star in Kollywood, after superstar Rajinikanth. Suriya’s latest Maattrraan directed by his favourite KV Anand, is set for release this Friday (October 12) in Tamil and Telugu.

In Telugu, the film is titled Brothers.  Suriya is red hot at the box-office as Maattrraan’s rights have been snapped from producers AGS Entertainments by the Bollywood biggie Eros Entertainment for a rumoured Rs 85 crore.

It is the single biggest deal in south after Rajinikanth’s Endhiran was picked up by Kalanithi Maran’s Sun Pictures in 2010. A lot is riding on Maattrraan for Suriya in the star-driven Tamil film industry which badly needs a blockbuster in 2012. Suriya’s charisma transcends boundaries as he has a market in all the southern states and upcountry multiplexes. He is also the second most popular Tamil actor in the overseas market.

Suriya, in a still from his new film. Image courtesy: Sreedhar Pillai.

His biggest advantage is that his Tamil films get dubbed into Telugu, which has created a new revenue stream for the producers. The dubbed version of Maattrraan in Telugu has gone for a whopping Rs 17 crore. In Maattraan, he plays conjoined twins - it's the first time in mainstream Indian cinema that an established star is playing the difficult role of Siamese twins.

Although national award winning actress Priyamani also played conjoined twins in a Kannada film titled Charulatha recently, it bombed at the box office. Speaking to Firstpost, an excited Suriya said: “I always look for something different within the framework of commercial cinema. Actually Maattrraan is my fifth dual role movie, and what attracted me to the conjoined twins story was it was fresh, the innovative script of director KV Anand and his writer Subha.

“The film is packaged as an entertainer with lots of father-son emotions, plenty of romance with heroine Kajal Aggarwal apart from generous doses of comedy and action. A social message has been woven into the plot too.”

In the south, they say Suriya is very similar to Aamir Khan as he is not only a perfectionist but chooses his scripts with a lot of care and is willing to experiment. KV Anand, the director of Maattrraan says: “Suriya is one actor who is willing to go the extra mile, to bring about that perfection in the character he is portraying on screen. He is willing to do any number of retakes to get that perfect shot.”

But the actor is all about modesty: “I have to be convinced about the script before I sign a film. I’m willing to be innovative and not a stickler to the formula as I love portraying different characters on screen. I enjoy doing films which are close to reality. My movies are a mix of fact and fiction.”

Suriya’s foray into Bollywood with Ram Gopal Varma’s revenge saga Rakta Charitra, did not work at the box-office, though he was noticed. But Bollywood heroes are always looking at remaking Suriya’s Tamil hits in Hindi. Remember that Bollywood’s first Rs 100 Crore movie, Aamir Khan’s Ghajini, was a remake of Suriya’s smash hit by the same name in Tamil. Suriya’s cop story Khakka Khakka became Force in Hindi and gave a new lease of life to John Abraham’s career. Ajay Devgan struck gold when he remade Suriya’s Singam, again a police story, as Singham in Hindi which turned out to be a blockbuster.

The latest we hear is that Suriya’s 2009 smash hit Ayan, where he plays a lovable smuggler, is shortly to be remade by Prabhu Deva with Salman Khan playing the lead! And already two competing Bollywood stars want to snap up the rights of his under production Singam 2, a sequel to his 2010 super hit Singam.

Suriya is firm on not repeating the mistake of foraying into Bollywood again. The actor says : “ I’m doing interesting films in Tamil, which is also getting dubbed in Telugu. Nothing really exciting has come from Bollywood. I’m happy and content doing films within my core area.” Is he playing it safe by doing a sequel to one of his most successful films?

Suriya says “For Singam 2, director Hari took months to prepare the script. It is a police story, but I won’t say it is a continuation of the earlier film. The story and milieu is different though there are characters from the earlier version. Howeve, the making and packaging is totally different.”

Despite his following in Andhra Pradesh, he is yet to do a Telugu film. “I’m very particular that when I do a film in Telugu, I should be able to dub in my own voice. For Maattrraan in Telugu, for one of the twins I have dubbed in my own voice while for the other brother in the film, my brother (and popular actor) Karthi has done the dubbing.”

The film has to work at the box-office to retain his image in the trade as a “safe and dependable bet at the BO”. His last release, the highly hyped 7aum Arivu got a mixed response from the box-office.

Suriya concludes: “Some times a film you put a lot of passion and hard work into - doesn't work. But that's a part of the game. However, I think Maattrran will satisfy all sections of viewers. It’s like watching two different films in different genres and is a complete entertainer.”