'None of my characters have left me': says Jayasurya, ahead of 100th film Sunny
'Why should I let go of my characters? They're all there in some corner of my mind. When I close my eyes, the characters come to my mind. They are that accessible,' says Jayasurya on completing 100 films.
What sets Jayasurya apart from his contemporaries is his quest for perfection and eye for detail. He has proved time and again that he has the capacity to own the character he essays. And each time he keeps pushing the envelope — be it the person who stammers in Su Su Sudhi Vathmeekam, the transgender in Njan Marykutty, the former Kerala football caption Sathyan in Captain, or the absolute hilarious oddball Shaji Pappan in Aadu Oru Beekara Jeeviyanu.
Jayasurya catches you off guard. Constantly surprising and evolving with every film. Even in terrible films, his performances will rarely let you down. Sunny, his upcoming release directed by Ranjith Sankar, is already piquing interest as it is a one-character film. More from the actor in edited excerpts below:
Sankar said you initially declined the character. Why was that so?
Not really. We were discussing a lot of themes during the pandemic. When he shared this thought, I was excited as I was on a one-man show. But somehow, when he narrated the script, I couldn’t capture the soul of the film. So I suggested doing it later. But after four-five days, the character kept haunting me. That’s when I called him back. Then a lot of layers were added to the character, and I wanted both of us to be on the same page. I felt this was a very honest story and a very challenging film.
Being the only character in a film, what was the challenge?
Since it was spot dubbing, it was tricky to give spaces and pauses in between dialogues. I had to give sound variations according to the different emotions. Sound continuity was important. Also, the emotional travel was important.
Was it difficult to shrug off the character once the film got over?
It never happens to me. How much time does it take you to think of your father, mother, or children? That’s as much time I need to travel with that character. Having said that, none of my characters have left me. They are all in my head. That’s why doing a film’s second part is easy as it doesn’t take much time for the character to come to me.
Why should I let go of that character? In my head, all these characters are there. Aren’t all these characters our imagination in a way, and we are convincing ourselves about their existence? I am not saying these characters bother me, just that I like to keep these characters in some corner of my mind. When I close my eyes, the characters come to my mind. They are that accessible.
This is your seventh film with Sankar. And he brings out the best in you and vice-versa. What do you think works here?
He has unique ideas. Especially with me, it has reached its zenith. They are never ordinary. From the man who made incense sticks out of cow dung to the mentalist (Pretham). But Sunny is very ordinary, with no visible quirks, and that makes it a difficult character to pull off. Others had a holding point that helped to buy the characters. But Sunny is low on self-confidence. Ranjith Sankar says it’s my best performance. I don’t know.
You strive to make each character look and behave differently. How much of that is on paper? Or is it a collaboration?
Yes, contributions are there. I do like to give suggestions. In Sunny, for instance, there was an emotional shot, and Ranjith is someone who never says cut, giving so much space to his actors. In my sequence, I don’t know what I am going to do. It’s going in one track, and if I say it's okay, he agrees. The shot is met with claps but then he asks me for another take as there was some technical issue. I do believe that it’s when we do things sincerely that some kind of hindrances happen. When Ranjith apologised, I wondered why. If I think that I have given my best take, how can I improve? And in the second take, he cried. I don’t do it deliberately. It just happens, and it had no connection with that earlier shot.
For Lukka Chuppi, I was first given a black shirt and blue jeans. But I told Murali Gopy that I can’t see the character Raghuram in me. He was a millionaire who has no interest and desire in life. He won’t wear this. So I noticed this cameraman wearing a shabby kurta and pajamas. I wore the dress, and it fitted me. And then I got the character.
What do you think are the defining moments in your career?
I think once I started doing different characters, the game changed. So I would say Classmates, Kangaroo, Arabhikatha, Iyobinte Pustakam. Each film teaches me something, but I don’t know what. I am always ready to push myself. I think it would be a nightmare to get stuck in a comfort zone. I won’t be able to sleep peacefully. It would be so dull. I don’t want my director to give me suggestions to improve my performance. It should all come from me. I want to do things they haven’t thought of.
Shaji Pappan from Aadu (2015) is getting a third edition. How do you break the boredom associated with doing sequels?
When the story has no depth, maybe I might get bored. It is when the character is strong that the cinema happens again.
How would you describe your 20-year-old journey in cinema?
I never thought I will ever become a hero. We can never choose cinema; it always chooses us. I think art has that exclusivity.
What inspires you as a creative individual?
Maybe it's the films, performances. But I don’t know if it helps my journey. So I can say that it’s my characters that inspire me. Sometimes new actors' performances stun you.
Is there rivalry in Malayalam cinema?
In cinema, there is space for everyone. When there is space, there is no need for competition. Whom should we compete with? I only need to bother about my characters. It’s when we believe we are the creator that things become problematic. I am just a tool.
Is it important that you should like the character?
Sometimes the character simply enters you without your knowledge. I need to enjoy the film and the character. If either of these things isn’t happening, I don’t do the film.
Are you more cautious about how your character should behave now, than before?
Yes, we need to think like that. That thought comes automatically when I do humour for instance. Now, people are very emotional. I think we need to be careful. When one character calls another character fat, it often stems from their personal equation, but we prefer to take it personally. Cinema has its own freedom. You need to see it as an art form. Don’t make it personal. A cinema has to tell a story. It will be difficult to keep filtering cinema through a politically correct lens all the time. That takes away the edge of it. Maybe I won’t do a film like Trivandrum Lodge today simply because the character doesn’t excite me today. My reasons are based on that.
What is the best thing about Malayalam cinema today?
I have been around for the last 20 years but it's only now that our cinema is truly gaining global recognition. Malayalam cinema is getting a wider audience, and as an actor, I am loving it. It’s like this. You see a foreign film, love the actor's performance, and then you start searching for his films. The name comes much later. You know that actor is part of good films. I want to be that actor.
Sunny will premiere on Amazon Prime Video India this Thursday on 23 September.
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