Singam returns

Southern sensation

Singam returns

Southern superstar Surya talks to Roshmila Bhattacharya about his most anticipated sequel ‘Singam II’ and why he couldn’t do the second season of the Tamil KBC

Surya has risen with the much-anticipated sequel of Singam (2010) that pits the Southern superstar against an international criminal, who hatches his diabolical plans on the sea. “Hindi films have a tradition of sequels, but that’s not the case down South,” he explains. “But with Singam, we felt we had a brand and a graph that could be taken forward. Hari sir (the film’s director) wouldn’t have to go back to establishing characters, many of whom have returned, and wondering if they’d be liked by the audience. All we had to do was make part 2 bigger, tighter and more real.”

Singam II has an international look having been filmed abroad in Malaysia, Kenya, Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg in South Africa. It has a British actor, Danny Sapani, playing the antagonist. “But at the same time, it is very desi (Indian) with the message that one cop who is on the right track can turn the tide, literally,” points out Surya.

Singam’s popularity

There’s talk of a Singham II with Ajay Devgn in the lead taking off by the year end. Will the Bollywood team be borrowing his script for the Hindi version? “That’s their call. It would depend on how soon they want to start the film,” he retorts.

He admits that Ajay, along with director Rohit Shetty and a team of 10-15, had chartered a flight to Hyderabad to attend Singam II’s music release. But due to bad weather, they were grounded in Bangalore and couldn’t make it to the bash. “We don’t have the ritual of big premieres here, so there were no other occasions for us to catch up. But I will always be grateful to Ajay sir for giving an identity to the Hindi Singham. In fact, I owe it to all the actors — Ajay, Sudeep and Jeet — who have played the role in the different language remakes (Singham in Hindi, Kempe Gowda in Kannada and Shotru in Bengali) for making the brand so successful across the country,” Surya asserts.

Next month, he starts shooting for the Tamil thriller Dhruva Natchathiram, produced and directed by Gautham Menon, who had earlier collaborated with him on Thuppariyum Anandhan. The film co-stars Parthiepan, Simran and Bollywood actor Sudhanshu Pandey. “Gautham is still tweaking the script, we have only shot a few songs and scenes. I’m looking forward to working with Sudhanshu, who plays the bad guy. He’s a really good actor,” says Surya.

The actor also played a cameo role in the Tamil remake of the Malayalam thriller Traffic. Chennaiyil Oru Naal, which co-stars R Sharathkumar, Cheran, Prakash Raj and Prasanna, had Surya playing himself. Earlier, in the K S Ravi Kumar directed rom-com Manmadhan Ambu (2010), K V Anand’s political thriller Ko (2011) and Bala’s comedy-drama Avan Ivan (2011) too he had made guest appearances as superstar Surya.

Ask him about this and he points out that he did it for a noble cause. “In the Traffic remake, I promoted the cause of organ donation as the end credits roll. In Bala sir’s film too, it was for the cause of education, supported by the Agaram Foundation, which I started in 2008 and which by 2010 was sponsoring the schooling of 159 underprivileged children and offering learning opportunities to the rural populace. When Kamal sir (Kamal Haasan) approached me for Manmadhan Ambu, I couldn’t refuse the legend whose movies I had grown up watching,” he avers.

In January 2012, Star Vijay announced him as the host of Neengalum Vellalam Oru Kodi, the official Tamil adaptation of the internationally-renowned game show, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, which was successfully adapted in Hindi as Kaun Banega Crorepati aka KBC. Surya hosted the first season of the show that recorded high TRPs and is best remembered for Kamal Haasan walking away with Rs 50 lakhs.

About TV offers

However, in Season 2, Surya was replaced by Prakash Raj. He cites date problems for his inability to continue, “They wanted 80-plus days from me, which wasn’t possible, given my packed schedule. But the show gave people the opportunity to see a different side to me and a chance for me to see how despite the many challenges he has to face in his daily life, the common man still manages to triumph over the odds. It was a great learning experience,” he points out, saying he would love to return to TV provided it gave him the platform to do something different from the movies, addressing region-centric issues pertinent to his state and people.

And what about Bollywood? He made his debut in the second part of Ram Gopal Varma’s tri-lingual bio-pic on gangster-turned-politician Paritala Ravindra. In part 2, Surya played Suryanarayan Reddy, who finally assassinates the protagonist Pratap Ravi. The film was released in Hindi and Telugu in two parts as Rakhta Charitra and Rakhta Charitra-2 respectively. In Tamil, it opened as a single film, Ratha Sarithiram.

His Hindi film debut failed to live up to expectations and Surya hasn’t accepted another offer. Why? “I didn’t take my launch very seriously,” he admits. “I did it because I wanted to be a part of a Ram Gopal Varma film even if it wasn’t a mainstream, masala movie. I’m open to other offers, but I can’t assemble a project. That’s the job of a producer and a director,” he reasons. “If someone can come up to me with something I feel I can do justice to, I won’t shy away.”

However, he points out that to be big in Bollywood, you need to be seen and heard in public and in the media through the year. “That’s not possible right now because my base is down South and I have a lot of commitments. I don’t even know the language yet. In Rakhta Charitra, I was lip-syncing in Hindi and emoting in Tamil,” he confides. “All that has to change. We’ll cross the hurdle when the race begins. For now, Durai Singam has to save the country from an international threat.”

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