After making close to 15 films, director Suseenthiran feels he still has a long way to go and has barely begun realising his dream. With his latest release, Champion, starring Vishwa and Mrinalini, running in theatres, the director opens up about his failures, ambitions, and how the story of Champion, came about.
You have worked with both stars and newcomers. How do you decide on your hero for a film?
The story decides it. For instance, in Champion, the story travels through the school life and adolescence of the hero. I could, for this reason, not go with a big hero for this character. It all comes down to the needs of the script.
How does it feel to have completed one decade in the Tamil film industry?
After the success of the first two films, my confidence level went up. However, films which I loved — like Azhagarsamy Kuthirai, Jeeva, Aadhalal Kadhal Seiveer, and Maaveeran Kittu — didn’t do well commercially. I couldn’t achieve what I wanted to, and that’s a disappointment for me in the last decade. My commercial films—Paandiya Naadu and Naan Mahan Alla — turned out to be blockbusters. I realised that my social messages needed commercial packaging. That has been my learning. I don’t know what my upcoming films are going to teach me.
How do you deal with the failure of films you loved making?
I open the shower and cry so that no one knows (laughs). Yes, it is painful and I cry. Anyway, I have to get back to business, right?
What’s the origin of Champion’s story?
In a running race, we are all bothered about who is going to finish first but we are not aware of the race that each runner had to take on to arrive at the starting line. That journey is often tougher than the race itself. If you add a revenge story to that journey... that’s Champion. The hero has to choose between becoming a champion and avenging his enemy.
There is criticism about how football matches have been depicted in Tamil cinema…
The sports segments in my film will be authentic. There is no CGI involved in those segments; that should give you an idea about how we have shot the film. For a whole year, the actors took football coaching in a ground near Puzhal Jail. A coach named Shanthakumar trained actors for about five hours daily and changed them into real football players. Narain’s character in Champion was named after that coach.
In your opinion, have films set in North Madras represented the community properly?
Are you trying to get me into trouble? (laughs). Absolutely. Many films have done justice to the community. A person coming out of a particular community would definitely document their story with authenticity. Vennila Kabadi Kuzhu was about my life and I was able to capture it well.
Likewise, Pa Ranjith can do justice to North Madras. Take Asuran, for example. Vetri Maaran has not experienced that life but he had to do research and make it. As someone who grew up in a village, I could identify tiny problems with Asuran but the director might not have known about them. If I make a film set in North Madras, Pa Ranjith might find issues with a few things.
Would you be interested in making a web series?
Many have approached me, but I have turned them down. It’s not that I don’t like the platform. I want to make a place for myself in the cinema industry like Mani Ratnam. I want to achieve something and then try my hand at something else. Only then will I be in control of things. Else, I would have to give in to the demands of others. I do think though that there’s a future for web series.
What’s this ‘achievement’ you are working towards?
There is a nationwide audience for Anurag Kashyap; likewise, Mani Ratnam has an audience base. I want to create a similar space for myself. I think it will help me tell constructive stories about the society we live in. I believe cinema can create a solid impact in the world.