‘The hero is any character the audience claps for,’ says Tamil actor Soori

Actor Soori discusses how his outlook on cinema has evolved in the past few years, the central conflict in Garudan, his love for Kottukkaali, and his future projects
A still from Garudan
A still from Garudan

CHENNAI : Actor Soori’s career graph went through a dramatic ascension that many would covet. From being a comedian to playing the protagonist in a Vetrimaaran film, Soori’s evolution, with a beautiful hint of synchronicity, could only be termed as cinematic. Reflecting on the effect this had on him, the actor shares, “I guess my outlook on cinema has been dramatically altered. I have started watching different kinds of films from various languages. I used to restrict myself to watching comedy films. Now, I watch all kinds of films, especially ones where the story is the main focus rather than the hero.”

As someone who grew up on a steady diet of mainstream cinema, Soori has his own interpretation of a conventional mainstream hero. When asked about his idea of a hero, the actor carefully expounds, “A hero is not just someone who has an intro song and fight sequences. Anyone the audience claps for is a hero. If the audience loves a character and they like what he does on screen, and if they clap for him, he automatically becomes a hero.” Even though his upcoming film, Garudan, shows hints of him playing a conventional hero, Soori maintains that his Sokkan, is just a protagonist who leads the story and not a ‘hero’ who refuses to stay within the confines of the film. As for the story of Garudan, he says, “The film is about one man’s fierce loyalty and what happens if he is forced to choose between his loyalty and justice. His own sense of morality comes in direct conflict with his loyalty and that is why I found it very interesting.”

Speaking about Garudan brings out memories of working on the film and Soori fondly recollects how his co-stars Sasikumar and Samuthirakani, both of whom he has a long history with, commented on his transformation. “The fact that I acted as a comedian in both their films and now to play a lead role in Garudan with them was surreal. They both noticed how my acting skills have improved over the years and greatly encouraged me. Even on the set, they would push me to ask for a retake, if I felt like I could perform better.” This earnestness to prove himself, and scale up, seems to reside inside the actor like an unquenchable drive. “For a long period of time, I thought I could only do comedian roles but now I am actively hunting down character-oriented lead roles.” But how far is he willing to push the transformation? Will Soori, for instance, be seen in a Malayalam or a Hindi film? Or in a film that demands a completely urban setting? The actor says that he is game for all the above-mentioned questions, as long as the story is engaging. “I don’t go asking for a particular type of story. I only see if the story is good. I think I can pull off an entirely urban based film.” As an example, he reveals that he would love to do something like Soodhu Kavvum or Indru Netru Naalai. Even with all that confidence, Soori seems to wield his pragmatism as a weapon against poor choices.

“After years of watching cinema, I seem to trust my instincts while selecting a script and that has worked in my favour so far. I don’t know how far this will take me,” he smiles, before adding, “You cannot expect someone to make the right choices all the time. Not just in India but all over the world, even the top directors and actors have given failures. Nobody wants to make a bad film. All I want is to make sure that the story connects with me and the audience, and that happened with Kottukkaali. It is a story that is deeply connected to our Tamil sensibilities, and our way of life. I was wondering why we never made that story into a film till now. I loved playing Pandi.”

On the projects he already has his eyes on, Soori says, “I have listened to three scripts. One of them is an emotional family drama, it is not set in the city but it will connect with every type of audience. There is another film that will have me working with a director who has worked with two of the leading stars in the industry right now. The production house for that film will be revealing details about that film very soon.”

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The New Indian Express