Director-turned-actor SJ Suryah has offered unique performances in the last two years of his filmography— he followed his horror film Nenjam Marappathillai (2021) with time-loop thriller Maanaadu (2021), and the comedy-drama Don (2022). Awaiting next in line is Vadhandhi: The Fable of Velonie, which marks the OTT debut of the actor. The series has SJ Suryah playing Vivek, a police officer investigating a murder mystery case clouded with rumours.
Produced by Pushkar-Gayatri (the creators of Suzhal (2022)), the web series is directed by Andrew Louis and is slated to stream on Amazon Prime Video from December 2. Ahead of its release, SJ Suryah speaks about his acting process, his rapport with actor Ajith Kumar and more in this conversation with Krishna.
SJ Suryah was an assistant director of Tamil film Aasai (1995), which was headlined by Ajith Kumar. During the film’s shooting, SJ Suryah narrated a story to Ajith, which led to his directorial debut Vaali (1999). Years later, SJ Suryah is now acting on a project directed by his former assistant director Andrew Louis. Comparing how the narrations took place in both these two situations, the actor says,“There are two ways Ajith sir listens to a narration. One, with an emotional connection and the other with a connection for the content of the script. He usually connects both ways when he listens to me because he really likes me. It was similar when Andrew narrated Vadhandhi to me. I like Andrew and think he is talented, super-evolved, and updated. I was also so happy with the narration, so you could say that we had the same chemistry that Ajith sir and I had.”
Known for his versatile performances, SJ Suryah posits that a great performance is a combination of many elements. “I think wonders cannot be made; they should happen. A climate needs to be created. The water has to heat and evaporate to reach the sky. And only when the climate is correct, it becomes a cloud. The wind should also breeze at the correct time to pour heavily. It is a combination of so many elements. This is how it is for actors too. We do our part as we usually do, but when everything else is in form and alignment, it creates great performances,” says the actor.
SJ Suryah also reveals that he refrains from reading scripts. “I tell the directors that I am already working at night without sleep, so don’t give me scripts, I will doze off.” Instead, he prefers to listen to the narration, where the writer takes the front seat, letting him imagine and channelise his characters. He says, “When we listen to some narrations, we remember similar stories and films and think of real people in our life. For instance, when we listen to a story of a police officer, we immediately think of Denzel Washington, Irrfan Khan, and others. So we fix all the high points when listening to the narration. I think if you are a good actor, this will happen automatically. And that’s the starting point. Your mind creates a blueprint of the character, and you find your character through such channelisation.”
Be it via theatres or OTT, good films and series will always be watched, says the actor. “If a film is good, people might watch it once in theatres and once when it releases on OTT. But if a film is bad, people will not watch it on either of these platforms. They will just not watch the film,” asserts SJ Suryah.