Suzhal: The Vortex releases on Amazon Prime on June 17. Aishwarya Rajesh, Kathir, and Sriya Reddy, who play the lead roles, talk to Vishal Menon about performing in a mini-series, working with different directors at once, and how the long-form format is here to stay.
Edited excerpts below:
This is a show created by Pushkar-Gayathri, already a famous great director duo. Then there are two other great directors directing four episodes each. So basically as actors, are you thinking from the view of the three directors on the show or is it a uniform vision?
Aishwarya Rajesh: They told me it was Pushkar-Gayathri's script and that they were writing it. Bramma will be directing the first four episodes, while the last four will be handled by Anucharan. It was actually different. Later, we started shooting with Bramma. When it came to the fifth and sixth episodes, Anucharan joined us. After some time, when I went to shoot, it would be like Bramma in the morning and Anucharan in the afternoon.
I was very much confused about what was happening. Luckily, both the directors follow a similar pattern. That is, they have a similar style and there is not way too much difference. They had their vision and sensibilities and perception towards the scene and I found it similar and it wasn't tough or too different. Sometimes Pushkar-Gayathri will also come on set. My intro was shot by them. So, imagine in one series, we got to work with four different directors, that is damn cool!
Kathir: Pushkar-Gayathri had spoken to each artist and explained what is there in the book and everyone followed the book and was in the same line, and added their own perspective. That made it easier for everyone to work on the film. It was quite funny, for one hour Bramma would be shooting then Anucharan would shoot, and then Bramma would come back to shoot. Eventually, you get used to it. So, we'd understand which director comes from where, and how it will be, and accordingly follow the character arc.
Was there something like you would act differently for different directors?
Sriya Reddy: No. I think the vision was the same for everyone on the set. Be it Pushkar-Gayathri who conceptualized the whole idea or the directors, they had the same vision. So, for us as actors, it was very easy. They were just two different human beings directing it but that's where the comparison ended and both their sensibilities are similar to Pushkar and Gayathri. So, to take their vision to the next step was very seamless and beautiful. It was not a big deal at all.
Sriya, you are very selective. It is good to see you as a cop in Suzhal. Why is it that you choose films or series so rarely?
Sriya Reddy: I am extremely extremely selective because I get bored of most things in life including roles. I don't want to see myself being in shooting locations every day. I do this as a passion and I do it when I am in a great state of mind which happens very rarely in the year. So, when I am in the mood and I am not bored, I do a role. The role has to excite me, otherwise, when I stand in front of the camera I get really bored. It should be something that challenges me and pushes me out of my boundaries.
Even for this role in Suzhal, I was initially unsure. But the way Pushkar-Gayathri told me it is going to be different and will have complexities that even human beings can't deal with and you're going to have to deal with this in this character changed my perspective. They asked me if I can deal with all of this and when a challenge is thrown at me, I'm like buddy, I'm not going to let you go now. So, that's how this character happened and I think sometimes in life one needs to have that patience and wait. I am very happy about the next few things I will be doing.
After doing movies, when you have to do anything that is not movies had a very different perception ten years ago. But then you chose to do this in 2019, even before covid when Netflix and Amazon became a part of everybody's life. Was there any confusion or any kind of decision-making you had to do?
Sriya Reddy: Trust me after you watch Suzhal on Amazon, every actor is going to want to do an OTT show. Everybody would want to do one because of the scale on which it has been done. Every actor will say, "Damn!, I wish I had done this.'' Because of the scale in which it is done, the production, and the platform; trust me we are creating history, and going to the IIFA is one big thing.
Aishwarya Rajesh: As you said, doing this before Netflix and Amazon even came into the scene is a big thing. Now, everyone has these apps on their phones. Back then, I shared with an actor that I was excited about doing an Amazon series. He was like, "Serials! You're doing good films now, what happened?" That was the mindset back then. Now series is the next big thing. The reach we are getting is also insane, with Suzhal being released in 30 languages.
As you said, this is a moment in history. Eventually, our movies have traveled, like our stars have fans all across the country. But why do you think it took so long for A-List directors to get into the mini-series space?
Kathir: There should be a first for everything and Suzhal will be the first. After this, you will see so many directors who want to do this. This is because they have so many ideas in their mind that they shorten it for the film, but you can expand here. You can experiment with different ideologies. We see content from different parts of the world and we are excited about it here. We are excited for the second and third seasons here. The same might happen for Suzhal.
Sriya Reddy: There is no censorship and you have a great canvas to play around here. You are not restricted. In a show, your audience is wider, you can talk about different concepts and subjects.