Suriya and Jyotika, partners at 2D Entertainment, have signed a 4-film deal with Amazon Prime Video, two of which have already been released – Raame Aandalum Raavane Aandalum, Udanpirappe and Jai Bhim. Apart from this, they had taken their films (Ponmagal Vandhal and Soorarai Pottru) to the streaming platform last year as well. In this interview, they speak to Anupama Chopra about their relationship and how they work together.
I have been wanting to do this interview since I have read about the 4-film deal you signed with Amazon Prime Video. At 2D, you were one of the early adopters of streaming at a time when we didn’t know how this would all pan out. Now that the world seems to be re-opening, how do you see the next six months? Are you going to make some films just for streaming and some for theatres? What are you thinking?
Jyotika: We are just going with the flow. Right now the flow seems very beautiful with a mix of everything. We do need the theatres and likewise we need the OTT too. We are all on the same side of the page and we all need to float together. I guess it has to be hand in hand and it is beautiful when it is that way! We also have so many films churning out in a year that it’s nice when the smaller films don’t get a floor to the theatre, they have an optional platform to release. We are seeing companionship with both the streams, which seem to be one stream on one side of the page actually.
Would you as producers design films that would specifically be for streaming?
Suriya: I think so. The next few films that I have signed are huge theatrical releases. They need the 800+ screens to get back what we have invested, the time and effort we have put into those films. But it is not necessary that every film has to have 1000 screens or 1500 screens, that’s what I genuinely think. You can’t always have a clear Friday and a clear weekend for your movie.
There is a lot of content that is very niche, very very special, and very close to us and I think this is a wonderful platform that we have got to connect to 200+ countries, a fantastic audience and we don’t have to compromise on anything. Be it the footage, it can be an hour and a half film, it could be less than an hour and a half also. It need not have the regular movie-making elements like the song, dance and a lot of stuff. We can just go to the core emotion and tell only that story. You don’t have to implant so many other things and it’s beautiful to make such films that are very close to our hearts and it would have not happened if OTT platforms were not available for all of us.
When the two of you discuss stories, who is the final authority at 2D? Who gets to have the final say?
Jyotika: (laughs) It’s both ways, I decide my films and we both decide his films!
Suriya: I admire her clarity in thoughts so I just go by that. I wait for that one drop to come which will be the final word that she gives! So, we wait for that final word from her.
So, it’s all you Jyotika, you are the boss?
Jyotika: No, it’s not me. It’s just a newness of a thought. I think 2D gets attracted to that. We also love new talent and stories that are out of the box and one-liners that haven’t been made yet. We are just trying to experiment with small one-liner films that work in a big way.
Suriya, you know what’s interesting to me is that some of the milestone films in your career, like the Singam series or Kaaka Kaaka, you are playing characters that are very much part of the establishment, you are playing cops and you have said in interviews that cops have told you that they became cops after watching those movies, that’s how effective those characters were. But in Jai Bhim, you are very much against the establishment. Is this part of your process also personally, because this film agrees with your politics? Did your politics change? Or was it just a film you really loved?
Suriya: So many things happen around us, you hear about so many things around you. Sometimes one question will come and hit you real hard, ‘what are you doing about it?’ Jai Bhim is one such question, and we are trying to answer that.
The village in the story is 80 km away from my house. A huge community is still living without a ration card, without electricity, without community certificate and they are not allowed sometimes to get into a bus, to enter their village, not allowed to wear chappals and even 80 year old people, are called va da, po di only. It’s nice if we know our past. Our future will be even better. We both are inspired by true stories, and true instances. This is a fantastic film that came our way, that’s why Jai Bhim, that’s why Chandru, and that’s why advocate and not a cop.
Suriya, you said in an interview how silence is the worst form of violence. But now for actors, especially in the Hindi film industry, speaking out in the current climate has become very risky. The two of you have spoken your mind, you have put out your opinions that have also generated controversy. What has that done, do you ever think perhaps, we should just stick to acting and let’s put our messaging in our stories? Does it make you firmer in your resolve that we need to say what we believe in?
Suriya: I think we need to say what we believe in.
Jyotika: As long as we are saying the right thing, you get good sleep and you feel very content. I personally believe that when God has put you in a position where you influence minds, why not make it worth it? Why not say something that will make a little difference to make a better world or make people think positively? We do believe that saying it works!
Suriya: We have a lot of love for fellow human beings and we are thankful for society. We definitely believe that we are very blessed with whatever we have gotten now after 25 years. I don’t know if I should take this topic again, she had something to voice out about a government hospital and a lot of reactions came our way. In a month’s time, the government authorities also realized and tried to clear the space and found more than ten venomous snakes in the hospital compound. The government also came forward to renovate the entire hospital and over thirty villages are benefiting from that hospital now. There are a thousand mothers using the hospital now. So it’s okay to get bricks and stones but something good happens at the end of the day. One film of hers, Ponmagal Vandhal saved an 8-year-old’s life! These things make us believe in good and to use your voice for things you are genuinely sensitive to. It’s from our heart, we don’t need publicity!
Jyotika, how frank are you, as his closest confidant and critic when you are embarking on something like Jai Bhim? For an actor, it is extremely demanding. Do you watch a scene and say to him no this doesn’t work?
Jyotika: We are absolutely transparent with each other. From the signing stage itself, we are commenting on each other’s work, we agree, we disagree, we also take our own paths. We do what we believe in and that transparency has to be there between us. That is stage one for the company also. What we are doing under the banner needs to have a good battle of opinion. We are very transparent.
Suriya: She is like the toughest professor in your college. You cannot get those grace marks (laughs). You can’t impress this professor.
Jyotika: He is a fabulous actor. We just have fun because he is the kind that even after giving a fantabulous shot will come back and say I should have done this and I should have done that. I am the kind that gives an average shot and says I did so well today! It’s just fun! We work together so much!
Suriya: She likes her first take, I like my last take. It can be my 17th take also, but I like my last take and she likes her first take!
Jyotika: We are opposites and in work, we are extremely transparent! He gets a bit scared to tell me if I am bad, but I say it!
Why does he get scared, do you not take criticism well?
Jyotika: It’s just a husband and wife thing!
Suriya: The final argument is always won by her, so we don’t get into that! The final punchline is always hers! (laughs)