After playing dual roles as a father and son in Mark Antony (2023), SJ Suryah essays the role of Satyajit Ray’s assistant in Karthik Subbaraj’s Jigarthanda DoubleX. Set in 1975, the film, which is a spiritual sequel to Jigarthanda, traces the journey of a gangster and a filmmaker as they team up to make a film. “The only common factor between the films is that they are about how art changed the lead characters,” says SJ Suryah in an interview with Film Companion, as he speaks about Tamil cinema sentiments, his role in Jigarthanda DoubleX and more.
Reminiscing his experience watching Jigarthanda in the theatres, Suryah emphasises how the film broke conventions, showing that a movie about filmmaking can be both innovative and successful. He says, “Before Jigarthanda, there was a sentiment in Tamil cinema that if one makes a movie about a movie, it won’t work. But for the first time, Jigarthanda changed the record; the meta-movie became a huge hit. The film was also remade in Telugu as Gaddalakonda Ganesh and in Hindi as Bachchan Pandey.” The actor likens Jigarthanda’s impact on Tamil cinema to what "Pulp Fiction" did for Hollywood. “Jigarthanda has mass elements, comedy and also a novelty in its making. When Pulp Fiction came out, I saw that novelty. When everyone was treating cinema in the same way, a director came and treated the scenes differently. It gave a fresh feeling to everyone. That’s the same kind of freshness Jigarthanda gave me,” notes the actor, adding that Jigarthanda DoubleX will be unique in a different way.
Speaking about his role, Suryah says, “It’s double happiness for me when I used to look in the mirror once the makeup is done. I play Satyajit Ray, a very talented person who made the entire world look towards India. When Karthik Subbaraj told me that I had to act as a director, I was initially quite hesitant because personally, I was a director and have become an actor now. But when I understood how good of an offer this was, I immediately jumped at the opportunity.” Although the actor didn’t have to undergo any physical transformation, he says that the film's '70s setting required him to wear heavy bell-bottom pants and suspenders, even in the cold.
While filming for Jigarthanda DoubleX, Suryah also simultaneously shot for Mark Antony and Game Changer. He explains how he managed to portray distinct characters in each film. “I used to finish Mark Antony’s schedule, then shoot for Jigarthanda DoubleX and go for Game Changer. It was quite tough but I enjoyed everything. When I shot for Mark Antony, we did a six-page dialogue in a single shot. But in Jigarthanda DoubleX, you have to give a particular reaction in each close-up shot and with that single reaction, you have to convey a six-page dialogue. Karthik Subbaraj creates an aura and puts you in that atmosphere. That aura creates a perfect feel for you. And it gives you a certain high when you immediately get into the skin of a character.”