Soorarai Pottru, Jai Bhim, Vikram: Suriya is the new face of Tamil cinema’s bravery

Actor-producer Suriya, who turned 47 today, has been developing a sort of Midas touch over the past two years. It seems like everything he touches turns to gold. And it all started with Suriya defying industry opposition and doing something totally unexpected by releasing his big budget movie aptly titled Soorarai Pottru (Four the Brave) on an OTT platform.

Soorarai Pottru was created for the big screen experience and the creators are looking forward to releasing the film in theaters in November 2020. And the pandemic happened, bringing the whole world to a standstill. Suriya, who was also the producer of the film, made the bold decision to make the film immediately available for streaming as the pandemic spiraled out of control around the world and no one had a clue when the semblance of normalcy in our lives would return.

He faced resistance from stakeholders in the box office business. The Tamil Nadu Theater Owners Association even threatened him with a ban. The association claimed that they will not allow the showing of Suriya starrers and the films he produced under his 2D Entertainment home banner in the future, should he proceed with the direct OTT release of Soorarai Pottru. But Suriya didn’t flinch.

In a way, Soorarai Pottru provided a much-needed break for people across the country during the bleak days of lockdown. Filmmaker Sudha Kongara developed this film based on the memoir Simply Fly: A Deccan Odyssey. The memoir was written by GR Gopinath who revolutionized the Indian commercial aviation industry by introducing cheap airline tickets for the working class.

Suriya’s on-screen presence as the strong-willed Maaran was such that it was hard to take our eyes off him. He even went through some serious body transformation to briefly play the younger version of his character. His dedication and dedication to his craft were evident in every frame. And as expected, he won his first-ever National Film Award for Best Actor at the recently announced 68th National Film Awards.

Suriya in Soorarai Pottru (Photo: Amazon Prime Video)

Not only that, Soorarai Pottru also took home top honors in the awards, including Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Screenplay and Best Background Music. This movie was a huge gamble for Suriya in several ways. But he believed in the film and took his chance under extraordinary circumstances, to emerge victorious on the other side.

After Soorarai Pottru, Suriya surprised everyone again with his next daring move. He did Jai Bhim. Director TJ Gnanavel had pitched the film to Suriya as a project he could finance. But the director was surprised when Suriya expressed his desire to play the role of Chandru advocate in the film. The main character of the film was neither glamorous nor overtly heroic, say, like Singam. The film is inspired by one of the real-life lawsuits heard by retired Judge K Chandru when he was a lawyer at the Madras High Court.

Chandru is not the kind of hero who solves problems through a fistfight. He knocks on the door of courts and goes out to protest about every social issue. He doesn’t give a punch, except for the legal points during the cross-examination in courts. He travels by public transport and rides in general class trains. And yet his character is nothing short of a cape-wearing superhero to members of weaker sections. Again, Suriya’s bold move paid off as Jai Bhim dominated pop culture discourse for most of 2021.

With bouquets for Jai Bhim also came a few brickbats. The members of Vanniyar Sangam rebelled against the film because it would portray their community in a bad light. Gnanavel even acknowledged his oversight and apologized. But the problem was not solved. A High Court case has been made. Recently, the Supreme Court of Madras granted provisional protection to Suriya and Gnanavel from arrest in the case.

Jai Bhim Suriya in Jai Bhim.

Jai Bhim also made a splash at the Academy Awards earlier this year.

After a three-year hiatus, Suriya returned to the big screen with director Pandiraj’s Etharkkum Thunindhavan. The film was a rush job, which was loosely based on Pollachi’s 2019 sexual assault case. The film was a critical dud, even if it would have been a box office hit.

What Suriya didn’t do in a full-fledged role in Etharkkum Thunindhavan, he did in a performance of about 3 minutes in Vikram. Suriya had set the screen on fire with his performance as the ruthless head of a drug syndicate. It is not wrong to say that Suriya’s Rolex stole the thunder from such talents as Kamal Haasan, Fahadh Faasil, Vijay Sethupathi in the movie.

vikram suriya rolex Suriya in a still from Vikram.

Rolex was a total shock to the public, who have grown accustomed to Suriya’s image as an exemplary citizen, both on and off screen. Even when he played a seasoned wanton in Hari’s Aaru, his moral compass was intact. But Rolex is a pure monster. He chops off a man’s head with a swing of his cleaver to set an example for those who work under him.

It remains to be seen what surprises Suriya has in store for us in 2023.

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