As Suriya’s Soorarai Pottru is set to release on November 12, indianexpress.com caught up with Paresh Rawal and the film’s co-producer Guneet Monga of Sikhya Entertainment. In a freewheeling chat, both of them opened up about the pleasures and challenges of working in the south Indian film industry.
How much do you follow the work of south Indian filmmakers?
Paresh: The south is exemplary when it comes to the kind of films they make, their exhibition structure, discipline and unity. Some terrific films have come from the south. There are many innovative filmmakers there. Whenever a new film comes out from the south Indian film industry, we have to watch it.
Guneet: I have worked with Vetrimaaran for Kaaka Muttai and Visaranai, which I took to the Venice film festival. I am a huge fan of Geetu Mohandas. I really loved Saala Khadoos even before I met Sudha. And then we came together to make this one. There is so much better work that is happening in Malayalam and Tamil. So much innovation in storytelling is happening. I have to say we were so excited when Paresh Rawal said yes to this film. This is his first Tamil film. It meant a lot to us that he agreed to make his Tamil debut with us.
How was your working experience with Suriya?
Paresh: You naturally compare him (Suriya) with our stars. Our stars are not any less. But, this guy is absolutely simple, normal and down to earth. No tantrums, no throwing his weight around. Ready with his dialogues, scenes, and all that. He’s very professional. I am not saying that our stars are not disciplined. But, working with a star like Suriya is such a pleasure. You never, for a moment, feel that you are working with such a megastar.
Guneet: I have also had the most amazing experience collaborating. I have found a home in Tamil cinema with Suriya’s company 2D Entertainment. I hope we do more (work together). I don’t think there is another amazing actor like Suriya in the whole world. He is so special and he’s so hard working. When you see this movie, you will see the range of age also. How he toned down and scaled up back for this film. And how hard he worked for this film. It is very precious. Till date, he is the only superstar who travels in economy class. He treats everyone equally. I am not done working with him. I hope we do more.
While doing a movie in a new language, what are the challenges you face?
Paresh: The challenges are immense. I have done Telugu films and I am familiar with that language. But, the vocabulary of Tamil was quite difficult. In Telugu, there was a generous dosage of English words as well. But, in Tamil, they don’t use English that much. I tried my best to inject some English words, but Sudha never allowed. I was finding an easy way out. It is a terrific language. Of course, the language will be difficult for a Hindi-speaking person. But, Suriya and Sudha were never restless. They were very supportive and gave me space to learn and perform.
What did you really like about Soorarai Pottru?
Guneet: I really liked that I collaborated with a woman director on such a huge film. I am in love with Sudha. I love her style, her determination. She is such a good writer-director. It is a huge plus that Sudha and I got to work on this film. She had the idea for the story, and I managed to get the rights. That’s how the journey started. This is a pan-India story. Everyone knows about Air Deccan. I am very excited about the pan-India Diwali release. I can’t wait for the whole country to watch it and tell us about it. It is very rare. My mother’s first flight was Air Deccan. She was so happy that she managed to buy a ticket at Rs 500. It is a story that has bridged the gap between the haves and have-nots.
Now, given that it is a biopic, is your character based on a real person? If so, did you research the person you were playing?
Paresh: Yes, it is based on a real person. But, there was no need for me to portray that person’s exact gestures and body language. I am just presenting an idea of what a business tycoon can do to a newcomer in a business. What’s more important is what the character represents.
You have worked on international and Bollywood projects. What do you think about the work culture down south? How well do filmmakers here fare compared to others you have worked with?
Guneet: I think each filmmaker has a unique style of filmmaking. I really enjoyed working in the south, especially with Sudha. It is because Sudha comes from a very disciplined background. She worked for Mani Ratnam sir. Discipline is Sudha’s day-to-day life. And as a filmmaker, she knows what she actually wants. So there is no time for confusion. I think this film became good because of Sudha.
Do you think the COVID pandemic has caused a tectonic shift in the business of film distribution?
Guneet: Nobody planned a pandemic. None of us thought this was coming. Of course, Soorarai Pottru was made for cinemas. I think there has been a boom in the OTT space. New films and shows are releasing on OTT platforms every week. I also think the sense of community experience will come back whenever the theatres are up and running, and it is safe to go back to cinemas. But, this period has been very hard on business, producers and everyone. So it is mixed feelings. One has to be empathic to each and every person who is trying to do business in this pandemic.
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