Movies are not conceived in isolation. Every aspiring director in Tamil cinema today will harbour memories of watching a Nayagan or a 16 Vayadhiniley on screen; every young actor will speak of how Kamal Haasan and Sivaji Ganesan inspired them; and every aspiring music director will have a favourite Ilaiyaraaja song. Each week, Silverscreen talks to a different celebrity to find the sparks that triggered their creativity – the films, the music, the writing, the photographs and the locations.
SJ Suryah wears many hats. This actor-director-producer has had a glittering career, with several hit films to his credit. Speaking to Silverscreen, he maintains that it is the people he finds inspiring, rather than their art.
1. Raj Kapoor
I remember watching a lot of Raj Kapoor films when I was young. He was the ultimate entertainer Indian film industry has ever had. He could inspire people and make them do anything. This ability is something I’ve always wanted to possess. One day, I want at least one person to look back and say that SJ Suryah was a guy who tried his best to be like Raj Kapoor. I want to leave a legacy like he did. It’s a continuing obsession for me.
I worked with Kareena Kapoor for the Hindi adaptation of Kushi, and I must say, she reminds me a lot of her grandfather.
Who won’t be inspired by MGR sir? He was a larger-than-life character who did a lot of good things for his people. All his films were about eradicating social evils. He knew the power of his work and his image, and used it purely for the good. That sort of man is someone we rarely come across. Whenever I’m down, I watch one of his films. What a great star he was! Pity that people fail to recognise his acting skills and dismiss him as just a star. He was truly a talented actor.
Again, who won’t be inspired by Rajini, the Superstar! I’ve wanted to work with him for a long time now. I’ve managed to dance in his daughter’s film, though. On a serious note, Rajini sir and his rags-to-riches story is something that I inspire myself with. The star aside, the man himself is a huge inspiration. He lives life in simplicity. In the past few years, he has been on a spiritual quest. I plan to be like that in my later years.
Vijay acted in my second film, which came at a time when he was a rising star. So was I. We met while we were going through a similar phase in our respective careers and that made us closer, I think. He is an amazing human being. Every time we meet, I get to learn something new from him. He carries with himself a rare ability to spread peace. It is a beautiful feeling. Vijay is very Zen-like. Nothing gets through to him. He accepts what life has to offer and he accepts people as they are. That’s a unique quality – something that I don’t possess yet.
If I could, I would cast Simran in all my films. When she decided to get married and leave cinema, I was one of the people who was worst-hit. She’s brilliant, talented, beautiful and quick-witted. She has all the traits of the perfect woman. That’s why it was so easy to convince the audience that the evil twin in Vaali would even betray his own brother for her. Marriage and motherhood have only added to her charm. I hope she makes a stunning comeback soon. The world needs more of Simran.
6. AR Rahman
One of the major reasons I composed music for Isai was thanks to AR Rahman. He truly encouraged me to go ahead with the decision. It is quite hard to meet people in the industry who’d go the extra mile to help others discover something inside them. AR Rahman did just that. That’s why I am here now. Isai rejuvenated me and a part of it is due to ARR.