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Interview Tamil Telugu

Suriya on NGK and why working with Selvaraghavan was like going to an ashram

Ahead of the release of NGK, Suriya opens up about the political action thriller and why he could not simply switch on and off while working with Selvaraghavan.

Suriya in a still from NGK

Haricharan Pudipeddi

The year 2019 began with a bang for Tamil cinema as two of its early big films, Petta (with Rajinikanth) and Viswasam (with Ajith), which were released for the Pongal festival, went on to strike gold at the box office.

Since then, however, the industry has witnessed only moderate success in the form of films such as Thadam and Natpe Thunai. So all eyes are on the Suriya-starrer NGK, which hits the screens this week and is unarguably the most anticipated release of the summer. The hype around the film has been unprecedented ever since the project was launched.

The film, a political action thriller, marks the maiden collaboration of Suriya and filmmaker K Selvaraghavan. The story centres on a man who is sucked into the dirty world of politics and how he finds his place in it.

Ahead of the film’s release, Suriya opened up about the project and working with Selvaraghavan in an interaction with a group of journalists.

Suriya said it had been a long wait for him to join hands with Selvaraghavan whose work he has admired over the years. “I’ve been waiting to work with Selva since 2001, but somehow my brother [Karthi] got to work with him first in Aayirathil Oruvan (2010). Dream Warrior Pictures, the producers of NGK, made this collaboration possible and I couldn’t have been happier," Suriya said.

"NGK feels like the right choice for me at this point in my career," the star continued. "A lot of people have told me I spent the first 10 years of my career doing intense films while the last decade was spent on larger-than-life entertainers. It was time for me to do something dark and intense again, and that’s why I feel NGK couldn’t have happened at a better time. I chose NGK from four scripts and its unpredictability is what drew me to this project.”

The last time Suriya was seen in a film dealing with a political subject was when he joined hands with Mani Ratnam for Aayitha Ezhuthu (2004). Asked about returning to the political genre after such a long gap, he said, “Audiences have always received political dramas very well. Be it Mudhalvan (1999) or Bharat Ane Nenu (2018), each of these films has explored the political landscape from a different perspective.

"NGK is Selva’s take on politics and he has explored a new layer in this genre. The film’s core idea is that when you silently embrace something bad that happens around us, we also become part of the problem.

"NGK deconstructs politics from a very grassroots level as it is centred on a man from a small town and how he rises up the ranks in politics. The universality of the subject will strongly resonate with audiences.”

Asked if the film’s opinion about politics clashed with his personal view of politics, Suriya said: “The film has what audiences will expect from me and at the same time it will be raw and gritty with Selva’s touch. But I feel it’s still a Selva film and the dialogues will leave a very strong impression on viewers.

"In most of my films, I try to be morally and ethically right about my actions. In NGK, I have still gone against that policy as I play a character who feels he doesn’t always have to be right.”

Director K Selvaraghavan

On the experience of working with Selvaraghavan and how he changed Suriya as an actor, the Singam (2010) star said: “Nobody visualizes a character like Selva does, and that’s what made playing NGK quite challenging. Since he writes the story as well as the screenplay, only he knows how he wants a scene to look and feel, even in terms of cinematography and performances. There is this debate that he hasn’t delivered a hit in a long time, but that’s not the point. Some people are unique and you can’t write them off. There is nobody like him."

Suriya compared working with Selva to going to an ashram. “On the sets, there are no mobile phones, no chit-chats and absolutely no room for any kind of distraction," he said. "Everybody is expected to be in a meditative state, focused at all times.

"Usually, when I finish my shot, I can switch off and switch on easily. But in his film, from start to cut, I had to be focused and be in that emotion. It has been a long time since I have been in that kind of zone. You have to feel that emotion all the time.”

Suriya added that it is really hard to prepare in advance when you work with Selvaraghavan. “No matter how much you prepare for a scene, he won’t be convinced until it satisfies him creatively. There have been days where we have shot a single scene for the entire day and continued it the next day. That’s the kind of commitment you need to have when working with Selva."

Finally, asked if his stardom restricts him from doing certain kind of films, Suriya said, “That’s why I produce films. It’s an extension of the kind of films I want to do. I don’t want people thinking I can’t do certain kind of films.”