Down South, Surya needs no introduction. But elsewhere in the country, he is better known as the star of the original Ghajini who will be debuting in Bollywood this Friday in Ram Gopal Varma’s Hindi-Tamil-Telugu trilingual Rakht Charitra 2.
He is quick to admit that it’s not a regular “hero” film for all age groups but a real story. He plays Gangula Suryanarayana Reddy, modelled on Maddelacheruvu Suri, the nemesis of Andhra politico, Pratap Ravi, whose muse is the assasinated leader Paritala Ravindra.
Prod him on what makes the language versions different from the Hindi one and Surya chuckles, “Down South we tend to be a litle loud and dramatic. But Ramu sir wanted me to underplay the emotions in the Hindi version. There was no need for a volcanic outburst. For me personally, it was a novel experience speaking Hindi since I had never spoken the language before, not even when on stage in school. I tried my hardest and got away because I was playing a South Indian character. But the next time I’ll have to do better.”
Rakht Charitra 1 has already drawn plenty of flak for misrepresenting facts and glorifying violence but Surya is far from apprehensive about flaying brickbats. The real story happened about 14 years ago, in Andhra Pradesh, he points out, and he’s from Tamil Nadu. So his knowledge of facts, as they were, have come from jail authorities, newspaper reports and TV clippings.
“Some of it could be hearsay but there’s no intention to hurt anyone,” he asserts, adding that since the film is not a run-of-the-mill revenge drama, even the violence is far from meaningless.
The first part released on October 22. The Tamil and Telegu versions of Part 2 were scheduled to open on November 26 and the Hindi one a week later. But eventually, RGV re-worked his strategy and all three versions of Rakht Charitra 2 are being unveiled on December 3. “It’s nice that my first Hindi film is releasing across the country on the same day,” Surya sighs with relief. What’s his take on Ram Gopal Varma? He bursts out laughing, “He’s a one-piece, with no duplicates. A wonderful craftsman whose control extends over every department of filmmaking. He can take you into the mind of a character with a dozen carefully chosen words. And he can make even a non-actor act.”
So, is Surya planning to shift base to Bollywood after Rakht Charitra 2? “No, I’m not,” he retorts. “I have a lot of respect for Bollywood’s reach and it feels nice to be appreciated by many more people. But Chennai is my home.”
He points out that he struggled for five years before the community accepted him and turned him into a hero. “I can’t break that connection now,” he reasons, adding with a smile that even actor-wife Jyotika who started out in Hindi films, would prefer him to stay in Chennai. “So, we’ll stick around here.”
However, he admits that regional cinema can limit you in your choice of subjects since you have to cater to different sensibilities and a more mass audience. He adds, “So, if I want to make a more urban film, Mumbai is the place. One film in two years would be nice.”