With the Karthi-starrer Alex Pandian set to hit the screens soon, director Suraaj discloses what makes his films click and why he doesn’t want to tread unknown territories

He is very clear about the kind of films he would like to make. Experimenting with genres is a strict no for him. For, director Suraaj feels when so much money is involved in the making of a film, it has to be a win-win situation for all concerned. “I am answerable to the producer, my cast, the audience and a whole lot of people in the industry who believe in my skills. Therefore, as long as it attracts the public, I will stick to my core strength of action and comedy,” says Suraaj firmly.

After 15 years of assisting Sundar C in his directorial ventures, Suraaj moved out of his shadow and directed Sundar himself in Thalai Nagaram. “With that, he turned actor, and I, a full-fledged director. I didn’t want to make Sundar’s kind of films. I knew that would be a mistake. But, what I learnt from him was to be organised, economical and stick to schedules. Come what may, Sundar would complete two scenes every day, starting at 8 a.m. and winding up at 5 p.m. To a large extent, this is how I too function,” says Suraaj. It has proved to be his success formula with films such as Moovendhar, Thalai Nagaram, Marudhamalai, Padikathavan and Mappillai.

Name game

Draw his attention to his fancy for Rajnikanth’s film titles for some of his ventures, and Suraaj says, “At one point, I felt it would be an advantage. While it did work wonders for my last two films, I wanted to change. When we started Alex Pandian, the film remained untitled for a long time. Although Karthi’s character in the film has been named Alex Pandian, it has no bearing on Rajni’s role in Moondru Mugam. We brainstormed for a long time and I was intent that I should not use any old title. Finally, I told Karthi, why not name the film after the lead character? That’s how the title came about,” reveals Suraaj.

Known for his flair for action and comedy, Suraaj promises a liberal dose of it in Alex Pandian too. Karthi and Santhanam are sure to have the audience in splits, he says. “But what’s unique is the comic scenes are beautifully interwoven with the serious and action scenes and help the story move forward. Santhanam’s character has a different demeanour; his facial expressions evoke laughs. In contrast to the usual hero-comedian camaraderie, Santhanam and Karthi are foes in Alex Pandian. Karthi is a happy-go-lucky character who doesn’t care about the consequences of his actions. On the other hand, Santhanam tries every trick in the book to stop Karthi from gaining a foothold in his house. You will marvel at the way Santhanam conveys humour,” says Suraaj without divulging too much about the plot. Karthi is paired with Anushka Shetty in the film produced by K. E. Gnanavelraja of Studio Green. Devi Sri Prasad has scored the music.

What is special about Alex Pandian? “We have canned some great fight sequences atop a moving train. It was only after a particular scene was shot that I realised how dangerous it was for Karthi to run atop a train in motion, chased by a helicopter. Karthi said, ‘I knew the scene was crucial to the story and would thrill the audience. I was willing to take the risk for the sake of the sequence.’ Such was his commitment,” commends Suraaj.

When he thinks up a story idea, Suraaj ensures it has the core ingredients, love, action and comedy. “That’s what draws the audience to the theatre. As a youngster, I would go to a movie only if it had these elements. Was there MGR in the film? Did it have Nagesh? Did it have a lovely heroine? Nothing much has changed since then, except the way these are presented. Today’s love is not about wooing and serenading, but texting and social networking. Similarly, fight and chase styles have changed. The audience’s attention span has reduced; worthless banter in the name of comedy has no takers. Thanks to stand-up comedy and the numerous comedy serials, the audience expects intelligent dialogue. We directors have to change with the times to cater for a constantly evolving audience,” states Suraaj.

Consequently, Alex Pandian promises to be a film with the right dose of action, comedy and romance. “I don’t know to make any other kind of film. As long as this combination works, I will be happy to make such movies,” signs off Suraaj.