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This is what SJ Suryah is dreaming about in ‘Bommai’

SJ Suryah and Priya Bhavani Shankar filming a song sequence in ‘Bommai’ directed by Radha Mohan   | Photo Credit: B Velankanni Raj

This is not exactly Being John Malkovich but we find ourselves inside the head of actor-director SJ Suryah on a bright and sunny afternoon.

He is dreaming, and he has a dream girl for company. The portal that leads us into this castle in the air Suryah has built is the Thaamara Studioz in Vadapalani.

Dressed in a solid deep green shirt and black trousers, the actor, sporting hazel loafers and wearing a relaxed smile on his face, greets us. Known for his preference for dabbling in films that explore the human psyche, Suryah explains the reason he decided to produce and star in director Radha Mohan’s Bommai, whose cast includes Priya Bhavani Shankar, his co-star from the film Monster.

This is what SJ Suryah is dreaming about in ‘Bommai’

“The reason is the script and director. Radha Mohan is a fantastic filmmaker, and he has a great reputation among the family and class audience. With this film, he will reach the B and C centre audience as well,” he says.

Pursuit of perfection

It is on this film’s set we engage the actor in a brief conversation, after watching his many attempts to achieve ‘the perfect shot’ for a song sequence.

This is what SJ Suryah is dreaming about in ‘Bommai’

“Anybody who loves their job... they must seek perfection. Look, perfection has no end but we must seek it to the extent we can, and to the extent our knowledge of perfection extends. We must seek perfection to our satisfaction,” he says.

This drive for perfection is what that has bowled over Radha Mohan. Says the filmmaker, who is dressed casually in a yellow tee, of Suryah, “His sincerity and the way he surrendered himself to the script... it is one quality that I liked in him. He is very hard working.”

This is what SJ Suryah is dreaming about in ‘Bommai’

Suryah’s eccentricity is the stuff of legend in film circles. Priya Bhavani Shankar agrees... after all she had a ringside view of it in their previous film, Monster.

Today was no exception, as she watches the filmmaker encourage himself, yelling out to the jimmy jib operator — “Dai Jimmy... vaada, one more take.. come on, come on,” says Suryah — and profusely apologises to her, as he requests one more take for the nth time while trying to replicate what dance choreographer Raju Sundaram asks of him for a song that goes ‘Mutham... muthal mutham’ (sung by Yuvan Shankar Raja).

This is what SJ Suryah is dreaming about in ‘Bommai’

“I’m not surprised by how it went. That is how it generally is...” says Priya, who is dressed in a yellow sari paired with a sequined blouse and who looks every bit like the woman Mysskin from the 2000s would dream about, when we ask her of the number of takes.

It seems difficult to redo it over and again, especially when it is a bit nuanced.

This is what SJ Suryah is dreaming about in ‘Bommai’

Raju Sundaram tells her to gently nudge Suryah with the elbow as she approaches her for an intimate moment. Priya must then move closer to the actor who is on the floor, and as he approaches her for another intimate moment, she must push him away... and then the dance choreographer would say, “Cut”, provided they film it right.

“I think he (Suryah) was just getting some practice,” Priya says, laughing, and adds: “They (crew) would always want something better, and you get more tuned [to their expectations] when you go for more number of takes.”

SJ Suryah requests another take from the director

SJ Suryah requests another take from the director   | Photo Credit: B Velankanni Raj

Suryah offers a more nuanced take. “You can look at it two ways. If I go for more number of takes, it could be because I’m a perfectionist or because of my inefficiency. I like to think it is the latter in my case,” he likes.

Creating an illusion

While this is happening on one side, cinematographer Richard M Nathan is busy at work. It is not exactly clear as we walk in to the studio as to why the actors are on a makeshift stage with bundles of hay stack and sand for company.

Cinematographer Richard M Nathan gestures at members of the film’s technical crew

Cinematographer Richard M Nathan gestures at members of the film’s technical crew   | Photo Credit: B Velankanni Raj

As we peep into watch the frames set by the cinematographer, it is even more confusing. He has gone for wide angles and overhead shots, which captures the blue walls and the floor around the stage.

“Oh, this sequence will be altered using Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI),” Richard clarifies. “We are only going to use the contact points of the artistes. The rest of it will look like they are standing on top of a mountain. It will be a night sequence. It may look bright now but we will bring it down in post production. They will be on top of a mountain with the moon and stars as background,” he adds.

Director Radha Mohan

Director Radha Mohan   | Photo Credit: B Velankanni Raj

As Raju Sundaram moves to his next shot — a long shot of Suryah dancing in the background on the makeshift stage, and as the camera moves away from him, Priya emerges on the left; she is standing on a tiny wooden box a few feet away from Suryah — we ask Radha Mohan, a little about what to expect in the film.

Does the name Bommai mean, Priya is a mannequin who comes to life in the mind of this disturbed individual’s character played by Suryah? “Something like that,” the director says, “This film is like a mind game. It is intense but has its lighter moments.”

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Printable version | Jun 12, 2021 8:29:19 PM |

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