Why ‘Jigarthanda DoubleX’ matters: Raghava Lawrence, SJ Suryah on their Tamil film

Raghava Lawrence and SJ Suryah in Tamil film ‘Jigarthanda DoubleX’

Raghava Lawrence and SJ Suryah in Tamil film ‘Jigarthanda DoubleX’
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Pather Panchali (1955) and upcoming Tamil film Jigarthanda DoubleX might be more than seven decades apart. But they have something in common: filmmaker Satyajit Ray.

Ray, considered one of the greatest filmmakers in cinema history, was the inspiration behind actor SJ Suryah’s look in this Tamil film. Suryah, who plays a filmmaker in this emotional drama, says, “Having already played a director once, I was initially hesitant. But this role – which has shades of Satyajit Ray – was something I couldn’t say no to.”

Directed by Karthik Subbaraj,Jigarthanda DoubleX, releasing on November 10, brings back to Tamil audiences the familiar world of the director’s earlier hit film Jigarthanda (2014). It pits a Madurai-based gangster (Raghava Lawrence) against a filmmaker (SJ Suryah) in a story that is based in 1975. “They are at war, but you’ll have to watch the film to understand why. The earlier film was made at a budget of ₹20 crore, while this installment has been made at a cost of ₹100 crores. It’s big not only due to its budget, but also because of the grandness of the storyline.” It will attract children too, he adds. “There are lots of elephants and horses. We will also showcase the lives of tribals near Madurai back then.”

For Lawrence, shooting for Jigarthanda DoubleX was challenging not just because he was shooting for another film (Chandramukhi 2) simultaneously, but also because it was a role that had many shades. “He (Karthik Subbaraj) does not act and show. We have to enact as per his instructions and give him a handful of options, from which he will choose wisely.”

Raghava Lawrence and SJ Suryah in Tamil film ‘Jigarthanda DoubleX’

Raghava Lawrence and SJ Suryah in Tamil film ‘Jigarthanda DoubleX’
| Photo Credit:
S Shiva Raj

Pass or fail

Suryah, who came into Tamil cinema as a director with superhits Vaali starring Ajith and Kushi starring Vijay, has of late dished out impactful performances in front of the camera. But this was almost a dream – from 2007 to 2013 or so – when he had a string of not-so-favourable outings at the box office. “If I am doing well today, it is thanks to how I held myself together during that tough phase. While the outside world might not have known what I was doing, I know that I was working continuously. All that is keeping me in good stead today.”

And that is probably why Suryah is experimenting with different roles. “We need different tasks for every film. We need to re-invent ourselves,” he says, “If my previous film Mark Antony had a predominantly high-pitched performance, Jigarthanda DoubleX will have lots of silence and a restrained performance. This was a big task for me as it required me to perform even when there were no dialogues.”

If Suryah goes for experiments, Lawrence prefers the time-tested route. “I’ve never thought about awards while selecting stories. I have always wanted to do commercial films, but thankfully, in Jigarthanda DoubleX, both commercial elements and great characterisation have been woven in.”

On the sets of Tamil film ‘Jigarthanda DoubleX’

On the sets of Tamil film ‘Jigarthanda DoubleX’
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Fans and films

Suryah has played the role of a filmmaker twice and has also earlier essayed a music composer (Isai). While tinseltown is considered a ‘glamorous profession’ and one that is very interesting from the perspective of a 9-to-5 desk job holder, how is it, really, from the eyes of an insider? Suryah ponders and says, “Only if you love the job, any job for that matter, will it give you a high. The interesting aspect about cinema is we keep changing projects, thus giving us actors the opportunity to live the lives of many characters. Actors are blessed people.”

They are, thanks to the many fans who celebrate them. And they, in return, hold fans in high esteem, says Raghava Lawrence. “They (fans) first see us as an actor, and then as a thalaivan (leader). Their dreams sometimes revolve around us.” Just last month, Lawrence was in the news for asking his fans not to attend any of his film launches. “A fan who attended my film function passed away while heading back home. When I went to meet his mother later, she said, “Can you bring him back? Didn’t he come for your event?” That shook me. Fans are my biggest blessing because they back me with zero expectations.”

Why I didn’t do ‘Vikram’

Not many know that Raghava Lawrence was one of the initial choices to play the villain role in Kamal Haasan’s Vikram, directed by Lokesh Kanagaraj. “I didn’t want to be wrongly cast in such a role, especially in a film that had a huge budget. I’m not sure if audiences will accept me in such a villanous role, considering my real-life persona as a do-gooder. As I have an ‘opening’ at the box office and films do good business, I believe it is important to consider those things before signing any project.”

Is he playing the villain in Lokesh’s upcoming film with Rajinikanth, as being reported widely? “I don’t know,” he says, with a smile.

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