tv & movies

Suriya’s 10 BEST Films

After two-and-a-half decades (he made his debut in 1997) and about 50 films later, one of Tamil cinema’s most versatile and bankable actors received his first ever National Award for his role in Soorarai Pottru, based on Air Deccan founder Captain G R Gopinath’s life.

Surprisingly, the two recent films that got Suriya so much of national attention — Jai Bhim and Soorarai Pottru — are no match for the 47-year-old actor’s talent and hard work.

Those who know Suriya well would perhaps tell you about his humble, kind and selfless nature, which translates to his films in which he often underplays himself and lets the character unravel and take you by surprise.

Back in the 1990s, if Vijay established himself as the blockbuster hero who could dance, romance and beat villains to pulp all at the same time, Ajith and Suriya did pretty much the same but in their own league and choice of films.

After Kamal Haasan, one can safely say it was actors like Suriya and Vikram who truly changed the game for Tamil cinema by taking on risky subjects and characters and delivering them to near perfection.

Suriya is one of the few Tamil actors who does not overact.

Most of his films are either dubbed in Telugu or remade in Hindi and other languages purely because of the way he presented and packaged the role and the subject.

From a young boy who hid his identity and worked in a small garment factory far away from the glitz and glamour — he even rejected his first film offer — the reluctant artiste has come a long way and truly proved his mettle.

As we celebrate the actor’s much deserved award, Divya Nair presents 10 landmark films in Suriya’s career, ranked in order of performance.


1. Perazhagan

At a time when his peers like Vijay (Badri, Ghilli) and Ajith (Dheena, Poovellam Un Vaasam) were churning out mass entertainers or romantic potboilers, Suriya took an offbeat path.

He played a dual role as Prem Kumar, a kind-hearted hunchback who is often insulted for the way he looks, and Karthik, a college boy with a violent streak.

Although Perazhagan is a remake of the Malayalam film Kunjikoonan, in which the lead role is brilliantly essayed by Dileep, Suriya does creative justice. He also bagged his first Filmfare Award for Best Actor for this film.

It’s not easy for a commercial actor to put himself in a space where he may be ridiculed for his looks, but Suriya took that risk pretty early in his career and it paid off magnificently.


2. Nandha

Suriya took on Nandha, after Ajith turned it down, but took his time to prepare for the character that required him to look bulky and serious.

After murdering his father at a young age, Nandha returns from a rehabilitation centre to his widowed mother and disabled sister.

As he tries to resurrect his life and complete his studies, Nandha falls in love with a Sri Lankan refugee (Laila’s debut).

The film’s climax and turn of events is unexpected, but Suriya’s earnest portrayal of the misunderstood convict wins hearts.

Nandha not only gave Suriya’s career a breakthrough, but ensured thaat both the critics and audience noticed his prowess.


3. Ghajini

In a recent interview, R Madhavan revealed how he had rejected the Ghajini role because he didn’t like the second half.

Inspired by Christopher Nolan’s Memento, Suriya plays suave businessman Sanjay Ramasamy in Ghajini, who suffers from memory loss following the murder of his lady love (Asin).

Directed by A R Murugadoss, the revenge drama was a sensational hit, appreciated for its story, screenplay, music by Harris Jayaraj, but most of all, stellar performances by the lead pair.

From the cute, humble and charming businessman any girl would dream to marry, Suriya transforms to an intense serial killer, displaying a range of emotions in a film that would become a cult classic.


4. Varanam Aayiram

On the surface, you have a passionate love story, but Varanam Aayiram also captures friendship, family and love in a way you didn’t experience before.

One of those rare films in which we get to see the intensity of an unexpected breakup leading to a positive, life-altering, transformation, it then became a reference film for the youth.

From the carefree engineer struggling to catch his breath in a moving train while he is crushing over a girl he just met to the lover who loses his mind and purpose after his girlfriend passes away, Suriya displays a range of intense emotions.

You will love him as the father just as much as the stalker-cum-doting son and later, as the disciplined army officer who is determined to change his life for the better.

So much so that when he sings Ennodu va veedu varaikum, en veetai paar, ennai pidikum (Come with me to my home, when you meet my family, you will like me too), you are already taken in by his charm.

Easily, one of Suriya’s standout films.


5. Kaakha Kaakha

Suriya plays a cop who falls in love with a school teacher.

His neat look in khakis became a reference point for several cop dramas that released later, but none could match Suriya’s charm and attitude.

His onscreen chemistry with Jyothika was inspired by their offscreen romance and looked effortless despite their limited screen time.

6. Singam

They say a hero looks better when the villain is a worthy competitor.

In Singam, two talented actors — Prakash Raj and Suriya — lock horns and each one comes out a winner.


7. Friends

When Friends opened in theatres, Malayalam viewers were disappointed with the director for remaking a successful film.

Friends went on to become a game-changer for Suriya and comedian Vadivelu.

In the film, Chandru (Suriya) and Aravindan (Vijay) are best friends, who are tricked and separated from each other after a dark secret involving the latter is brought to Suriya’s notice.

Although Vijay gets the meatier role, Suriya’s character adds layers of emotions — from anger and ego to guilt and love — to this friendship saga.

In many ways, Suriya delivered Chandru better than Mukesh’s Chandu in the original just like how Jayaram did justice to Aravindan better than Vijay did.


8. Aayutha Ezhuth

Starring three brilliant actors — R Madhavan, Suriya and Siddharth — Mani Ratnam’s Aayutha Ezhuth (simultaneously released as Yuva in Hindi) is a rare film in which every scene and every actor gets his fair share of the spotlight.

Suriya plays Michael, a fearless student leader who is attacked and later saved by the carefree Arjun (Siddharth).

Suriya turns out to be a crucial link between the lead characters in this political drama that became a critical success.

Although the film doesn’t indulge a single character for too long, Suriya delivers a power-packed performance.


9. 7aum Arivu

In 7aum Arivu, Suriya plays a circus artist who is a descendant of the Bodhi dharma.

As he confronts a Chinese super villain with hypnotic powers, Suriya takes us on a joy ride through history to acquaint us about our roots, the untapped power and potential of the seventh sense and even lays down the idea of a government-influenced biological war.

For science fiction, the film falls short in several departments, but 7aum Arivu is inspiring because Suriya makes everything he does seem believable.

The fact that he invested a lot of time to get into the skin of his character — he underwent training in the martial arts and chose to shoot his action sequences without a body double — reflects in his performance.

His hard work and dedication makes this average film worth your time.


10. Unnai Ninaithu

Suriya plays a receptionist working at a small-time lodge in Unnai Ninaithu.

When his new manager’s daughter Radha (Trisha in her debut) confesses her feelings for him, he opens up about his past and former love interest Nirmala (played by Laila).

Despite its slow pace of storytelling, Suriya shines in his role because he engages you in a way that you relate to his story.

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