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'7 Aum Arivu is not a commercial entertainer'

Last updated on: November 23, 2011 12:33 IST

'7 Aum Arivu is not a commercial entertainer'

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Radhika Rajamani in Hyderabad

Suriya's 7 Aum Arivu, directed by A R Murugadoss, has been dubbed as 7th Sense in Telugu. While in Hyderabad to attend the success meet of the film (which raked in Rs 12 crore in a week's time), Suriya spent a few minutes to discuss his role and the film in detail.

How challenging was your role as Bodhidharma?

It was the first time I got to play the part of a person, who was a superhero in real life and who changed history. It's sad we don't know anything about him. Most of us didn't have any clue about Bodhidharma down South in spite of him being an important person in Asia.

People there worship him for spreading Zen Buddhism and martial arts. To see him, to read about him, to understand him was a huge experience. I felt very proud and happy. It was a very big thing in my career to be a part of this film.

It took me some time to make myself look like a person who's been practising martial arts and to generally convince people that this person is Bodhidharma. It took some time for me to make myself look like a warrior and also a sadhu. To get my body into shape I went to Vietnam and I learnt martial arts there.


Image: Movie poster of 7 Aum Arivu

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'I had to be Bodhidharma and not Suriya for the film'

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How did you get that serenity in the eyes?

To make people believe he is a holy man and has got special powers, I followed Osho's videos. I wanted to know who is this person we look up to, who has made a difference, who has seen life in a different perspective and is a teacher we believe in.

I could immediately connect with Osho. He's got the calmness in his eyes and a smile. The eyes have the depth of the ocean in them but you don't know what he's thinking. He never blinked. All that was like a cue for me, even his hand movements. I incorporated and made use of all that and that has made the difference.

So you did a lot of preparation in order to get into the skin of this character?

The film is not a commercial entertainer; it's an important film. We are documenting an important personality. So it has to be as close as possible to real life facts as we know them. This person is supposed to be the wide-eyed barbarian. On the Internet he is called the 'blue-eyed barbarian'. Of course I had to be Bodhidharma and not Suriya.


Image: A scene from 7 Aum Arivu

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'I wanted Shruti Haasan to give her best'

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What was it like shooting in China?

The people there were excited. We were just learners trying to learn more. The way we speak about Lord Krishna, Lord Ganesh and Lord Shiva is the way they speak about Bodhidharma. They speak about his techniques, about what he has done. It's all passed on.

At 3 am, the whole crew (even kids) would be ready with their costumes and make-up. It was not a burden for them; it was not like working on another project, it was like worship for them, it was like being in a temple. The discipline and respect they showed and the support they gave was amazing.

How did you train yourself in martial arts in Vietnam?

Martial art techniques have come a long way. With modernisation, a lot of techniques are added on. We tried to go back maybe 100 years. If you compare it to vocabulary, we wanted to go back to each letter like A, B, C and how they are formed, what the base was, etc.

We had people from Shaolin Temple, some of whom had trained there for 29 years. They showed us the old methods of doing martial arts, old stances. We took some videos, we discussed, enquired if it was the right way of doing it and then we used it. It was not like learning from a Chinese film and doing it, we had masters helping us. We had a lot of fighters from Vietnam. Peter Hein (action director) has his roots in Vietnam. We had authentic people.


Image: A scene from 7 Aum Arivu

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'It was not easy to stand opposite Johnny Tri Nguyen'

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To play the circus artiste, did you learn a lot of tricks?

We did learn a lot of tricks. It was a different experience working with the crew of the Great Bombay Circus. I stayed with them for a night and it was a wonderful experience being with them -- people from Nepal, Kerala, all staying in one tent together. Youngsters, some from the age of eight, would practise every day for eight hours a day and then perform for the public. They don't have an easy life. It was amazing to watch them.

How was it shooting with Johnny Tri Nguyen?

Johnny is a martial arts expert. He has learnt it from his great grandfather, and his father. To stand opposite him is not easy. Of course he was of great help. He taught me certain things. Whatever I did on screen, he helped me do it even better.

What is it like acting with Shruti Haasan?

Everyone is in awe of Shruti for the way she carries herself. She is multi-talented. She's a great singer and musician. I was always in awe of Kamal Sir and what he has given to cinema. So it's more like taking care of Kamal Sir's daughter. It was more that way for me. I wanted her to do her best. So whatever experience I had gathered, whatever I thought was sensible, I shared with her.


Image: A scene from 7 Aum Arivu

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'Murugadoss didn't want to settle for just regular entertainment'

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You worked with Murugadoss on Ghajini. How has he evolved as a director?

Time, the experience of working in a different industry, working with different legends, gives one a lot of experience. He's put a lot of effort into this script and didn't want to settle for just regular entertainment.

Your films are dubbed in Telugu but do very well in Andhra Pradesh. Why is that?

I feel very blessed. I don't have words to thank them. It's a big blessing for an actor doing a straight Tamil film and also getting this bonus market in Telugu. Many Telugu families have migrated from Tamil Nadu, so I don't feel this is another state.

My neighbours and most of my friends are Telugu speaking. My best friends from my school days are Telugu speaking. Nutan Prasad Sir was my neighbour as were the Parachuri brothers. 

Bellamkonda Suresh has announced that you will be doing a bi-lingual...

Yes, we have started talks on it. It should be an important project in my career.

Any chance that you and Karthi will do a Telugu film together?

If the script demands it and if something really excites us, we will do it.


Image: A scene from 7 Aum Arivu

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