Sudha Kongara: Women have to work twice as hard for half the credit

The filmmaker, who’s basking in the success of her Suriya film, Soorarai Pottru, offers much insight into her persona and her style of work in this exclusive post-release interview

When you talk with another for a reasonable length of time, no matter the topic under discussion, they always end up spilling insights about themselves. During an exclusive hour-long conversation with director Sudha Kongara about Soorarai Pottru, I learned quite a bit about her. For one, she’s—and it’s a relief for an interviewer—not one for diplomacy. Speaking about Drohi, her debut film from about a decade ago, I mention that it didn’t exactly get well-received. She laughs it off: “You don’t have to be sweet. Padam oothikichu.” This isn’t to suggest that she thinks it’s a bad film—not at all. The film had a bad release, she says, and that’s why she still doesn’t have a sense of closure about it. That’s why, even today, when someone approaches her with a compliment about later films (that she knows are good in an obvious way) like Irudhi Suttru or Soorarai Pottru, she can only muster a weak smile in response. But if you tell her that you love Drohi (like a stranger once did when she was eating chaat with her friend, director Thiagarajan Kumararaja), she gets elated. She likens her debut, Drohi, to a tennis player’s first serve. It’s raw, powerful and for that reason, prone to a fault. Ten years on, she thinks her films are now like second serves. They are smarter, more calculated, and consequently, come with more accuracy.

I learned that Sudha is quite relatable as a person who has had to endure many a difficulty before making it in the film industry, “taken many hits”, as she puts it. That’s why she told Suriya, who faces the insulating consequences of stardom, that should he seek inspiration on how to emote as an average person on the streets would, all he needed was to talk to her. She pours into her films quite a bit from her own life, she says. For instance, there’s a scene in Soorarai Pottru in which the protagonist Maaran’s father communicates wordlessly. It’s inspired by her father (who passed away during the making of this film and to whom there’s a dedication at the beginning), who kept calling out to her at the end, though he couldn’t speak.

For the remainder of this column (and there’s a lot more left, I assure you), visit Sudha Kongara (Soorarai Pottru): Women have to work twice as hard for half the credit- Cinema express.

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