Saravanan Sivakumar, known by his stage name Suriya, is an Indian film actor, producer, and television presenter, best known for his work in Tamil cinema. After making his debut in Nerukku Ner (1997), Suriya landed his breakthrough role in Nandha (2001) and then had his first major commercial success with the thriller Kaakha Kaakha (2003). Following award-winning performances of a conman in Pithamagan (2003) and a hunchback in Perazhagan (2004), Suriya played a patient suffering from anterograde amnesia in the 2005 blockbuster Ghajini. He rose to stardom with dual roles of a father and son in Gautham Menon's semi-autobiographical Vaaranam Aayiram (2008). His status as an action star was established with roles of a smuggler in Ayan (2009), and an aggressive cop in the Singam trilogy. Suriya has also found success with science fiction films like 7aum Arivu (2011) and 24 (2016). As of 2017, he has won three Tamil Nadu State Film Awards and four Filmfare Awards South.
Suriya in 2011
23 July 1975
|Residence||Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India|
|Alma mater||Loyola College, Chennai|
|Occupation||Film actor, producer, television host|
Jyothika (m. 2006)
Suriya is the eldest son of Tamil film actor Sivakumar and his younger brother Karthi is also an actor. Suriya married co-star Jyothika in 2006, after having been together for several years. In 2008, he began Agaram Foundation, which funds for various philanthropic activities. The year 2012 marked his debut as a television presenter with the Star Vijay game show Neengalum Vellalam Oru Kodi, the Tamil version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?. In 2013, Suriya founded the production house 2D Entertainment.
Early life and family
Suriya was born on 23 July 1975 to Tamil film actor Sivakumar and his wife Lakshmi as Saravanan. He attended Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan School and St. Bede's Anglo Indian Higher Secondary School in Chennai, and obtained his under graduate degree B.Com from Loyola College, Chennai. Suriya has two younger siblings, a brother Karthi and a sister Brindha.
Suriya is married to Jyothika, with whom he worked in as many as seven films. The couple, after being together for several years, got married on 11 September 2006. They have two children, a daughter Diya (born 10 August 2007) and a son Dev (born 7 June 2010).
1997–2002: Early career
Before his career in films, Surya worked at a garment exports factory for eight months. To avoid nepotism, he did not reveal himself to his boss as Sivakumar's son, but his boss ultimately learnt the truth himself. He was initially offered the lead role by Vasanth in his film Aasai (1995), but he rejected the offer citing a lack of interest in an acting career. He later debuted in Vasanth's own 1997 film Nerrukku Ner, produced by Mani Ratnam when he was 22 years of age. The stage name Suriya was bestowed to him by Ratnam to avoid a clash of names with established actor Saravanan. The name Suriya was frequently used for characters in Ratnam's films. Vijay, who would also go on to become a leading contemporary actor in Kollywood, co-starred with him in the film. This was followed by a series of roles in commercially unsuccessful films in the late 1990s. In 2001, he starred in Siddique's comedy film Friends, also co-starring Vijay.
Suriya confessed that he struggled due to lack of confidence, memory power, fighting or dancing skills in his early career, but it was actor Raghuvaran, one of his mentors, who advised him to create his own identity, rather than stay under his father's shadow.
His major break in acting came in the form of Nandha, which was directed by Bala. Playing the role of an ex-convict who is very attached to his mother, he received a Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Actor. His next venture was Vikraman's Unnai Ninaithu followed by Mounam Pesiyadhe directed by Ameer Sultan.
2003–2007: Various roles
In 2003, he starred in Gautham Menon's Kaakha Kaakha, a film about the life of an army officer. The film opened to positive reviews with a critic from Rediff.com claiming that "Surya as Anbu Selvan fits the role and this film is certainly a career high for him". The film became a Blockbuster at the box office. His portrayal of a happy-go-lucky village crook with a comic touch in Bala's Pithamagan, along with Vikram, won him Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actor – Tamil and the film did well commercially. In 2004, he played dual roles in Perazhagan, as an aggressive boxer and a handicapped phone booth keeper. Suriya's performance won positive reviews from critics with a reviewer describing it as "Surya deserves appreciation for his astounding performance. He is at his best be it humor or action. The actor has scored a hat trick". The film became a successful venture at the box office and Suriya won his first Filmfare Award for Best Actor – Tamil. The same year, he portrayed the role of a student leader in Mani Ratnam's political drama Aaytha Ezhuthu along with Madhavan and Siddarth which received highly critical acclaim.
Suriya signed on to feature in the psychological thriller, Ghajini directed by A. R. Murugadoss in November 2004; he played the role of a patient suffering from short-term memory loss. Ghajini released in late 2005 and became a Blockbuster and was the third highest-grossing film of that year in Tamil. Suriya's role was unanimously praised, with a reviewer from Sify citing that "the film is driven by Suriya's riveting performance". Later he worked in Hari's action film Aaru and the film received a moderate response at the box office. His performance fetched positive reviews with a reviewer citing that "Surya keeps you riveted to the seats with another wholesome effort".
In 2006, he starred with Jyothika and Bhumika Chawla in N. Krishna's film Sillunu Oru Kaadhal. The film took a strong opening, average reception But his performance was praised, with a reviewer from Sify citing that "Surya pitches in with yet another fantastic performance, be it the responsible husband and father, or the cool dude at college". In 2007, his only release was director Hari's Vel, where he was paired with Asin for the second time after Ghajini. The film, which featured him in dual roles, was commercially successful.
2008–2010: Commercial success
His next release was a collaboration with Gautham Menon, after the success of Kaakha Kaakha, Suriya began work on Menon's biopic Vaaranam Aayiram in November 2008. Playing dual roles for the third time in his career, Suriya appeared as father and son, with both characters also demanding scenes shot throughout their lives ranging from scenes as a 16-year-old to scenes as a 65-year-old. During the production of the film, Suriya described the project as "unique" and "straight from the heart", describing the physical hardships he endured during the making. He lost weight and prepared a six pack for the film through an eight-month fitness regime without steroids, with the movie being a trend-setter for other leading actors from South India. The film, which also featured Simran, Sameera Reddy and Divya Spandana in prominent roles, became commercially successful at the box office upon release as well as receiving positive reviews from film critics, with Suriya's performance being lauded. A critic from Rediff labelled the film as his "magnum opus", citing that he is "perfect" and that the film for him is a "justified triumph". Similarly, critics cited Suriya's performance as "outstanding" and claimed that the film "works because of his performance", whilst other reviewers claimed the film was an "out and out Suriya show". His portrayals also fetched him several notable awards, including the Filmfare Award for Best Actor – Tamil, a Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Actor by the jury and also the Vijay Award for Best Actor for 2008. The film also went on to receive a National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil for 2008.
In 2009, Suriya's first release was K. V. Anand's action-thriller Ayan, which went on to become the highest grossing Tamil film of the year. With Suriya portraying the role of a smuggler, the film also featured Prabhu as his guardian and Tamannaah Bhatia as the lead actress. The film was shot extensively across Tanzania, Namibia, Malaysia and India and featured acrobatic stunts by Suriya, without the use of a stunt double. Upon release, the film won positive reviews citing that the film was a "must watch" and Suriya's performance was yet again acclaimed and he found himself nominated for leading awards and won the Vijay Award for Entertainer of the Year. The film's success saw Suriya emerge as the most profitable leading actor in Tamil films, following a hat trick of large commercial hits, with film journals suggesting that his success was due to "experiments within the commercial format" and he was successful in "avoiding being typecast".
His next film, K. S. Ravikumar's action entertainer Aadhavan also achieved commercial success, while Suriya's depiction of a hitman was praised. A critic from Sify.com labelled it as an "out and out Suriya show", stating that "the film rides on the magic of the actor, and his zany shenanigans alone makes it worth a watch" and Rediff.com cited that "he sings, dances, and fights with absolute sincerity, but when he looks at you with tears in his eyes in an emotional scene tailor-made for him, the applause hits the roof", concluding that it is "completely his film". In 2010, he had his 25th release with Singam directed by Hari, in which he played the role of a police officer from a small village going to work in the city. The film received to positive reviews with The Hindu noting that "Suriya shows that be it a performance-oriented role or a formulaic concoction he can deliver", while Sify.com stated "Ultimately it is Suriya who carries the film to the winning post. His passion and the way he brings an ordinary regular larger-than-life hero character alive on screen is lesson for other commercial heroes." The film won Suriya the Vijay Award for Best Entertainer again and saw him nominated for the Filmfare Award for Best Actor – Tamil again, and subsequently went on to become the second highest-grossing film of the year. He made his Bollywood debut in Ram Gopal Varma's two-part political drama Rakta Charitra in 2010 which was released to highly critical acclaim and became a commercial success. Rakta Charitra is also considered as the Most Violent Film in Indian Film industry. Suriya subsequently went on to appear as himself in three consecutive guest appearances, appearing alongside Trisha and Madhavan in a song in Manmadhan Ambu (2010), before also starring in K. V. Anand's Ko and Bala's Avan Ivan (2011).
His only release in 2011 that featured him in a starring role was A. R. Murugadoss's science fiction thriller 7aum Arivu. Suriya played dual roles with Shruti Haasan in the film, as a circus artist and as the Buddhist monk named Bodhidharma, who lived in the 6th century. The film met with mixed reception, but was a commercial success. His 2012 release was the K. V. Anand directed Maattrraan in which he played the role of conjoined twins, Vimalan and Akhilan. The film received mixed reviews and the film ended up being an average grosser while Suriya's performance is praised along with technical aspects and VFX.
In January 2012, Suriya was named as the official host of the new game show to be presented on STAR Vijay, Neengalum Vellalam Oru Kodi, the Tamil version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, which began airing on 27 February 2012 and ended on 12 July. His next film was Singam II, a sequel to his 2010 film Singam, that released on 5 July 2013 to mixed responses from critics. However, the film received a huge opening and emerged one of the highest grossing Tamil films of all time. Suriya was once again acclaimed for his portrayal of Durai Singam and his performance was hailed as "the film's backbone". He had signed on to feature in Gautham Menon's film Dhruva Natchathiram and reportedly waited for six months to start filming. However, in October 2013, he backed out due to lagging of the project and differences with the director. His next film Anjaan directed by N. Lingusamy was released on 15 August 2014 to mixed reviews. His next release was Venkat Prabhu's film Massu Engira Masilamani (Masss) which released to mixed reviews but critics were all in praise for Suriya's performance.
His next release was 24 directed by Vikram Kumar which was released on 6 May 2016. The film is based on the concept of time-travel, the film stars actor Suriya in triple roles, with actresses Samantha Ruth Prabhu and Nithya Menen in leading roles. The film received mixed reviews.The Hindu, critic Baradwaj Rangan called 24 an "intelligent, joyous mix of sci-fi and masala-myth." Sreedhar Pillai in his review for Firstpost mentioned, 24 is a classy commercial entertainer, which has its moments. Malini Mannath of The New Indian Express wrote, "Attractively packaged, 24 is refreshing, novel and worth a watch. M. Suganth of The Times of India, assigned 4 out of 5 stars, stating: "It is not often that we see a big star choosing to take a risk with a script that is not simplistic or formulaic, especially when his last few films have underperformed at the box office, but here Suriya pulls it off admirably. IndiaGlitz.com rated the film 3.3 out of 5 and called it as "A beautiful and brilliant show of Time".
His next film S3 was released on 9 February 2017 and emerged another ₹1 billion grosser. His only release in 2018 was Thaana Serndha Kootam directed by Vignesh Shivan and produced by Studio Green with music done by Anirudh Ravichander with Keerthi Suresh as the female lead. The first of his two releases in 2019, Selvaraghavan's NGK, released on 31 May 2019.
In 2004, Suriya along with R. Madhavan was Pepsi's brand ambassador in Tamil Nadu. He was chosen to represent TVS Motors, Sunfeast Biscuits and Aircel in 2006, the latter which he endorses to this date. He has endorsed Saravana Stores, Bharathi Cements and Emami Navaratna products since 2010. In 2011, he had signed a new deal with Nescafe, Close-Up and with Zandu Balm brand as of May 2011, for which he appeared with actress Malaika Arora. In 2012, Suriya was drafted in by Malabar Gold, a leading jewellery group. The commercials for Aircel and Nescafe featured Suriya and his wife Jyothika together. In 2013, he was honored at the Edison Awards as the Best Male Endorser in South India. In 2014, he had one major contract with Complan energy drinks. In 2015, Suriya was named as the brand ambassador for Quikr and Intex Moblies. He was listed No. 33 in Forbes India's Celebrity 100 List for the year 2013, with earnings of ₹485 million (US$7.0 million), and No. 25 in the list for 2017, with earnings of ₹340 million (US$4.9 million).
In 2007, Suriya was the brand ambassador of Tanker Foundation and acted in a short film on AIDS awareness. In 2008, Suriya began the Agaram Foundation, working to help children who drop out of school early in Tamil Nadu. Suriya revealed that he was inspired to begin the movement as a result of his father's own organisation, Sivakumar Educational Trust, which had been operating similar benefits on a smaller scale since the 1980s. With the Ministry of Education in Tamil Nadu, he created a short commercial video outlining child poverty, labour and lack of education, titled Herova? Zerova?. The film was written and produced by Sivakumar and also starred Vijay, Madhavan and Jyothika. Agaram sponsored 159 underprevileged students in 2010 for their higher education in various disciplines, and has continued to provide free seats and accommodation for pupils. With the firm belief that the educated mind can not only eliminate social evils but also aid in the socio-economic upbringing of society, Agaram Foundation works towards providing appropriate learning opportunities to the rural populace who do not otherwise have access to quality education. Through the foundation, he has also set up a platform for students to participate in workshops and improve communication skills, teamwork, goal setting and leadership.
Suriya and his family has also extended help towards the education of Sri Lankan Tamil children on behalf of the Sivakumar Charitable Trust. He is also an active participant in other humanitarian works such as "Save The Tigers" campaign, which aids in the protection and preservation of Tigers in India, and "REACH", a non-profit that cures TB patients for free using supervised medication programs. The actor celebrates every birthday by doing charity work across Tamil Nadu.
In an interview with the Bangalore Mirror, Disney UTV's head of business in South India, G. Dhananjayan credited Suriya as the "biggest star" in contemporary Tamil film and claimed it was mainly because of his popularity among Telugu and Malayalam speaking audience.
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