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Interview Team : Jyothsna; Gopikrishnan; Arjun

Sudha Kongara is busy with promotions for her directorial Irudhi Suttru but manages to discuss in detail about her film with Senior Editor Jyothsna Bhavanishankar. Over to Sudha. 


When and how was Irudhi Suttru conceived?

I had a story about an athlete ten years ago or even earlier. It excited me. In fact, when I joined Mani sir, in all my naivete, I remember telling him that he can direct this story if he wants because he was wondering what he should be doing next.


I’ve always loved sport films and Lagaan in Indian cinema being my all time favorite. Then I saw a small article some six years ago about little girls being encouraged to take up boxing in North Chennai. That was pretty unusual. A conservative area sending their girls out to be little pugilists!! I started reading up about boxing and then specifically female boxing. And it was a Pandora’s box and a can of worms put together. A dramatic, fascinating world! I couldn’t stop. I met several boxers across the country in Chennai, Andhra, Kerala, Haryana, Delhi and even spoke to Mary Kom well before the country knew of her. I met coaches, officials, Olympians and what they spoke about became my scenes. 

I told Mani Ratnam sir that he can direct this story if he wants 


When there are quite a few films on sports in the Indian scene, and invariably all of them being on a similar path of talent-struggle-win, what would make Irudhi Suttru different from the rest?

I would like to recall something that I read somewhere long back - In a sport film it’s not the story that’s unique, but the path and the journey. In that sense, Irudhi Suttru has its own unique space. Raging bull was not just a sport film. It was a relationship film. Irudhi Suttru is more that than just a sport film. And the world that it’s set in is so fascinating that you have Hollywood making a film every year without fail on boxing and invariably they are successful. It’s the adrenaline in the sport that sucks you in.


Why a bilingual and why in Hindi?

It’s a pan Indian subject traversing not merely one specific culture. It’s about a banished coach from the North coming down to a boxing defunct Chennai and finding a fighter; their journey across the country and the culmination of their relationship. It’s about two individuals on the threshold of something that they have aspired for and it’s just a reflection of every one of us who want to achieve something and agonize for the fulfillment of that ONE big dream. Finally the economics were right because we had a very expensive climax to shoot and the cost would get spread. And my actor has a market in both languages.


How did Maddy come aboard? Can you elaborate on his contribution?

I sent Maddy the one line in Septemeber 2011 and he was on board in 48 hours. And there was no looking back since then and there was not any kind of loss of enthusiasm or faith in the project. That, I think is his greatest contribution to the film – his immense faith in the story and the film.


Of course he was the one who got me the producers, and took me to the biggest filmmaker in the country – Mr Rajkumar Hirani. The film, hence has found a mentor and someone who has given it, it’s present visibility

Maddy's biggest contribution to the film is his immense faith in the story


Tell us something that the rest of the world does not know about Maddy

Maddy is probably the most positive being I know. I did not know him too well before the film. Though he has never behaved like a star with me even when he was a superstar and I was the last AD on the sets. He’s a naturally friendly, gregarious guy. What the world perhaps doesn’t know is that he’s also the most vulnerable guy. 

Madhavan is the most vulnerable guy


Ritika Singh and Mumtaz Sorkar

Ritika is an international level kick boxer and MMA fighter. She was seventeen way back, four years ago when I saw her SFL ad on YouTube and told Maddy to speak to Raj Kundra who owned SFL. Then I screen tested her and knew she was Madhi. She’s very talented and extremely competitive as an actress though this was her first film. All I had to tell her when she wasn’t getting it was, “Why are you letting Maddy do better than you?” And That’s it; her sportsman killer instinct would set in and she would ace the scene. I love her focus.


Mumtaz could have easily played Madhi too. Just that I found Ritika first and Ritika was the same age as my character. Mumtaz is also a popular actress in Bengal and also a boxer. A terrific talent; someone I would ideally like to cast in all my films. She just GETS it without a fuss. There’s never a false note. Even if she’s in the background far away, she’s in character. I adore this girl. 

“Why are you letting Maddy do better than you?”


Other cast members

I had fantastic actors in this film


Stalwarts Nasser sir and Radha Ravi sir- they acted in my film like it was their first after nearly 500 films and forty years in this industry respectively. It was humbling. They came for readings and rehearsals with the rest of the cast with no fuss whatsoever.


Kali Venkat is a gem. He plays the girls’ father and he’s a Tamilian married to a Sowcarpet ‘Settu” and their relationship is pretty volatile. Which is why the girls don’t look typically Dravidian and also their Tamil is not typically local Nochikuppam unlike Kali’s. Their mother and the girls often switch to Haryanvi. Baljinder a National Award winning actress played their mother. And she lived the part. They would teach each other Tamil and Hindi and help each other in their respective languages. It was lovely to watch them. We all stayed in Mumbai in an apartment together for a week to do readings and well past midnight I would see the two mugging the alien language lines. I was fortunate.


And then the super talented Zakir, who is Ramgopal Varma’sfavourite and now mine, another actor I want to cast in all my films. He makes it look so easy, but the work he puts in, makes you relax on sets. The way he learnt Tamil and dubbed for himself was humbling. 

Kali Venkat is a gem


Producer’s support- Sashikanth and Rajkumar Hirani

Sashi had a very rough patch as a producer recently. He would tell both Maddy and me at the beginning that this film was our Irudhi Suttru and by the middle of the film he started including himself in that line ! He’s very supportive and gives you what you want. He’s a great producer.


Rajkumar Hirani came in a lot later. But he sent me a message when we had huge funding problems and all kinds of blocks that Maddy had told him about. He messaged, “You have a great story and I will do everything within my power to make this film happen”. And has he delivered! Through the whole process I have made a great friend and mentor. He taught me writing, editing and to never give up. And to ALWAYS get your way in the gentlest and the nicest possible way. He’s amazing. He’s given more interviews for this film than for PK. He put aside his Ranbir Kapoor film for helping this film. He sat with my editor for eight months honing the film. He was just the most amazing producer. He was always in my corner. He showed me what it is like to have another director as a producer. The conversation was always director to director. He respected me when I am just a nobody with a vision. He helped me achieve that vision. I owe him for life. And I owe Maddy for taking me to him.

Rajkumar Hirani taught me writing, editing and to never give up


Whose idea was it to bring Santhosh Narayanan as music director? Can you talk about his work for the film?

See, that’s the thing with Sashi and all the producers on my film. Every decision was mine. Solely. And they backed me. Be it standing firm in casting Ritika, or wanting only this editor, or this DoP or this music director. I asked and they facilitated.


I loved Santosh’s background score  in Soodhu Kavvum. I asked Sashi for him and he made it happen. He and CV Kumar.


And Santosh is the flawless part of the film. Be it his songs or the score. They are just so right for the film and lift the film’s emotions tremendously. My reference scores when I was editing were Zimmer and Newman. And Santosh’s score is no less. He’s a great collaborator. His music is the soul of the film. 

I asked for Santhosh and I got him


Tell us about your family

One husband and two children who have absolutely no fascination for this industry. They watch films. Period. And they have sacrificed a lot to let me pursue my dream.


How do you balance work and personal life with an erratic work timings?

I struggle. I don’t know if I am managing very well. I don’t think and do on auto pilot fifty percent of the work I do. But I think finally it’s catching up with me. I am genuinely exhausted. This perhaps is my Irudhi Suttru after all.

This perhaps is my Irudhi Suttru after all


Your first film Drohi was an action based one and Irudhi Suttru is also on those lines. What makes you do films on testosterone high subjects?

I make films that I have always liked to watch. My favorite films are Godfather, Kill bill 2, Shawshank Redemption etc. So I guess my taste is such and considering I spend a minimum of three years on each film and this one 5, I better love what I’m doing or I’ll turn into a vegetable.


What did you learn from Mani Ratnam?

Focus, discipline, and striving for perfection. Ironically Rajuji and Mani sir, whose films are so vastly different, are very similar in their working styles. They push hard for perfection. 


What next?

A ten day break just sleeping at home. I don’t take holidays and travel because that stresses me further trying to plan and do stuff. Then I will go in whichever direction that’s pulling me the most. Maybe I’ll go EP on Rajuji’s film or help Bala sir like I did on his Paradesi, or assist my guru Mani sir! It’s a relaxing thing  and fun to facilitate another director’s vision after being a director.Or maybe I’ll get a film immediately!


Personally, what kind of stories you are attracted to and what kind of stories you would want to tell the audience? 

I like life affirming cinema. I love biographies and character driven stories. 


From the Tamil film industry, do you have someone  that you would like to direct?

Oh many!


Down five to ten years, where do you see yourself?

A better film maker for sure!


We are sure you are going to be one Sudha!


Best wishes!


Jyothsna Bhavanishankar





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