Malaysian and Singaporean Tamil cinema and series hold a significant place in the cultural landscape of the region. These industries cater to the vibrant Tamil-speaking communities in both countries, showcasing diverse narratives and talents. Singapore series are equally enjoyed by Malaysians as how they enjoy our homeland series. Hence, Singapore series are widely recognised in Malaysia.
Singapore’s vibrant arts scene boasts a diverse array of talents, and one artist who has been making waves within the Singapore Tamil cinema industry is T. Suriavelan. With a passion for storytelling and a deep connection to his Tamil heritage, Suriavelan has carved out a unique niche for himself, using his direction as a medium to convey powerful messages and evoke emotions.
In the realm of artistic creation, a singular individual emerges as a true polymath, a virtuoso of boundless creative prowess. Suriavelan the luminary, with a kaleidoscopic array of talents, defies the constraints of convention, assuming the roles of director, producer, actor, and lyricist with a magnetic command that leaves an indelible imprint upon the annals of creativity.
Despite being a Singaporean, he is also one of the favourite of most Malaysians. He is not only famous in Malaysia. Beyond that, Suriavelan also has a huge base in India. “Naam” series brought him global recognition. “Adi Penne” song from “Naam” series were talks of the town in India. The song was showcased in Indian Television channels as well. The song was a record maker for Suriavelan.
Hence, Varnam Malaysia is truly honored for getting an opportunity to feature the prominent and well known artist T. Suriavelan. We came up with few questions for Suriavelan. Wondering what would the questions be?
Our first question to him was a basic questions where we requested him to share his background and his journey in this industry and his answer was:
I was born and raised in Singapore, but my family roots trace back to Mannargudi in India. Tamil was always my strongest subject in school, and I’ve been interested in writing from a young age. After completing my National Service and obtaining a Diploma in Biomedical Engineering, I decided to pursue my passion for filmmaking and directed an independent feature, “Joe the Black Assassin”. The film was a success and completed 21 days in the Singapore box office and 14 days in Malaysia.
In addition to this, I wrote, directed and acted in three independent music videos that were well-received by audiences. This success opened up even more opportunities, including winning the first-ever Vasantham Muthal Paarvai award and producing my first series for Mediacorp, “Avathaaram”.
After “Avathaaram”, I directed a 6 parts dark humour Mitara, an initiative called “Stories4sg” to support local production companies that were impacted by the COVID-19 situation in Singapore. I wrote the storyline, screenplay, dialogues and directed the series featuring a cameo as Dr. Trigga.
Our global recognition came through the “Naam” Series. The 2 installments were watched by a record of 70 million viewers before the rights of the series were acquired by Netflix in 2023. Once again, I wrote the storyline, screenplay, dialogues and directed the series and played the biggest role in my career, Shivasubramaniam.
A song from “Naam Season 1”, “Adi Penne” grossed over 300 million views and became a sensational hit worldwide. We won the “Content of the year” and “Content Creator of the year” for the success of “Adi Penne” in the inaugural “Pinwheel Awards” in 2022. A Special Digital Recognition Award was also conferred to “360 Entertainment Pte Ltd” for “Naam S1” in “Pradhana Vizha 2022”. Naam S1 was not only the most watched Vasantham content, it surpassed all viewership records across languages and shows at Mediacorp, triumphantly elevating local content to the global stage. I debuted as a composer through Naam S2 with “Varuvayo Veerane” and “Yaar Nanbano”. Our YouTube channel is one of Singapore’s most subscribed with over 1.5 million subscribers.
That was a his incredible journey filled with struggles, hard work, sleepless nights, efforts and finally success. I’m very sure most you will know his first movie “Joe The Black Assassin” right up to “Naam” season 2. All of his independent songs, series and movies are well known in Malaysia. The three independent music videos which are “Usuraiya Tholaichaen”, “Sagiye” and “Vilagaathey” were soulful being it the beautifully written lyrics, the realistic action and mesmerizing composition. All those three songs are memorable especially “Usuraiya Tholaichaen” is still ruling the playlist of many.
When it comes to “Avathaaram“, recently it was also telecasted on Astro. That series will have special place among Malaysians because our homeland star Karnan who is best known as Karnan GCrak. He has played a crucial role in that. The series would have depict the bonding that Suriavelan and his team shares with Malaysians.
The song that Suriavelan highlighted which is “Adi Penne” is a renowned duet love song that has captivated audiences worldwide, amassing over 300 million views on YouTube. Its melodious harmony weaves a tale of romance, complemented by soulful vocals and enchanting music. The song’s universal appeal resonates, making it an anthem of love that continues to touch hearts and break records.
Coming to the important point, did you notice that? How many of you knew that actually Suriavelan was the composer for “Varuvayo Veerane” and “Yaar Nanbano”? Both the songs holds irreplaceable place in our heart. The music of “Varuvaayo Veerane” is something that deeply connects to our heart. Suriavelan’s magical lines tells us about the faith that we should always have. The music that gives the soul to the lines is beautifully composed by Suriavelan. Additionally, Bombay Jayashri has also lent her vocals to this song. Suriavelan’s talent has paved a way for him to bring in the acclaimed Indian vocalist known for her soulful renditions into his projects.
Meanwhile, “Yaar Nanbano” is a meaningful song which defines the people around us. The importance of being aware of real and fake faces are well written in unique way which this generation could understand. The music of this song also plays a crucial role to deliver the message to the listeners. These first two songs of Suriavelan are outstanding compositions.
He has also stated that they are holding a record of most subscribed YouTube channel. Suriavelan is the founder of 360 Entertainment Productions company which was established in 2015. They have their own YouTube channel where they share their official music videos.
The second question which was asked to Suriavelan was about his dream or ambition when he was a child and the answer was,
Becoming an actor had been my lifelong dream, inspired by my love for movies and admiration for Rajini sir in particular. Though I can’t say exactly where or when this dream first took root, I always knew it was something I wanted to pursue. When I turned 18, I was given an incredible opportunity to appear on set as a backup actor. Despite the long 16-hour shoot, during which I only filmed for 20 minutes, it didn’t feel like a work at all. In fact, the experience was so transformative that it changed the course of my life forever. I was paid for my time, but the real reward was the realization that acting was truly where my passion lay.
That was a short but it clearly shows Suriavelan’s strong foundation for acting and how important is that to him. His incredible dedication towards his career shows the amount of love he has for his passion.
Moving on to a specified question, I asked him :
What are the initiatives you took in order to achieve your dreams?
The answer was:
Rather than waiting for new opportunities, we decided to be proactive by embarking on independent ventures. We took to YouTube and created our own content before social media became the powerhouse it is today. Despite budget constraints, we made quality our top priority and took the initiative to master key aspects of filmmaking such as editing and grading on our own. Our goal was to stand out from the rest and truly be unique.
That was truly an inspirational statement. Usually people will say, when one doors shut another one will open and we have to wait for the time. But now, I’ve learned that Suriavelan’s mindset is his secret of success. He did not wait for the good time and new opportunities. Instead he started to get on the ground and start to work for it. He is the best example to say “opportunities doesn’t come and knock your door. You should go and grab it”. His continuous effort and hard work are the reason where is he now.
As a little continuation of the previous question, the next question to him was,
What are the struggles or challenges you have faced throughout the journey?
We faced significant uncertainties throughout our journey. With no guarantee of success or income, we were constantly weighing the possibility of getting full-time jobs. Additionally, the risk of spending our limited funds on content production was always a concern. At times, we went months without proper nourishment, but we trusted the process we had committed to. While we didn’t have grand expectations, we strived for authenticity in our creations and remained hopeful that recognition would come our way eventually.
Suriavelan actually proves us that faith and hunger to strive is how important for each and everyone in order to achieve their dreams. A success will come after many struggles, failures and sacrifices. This man continued his journey with faith, confidence and efforts to overcome every challenges and that is the reason why he is here shining bright. His dedication towards his passion has brought him this success.
Moving on towards his projects, “Naam” is one of the best of Suriavelan and his team. My question was
What inspired you to do a story like “Naam”?
“Naam” was actually inspired by 360 Entertainment’s true-life experiences. We drew inspiration from the people we met, the challenges we faced, and our eventual success in overcoming them. Personally, I have a penchant for action and thriller genres, and thus, I decided to incorporate our journey into a suspenseful thriller series.
That was a very quick yet it comprises the whole answer for the question. As one of the fans of “Naam” series I’m very sure that the series holds a special place in the hearts of those who have watched them. Those who were not followers of Suriavelan’s projects also would definitely like the series. Me, being a fan of Suriavelan since the times of “Usuraiya tholaichaen“, I would tell that “Naam” is Suriavelan’s benchmark project.
“Naam” is a series that weaves an intricate narrative, blending gripping suspense with heartfelt emotion. Its unforgettable characters navigate a labyrinth of challenges, forging deep connections that resonate with audiences. The way he depicts 6 different stories and perspectives of 6 individuals who shares the same interest which is music. With each episode, the series immerses viewers in a rollercoaster of emotions, leaving an indelible mark as a timeless cultural phenomenon.
Another incredible thing in “Naam” is, it was like a story in a story when it came to the part of Suriavelan’s past. Most importantly the way he showed a father’s love towards his daughter was so realistic and it was so soulful that it gave me tears. Each and every scenes from “Adi Penne (Dad’s Love)” was so precious and probably that Suriavelan’s realistic acting and meaningful lyrics plays a significant role in making the song memorable.
One of the most memorable lines from the song is,
Unathu siripinil sitharum azhaginai, pookal rasithe vaasam piranthatho,
Enathu piraviyin artham unarave, unnai enathu vaazhvil thanthatho
This lyrics beautifully tells how precious is the daughter for her father.
Season 2 of “Naam” was indeed a pulse-pounding thriller series delivers relentless suspense and jaw-dropping twists in rapid succession. Each episode unveils a maze of mysteries, keeping viewers on the edge with unrelenting tension.
You haven’t watch it? Do not miss the chance to watch it! It will be worth your time! You can find both “Naam” season 1 and season 2 on Netflix.
Next question to Suriavelan was on how he could take up multiple responsibilities at a time such as being a producer, director, actor, lyricist and composer. He answered,
I’m extremely meticulous and detail-oriented when it comes to my work, and so I often find myself taking on multiple roles to ensure that our original vision is fully realized on screen. We place a great emphasis on pre-production planning in order to alleviate some of the pressure during production, but it’s still a challenging process overall. Thankfully, I have an amazing team that supports me throughout every step of the project. We have complete faith in our process, and we work tirelessly to achieve the results we want.
Now we understand why all the outcomes from Suriavelan and the team are incredibly flawless. They have garnered a devoted fan base due to their consistent excellence, making them perennial favorites. Their intention is always to give their 100% to the audience.
Hereby proceeding to the next question, we asked him,
As a lyricist, how do you grasp your ideas to write lyrics as your lyrics are attractive and at the same time something easy to understand being the reason why it has a deep connection to our hearts.
I’m inspired mostly by A.R Rahman sir’s 90s hits. The tunes and the lyrics are classic and evergreen. I just want to create something similar to what I truly enjoy as an audience. I think the added advantage is that since I envision the storyline and the situation for the songs, I can structure more meaningful sentences and support them through visuals.
Suriavelan creates enchanting verses that intertwine profound emotions and thought-provoking themes with his lyrics. His pen constructs tapestries of words that resonate deeply, evoking feelings of nostalgia, love, and introspection. With each composition, he artfully paint stories that linger in hearts, leaving an indelible imprint of beauty and meaning.
Followed by that, the next question was :
Is there any situation where you have totally broken down or lost hope at any point of your life in these past years? If yes, how did you manage to overcome the situation? What made you try harder to come out of it?
It’s true that we all face setbacks in life, but the important thing is that we don’t stay down for too long. We need to have faith in ourselves first before we can expect others to trust us. When I find myself feeling broken, I turn to my spirituality and spend time alone to reflect and plan. It’s important to always be working on bettering ourselves and striving to become the best version of ourselves that we can be. Remember that every challenge we face is an opportunity to learn and grow, and that with perseverance and positivity, we are capable of overcoming anything that comes our way.
The message that he conveyed through this answer was very meaningful. It was like listening to the summary of a book in just two lines. Yes, what I felt was he has shared the most valuable life lesson in just few lines. We should learn the importance of getting up when we fall. When we are staying down for too long, we are wasting so much of time without realizing it.
Believing in ourselves and working on the next phase of life is very important. Suriavelan has also indicated that the journey of spirituality holds equal significance for all of us. The final reminder from him was deep. We should realise that there is always a lesson to learn from every challenge, difficult times and mistakes. Every experience will teach us lessons. This could be a piece of advise for his fans.
The next question was about his new venture through 360 entertainment productions team. Most of us know that 360 productions team has launched their customized merchandises recently. They have been receiving wide accolades for their new venture which sounds unique and catch as well. Asking about the merchandises, Suriavelan shared that,
We have been working on merchandise ideas for about 3 years now. Initially, we began with designs featuring legendary actors like Rajini sir and Kamal sir. However, we faced a setback when our first design was stolen during sample production. Rather than dwelling on the negative, we chose to develop our merchandise using our own content, ensuring it remains 100% original. While it might not achieve the same popularity as merchandise tied to renowned actors or films, crafting our own content enables us to display our creativity uniquely. I firmly believe that every setback presents an opportunity to learn and grow.
The concept is truly authentic and the merchandises looks attractive and beautiful as well. Venturing into uncharted territory with innovative endeavors demands considerable courage, as the outcome’s success remains uncertain. However, Suriavelan has exemplified this very principle with remarkable courage and unwavering confidence. He has fearlessly ventured into unexplored realms, driven by his convictions and self-assuredness, demonstrating an inspiring ability to embrace risks and transform them into opportunities for growth and innovation.
Talking about inspiration, I also asked on who are the inspiration of Suriavelan. Let’s look at his answer.
I have many people who inspire me. From mum, dad to Rajini sir to the aspiring actors, musicians and talents we meet on set on a daily basis. I think we can take inspiration from anyone and everyone.
His answer underscores the notion that valuable lessons and motivation can be gleaned from all quarters, transcending boundaries and backgrounds, enriching our creative journey. Suriavelan’s perspective of looking onto things varies from others. His perspective is unique and simple. We can see his down to earth character and simplicity when he says we could draw inspiration from anyone.
Next, I asked him an intriguing question where it relates to another well known celebrity from Singapore Tamil cinema industry. I believe that almost everyone would have guessed the correct answer. Excited for the question? Here you go:
As we all know, Suriavelan – Stephen Zechariah combo is something special and you both have worked together in almost all the projects. Stephen’s music and voice adds more flavors to your direction and lyrics. Do share about the bonding you share with Stephen Zechariah.
The works were created through the bonding of friendship. I don’t request a song and receive a draft. We sit through the entire process from start to end. We discuss visuals while composing. Finalize the tunes based on the lyrics and vice versa. He debuted as a composer, singer and an actor through Joe the Black Assassin. We then worked on 3 independent music videos for 360 Entertainment Productions, “Usuraiya Tholaichaen“, “Sagiyae” and “Vilagathey” and named it The Trilogy. The remaining 14 songs were produced for the dramas “Avathaaram”, “Naam 1″ and “Naam 2″ commissioned by ‘Mediacorp Vasantham’. We have an exceptional sync.
How could I forget to ask about Stephen Zechariah to Suriavelan?
They both have been worked together ever since “Saaral Mazhaiya” till now. Even after years since their release, the songs continue to remain favorites among fans. This extraordinary duo has orchestrated a sensational collaboration, skillfully blending their talents across multiple projects. Their harmonious synergy has given rise to memorable creations, leaving an indelible impact on the domains of music and cinema, earning praise from audiences.
From his way of working we could know that Suriavelan’s character doesn’t carry a trace of bossiness. Instead, he radiates a spirit of cooperation, willingly engaging with all contributors within the project. His inclusive approach highlights his respect for diverse perspectives, fostering an environment where every voice is valued. This collaborative ethos propels the team forward, blending individual strengths into a unified creative force.
His character and leadership would definitely motivate and give the same spirit to his team and everyone involved in the projects. That could be one of the reason behind their successful journey.
Continuously, when I asked about what are his goals in this industry, he answered
I focus on being a better artsite, technician and a human being. Success and failure is part of this journey and I want to continue giving my best in everything I do. Be better than yesterday. Do better than my previous creations.
In his pursuits, the focal point remains on cultivating himself as a more adept artist, technician, and human being. He understands that triumphs and setbacks are intertwined threads in this expedition. The relentless commitment to offer his utmost in every endeavor propels him. Progressing beyond his past self and surpassing prior creative accomplishments become the guiding principles. Suriavelan’s aim transcends mere improvement; it’s a journey of continuous elevation in both his craft and his personal growth.
Moving towards the end, I asked
What do you think about your Malaysian fans?
Malaysians recognised us first. A Lot of them have known us since Joe or Usuraiya Tholaichaen and they have always been very loving and supportive. I remember when we had the premiere show in Ipoh for Joe The Black Assassin, there was a boy named Prashalan who came all the way from Penang on clutches to watch the movie in Ipoh with us. We weren’t even popular at that time but such was the support and love we received.
We also have a lot of friends in the Malaysian industry. We constantly try to collaborate with them in our projects. Karnan Gcrack and Vicran Elangovan have helped us a-lot during the filming of our independent songs. We usually stay in Karnan’s Studio whenever we come to KL. He even formed a Team from Malaysia and helped in the dubbing process of Naam 2.
Directors and Cinematographers like Karthik Shamalan, Shalini Balasundaram and Sathish Nadarajan are great assets to the Malaysian filmmaking industry and they are friends too.
That is indeed a moment to be cherished for Malaysian audience. Talking about Karnan Gcrak, our popular Malaysian artist, his significant performance in “Avathaaram” would be one of our favourite. “Kannu Rendum” song in the collaboration of Suriavelan, Karnan and Stephen is favourite of many.
Finally, the last but most awaited question was:
Do you have any plans to have a meet and greet session or any events of yours in Malaysia?
I’m very sure that many of us are eagerly anticipating Suriavelan’s presence in Malaysia, given the series of consecutive concerts we’ve witnessed. Moreover, when Suriavelan had his meet and greet session with his Chennai fans, most of the Malaysian audience would have manifested for such event to take place in Malaysia as well. Suriavelan’s response towards the question was:
It’s been some time. We had plans during Naam 2 but unfortunately it didn’t materialize. We will definitely meet them very soon when we announce our next project.
Isn’t it exciting? Let’s wait for further updates!
Overall, observing Suriavelan’s responses to each and every question has left me utterly speechless and deepened my admiration and respect for him. Suriavelan’s artistic journey is a testament to his unwavering passion for creative expression and cultural representation. He continues to push artistic boundaries, inspiring others to explore their own talents and create impactful art. He is truly an inspiration to his fans.
Suriavelan’s legacy extends beyond his own work. Through his art, he has ignited conversations, provoked thought, and provided a platform for underrepresented stories. Suriavelan stands as a beacon of inspiration for future generations of artists and filmmakers who seek to tell their stories and make a meaningful impact on society.
His renown and triumph, forged through relentless perseverance, arduous toil, and unwavering dedication, stands as an unquestionably merited testament to his journey of enduring struggle and unceasing endeavor. His inspirational journey reminds me of his own lyrics,
Jeichavan Yellam Overnight Fame-un Mattum Nenaikaathey,
Kann Vilichathu, Ulaichathu, One night, Two night, Three night Kedeiyaathey..
As the world continues to evolve, T. Suriavelan stands tall as a symbol of the power of creativity to shape society, inspire change, and ignite passion. His story is one of an artist who harnessed his talents to make a difference, leaving an indelible imprint on the canvas of culture.
We wish Suriavelan and the team all the best for their upcoming projects!