Interview: Suresh Triveni Master Storyteller

It is very unusual that from the very first film a director connects readily with their audience and make them as their fans. Suresh Triveni is one of those directors from a not so very lengthy list of directors who impressed masses and critics with his very first film Tumhari Sulu. The topic of Tumhari Sulu was not a common one, specially in recent times, it needed a sensible, polished and mature director to make a film which lasts forever. Correspondent of Mediamagick conducted a quick interview with the master storyteller, Suresh Triveni, who in one of his replies said he’ll make a movie when he’ll feel like saying another interesting story – so, here we have someone who values quality over quantity and viewer-connection over 100 crores of revenue generation. This is the first time that Suresh Triveni is interviewed on any Pakistani online publication.

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Let’s see what this amazing director has to say in response to our questions:

Shafiq Siddiqui: What made you make a film like Tumhari Sulu? What did you want audience to see?

Suresh Triveni: I have always had a strong desire to work with Vidya Balan and somewhere it was a bucket-list to do my first feature with her. Life was kind and I got an opportunity to work with her, that’s the emergence of Sulu. Like any fan boy my intent was to create a world where Vidya has not been shown so far. I wanted to make a film that I would like to watch with my friends and family and root for her. But above all I wanted to tell a story as honestly as possible. Sulu stands for that spirit.

Shafiq Siddiqui: How do you define films? What kind of films do you want to make in future?

Suresh Triveni: Films for me has always been about storytelling. Weaving a story and casting a spell on the audience has always excited me. Beyond craft its about an experience where in you get transported into a world of the characters and I think that’s the beauty of cinema. As far as possible I will never try to deviate from this path. Storytelling will always be my go to to tool and I will make a film only when I have a story to tell.

Shafiq Siddiqui: Many people say, (including me), that your debut film Tumhari Sulu took them to the kind of cinema for which Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Gulzar and Basu Chatterjee were known for, with films like Chhoti See Baat, Khatta Meetha, Lakhon Ki Baat, Khubsoorat, Golmaal and Kissi Se na Kehna they portrayed simple and easy to relate subjects with their viewers. What’s your take on this?

Suresh Triveni: I would take this as seriously as someone compliments my hairstyle ;) Jokes apart these are names that I have revered. They’ve had huge influence in my life and that’s where I leave this at. Indian cinemas has many a doyens and each one plays a subliminal role in your psyche when you write or direct. I am huge Mani Ratnam buff too and have paid homage to him in couple of scenes. Its great to be compared but I don’t take it seriously. I am just a speck and these are colossal giants in the world of Indian Cinema.

Films by Hrishikesh Mukherjee

Shafiq Siddiqui: You come from ad-world, do you always wanted to become a feature film (mainstream) director? Or this just happened by chance?

Suresh Triveni: I always looked at directing a feature film but however to make a feature film is a long shot. Since I don’t have anyone close in the Indian film industry I had to make my own path. Advertising helped me arriving at it. Its keeps you constantly updated with the craft of film making and also takes care of your bread and butter.  I chose a path where I don’t relish on my struggles in retrospective. I wanted to achieve my dream of making a film but equally was responsible for running my house.

Shafiq Siddiqui: Was Vidya Balan your first choice for the character? What made you sign her?

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Suresh Triveni: As mentioned earlier I wrote Sulu for Vidya Balan. She has been an inspiration and her craft is unparalleled. She is already a classic in the books of Indian Cinema.  It was my dream to work with her and when I got one I wanted to put my heart into it.

Shafiq Siddiqui: Which director from Bollywood do you admire the most?

Suresh Triveni: Indian cinema beyond Hindi cinema and I have had many a influence. The strongest perhaps has been Mani Ratnam.  Apart from him Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Sai Paranjpe, Ramesh Sippy also have played a huge role in my thinking.  Satyajit Ray has always been a great influence and so have been some lovely film makers from Kerala. In today’s time I look forward to Abhishek Choubey, Vikrmaditya Motwane, Shakun Batra and of course Raj Kumar Hirani.

Shafiq Siddiqui: How do you see Bollywood transforming?

Suresh Triveni:e Hindi Cinema is getting more accommodative of different stories and that’s wonderful to see. I guess the audience is forcing it to. Transformation is bound to happen and every year it’s a new learning and challenge. Today we are grappling with digital invasion, high ticket price, competition from regional and international, but I guess with everything happening around Hindi cinema will still survive and will have its own foot print.

Shafiq Siddiqui: Are you working on any other project? We would love to see another film from you; when will this happen again?

Suresh Triveni: Currently I am catching up on all my sleep. I am happy the film has been successful, now I would like to take a small break and get cracking again. There are a couple of idea brewing, hopefully soon I shall take up pen and start writing.

Shafiq Siddiqui: Any particular actor or actress you want to direct in future?

Suresh Triveni: Vidya Balan for sure and rest I don’t have a choice. The actors too need to decide. But I would love to work with Ranbir Kapoor, Ranveer Singh, Anushka Sharma, Deepika Padukone. We have a wonderful set of actors and if all is well across the borders then Fawad Khan, he is such a good actor.

Shafiq Siddiqui: Which sorts of stories catch your attention?

Suresh Triveni: I like to see the quirks in a relationship. Whatever the genre , what interests  me is the interpersonal relationship between characters.

Shafiq Siddiqui: What made you sign Manav Kaul?

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Suresh Triveni: Manav has been the break through casting this year and I would like to give all credit to my producers and my casting director Nandini Srikent. I had initially refused his name but then it would have been the biggest blunder I would have done. Manav is a very big name in the theatre circuit and has a mind of his own. Him being there as Sulu’s Ashok has been wonderful. I loved the fact that being such a senior actor he came for the audition and gave his best.  He is a rarity in our times. 

Shafiq Siddiqui: Are you happy with the response which audience and critics gave to Tumhari Sulu?

Suresh Triveni: Overwhelmed and humbled.  To each one his own inferences and that’s fantastic to see. I have not felt bad about the criticism too. Cinema is a public property and you have to be prepared for both, good and the bad.  There is no bigger pleasure in this world than sitting in a packed theatre of your own film. Its sublime.

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We wish to see more films, interesting subjects and master-story-telling from Suresh Triveni in future and wish him all the best for the future. May all his films be noted and appreciated the way Tumhari Sulu did.

PS: This is a Mediamagick Exclusive Interview, originally conducted by the team, for the platform.