Local drama Come Closer starts with a chase scene.
You see actress Lim Shi-An breathlessly running through the forest, with actor-director T. Suriavelan in hot pursuit, a car abandoned on the road, before it cuts to the sombre opening credits.
The thriller, directed by K. Rajagopal (A Yellow Bird), is set in the 1980s and follows Siva (Suriavelan), the chauffeur to the Lim family, John Lim (Qi Yuwu), Mei Kwan (Jeanette Aw) and their children Kiat (Raynold Tan) and Hui (Shi-An).
Siva gets accused by a teenage Hui of molestation, but gets murdered soon after. The ensuing investigation leads to the family’s dark secrets and lies being exposed, and much of Siva’s story gets told through the people around him.
“The role of Siva is very multidimensional and there are a lot of perspectives on him, similar to real life, like you and me,” Suriavelan told AsiaOne in a recent interview.
The 31-year-old added that people’s views of someone “keep changing depending on what they want from you, and what you’re willing to offer them in return” and, much like the real world, Siva isn’t all good or bad in everybody’s books.
“Is there somebody who loves him, and what is her perspective of him? Is there someone else who expects a favour from him, and what’s his perspective of him?”
But before Siva could “experience all the sadness” and turmoil around him, he was gone, Suriavelan laughed.
“Then it’s about the people around him, and because of him passing away, how they feel about the situation — whether it’s love, whether it’s guilt, there are a lot of emotions,” he said.
‘People have started consuming content from all over the world’
Come Closer marks Suriavelan, Jeanette and Yuwu’s first English-language drama.
While Jeanette told us she was “much more comfortable speaking in English” and it was only a matter of time before she took on an English-speaking role, Suriavelan stepped out of his comfort zone with his performance here.
“I’m not sure to what extent it was more difficult to act in an English drama, but I’m much more fluent in Tamil, say at least twice as fluent. So it’s always easier that way,” he said.
“But I think the saving grace is that Siva doesn’t talk too much. So as long as you’re invested, you’re in character, you have already won half the battle.”
Though primarily in English, Come Closer features Mandarin dialogue between the Lims, Tamil between Siva and his girlfriend Gayatri (played by Udaya Soundari) and Malay from actress Farah Ong, who plays a police officer of the same name.
In his future Tamil-language projects, Suriavelan is also looking to show the multiracial nature of Singapore life.
“People have started consuming content from all over the world, be it Korean content or Malaysian movies available on Netflix,” he said.
“So they are more open and there’s a better understanding of film content than five to 10 years back.”
Suriavelan thinks it’s “the right time” to expand to a larger audience, now that he and his company 360 Entertainment Productions have already built a Tamil-speaking audience.
“Now that the audience is open to watching something else, they’re willing to read the subtitles, I think it’s time for us to take the important step,” he said.
“Because I think that will make a very big change, a very important change to bring out our culture to people who are probably not aware of it.”
Come Closer, which also stars Shrey Bhargava, Shane Mardjuki and Liz Sergeant Tan, is available on meWATCH.
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