UAE: Vijay Sethupathi opens up on 'Master' and his early days in Dubai
The actor was in the city for a private event.
Vijay Sethupathi is an actor without prejudices. The South Indian star can be seen as a young romantic middle-class hero (96, Pizza, Andavan Kattalai etc.), a very old protagonist (Orange mittayi, Seetha kathi), an action hero (Sethupathi, Gavan, Karuppan), a transwoman who is the father of a small kid (Super Deluxe), doing guest roles and what not. At the same time, he never hesitates to share the screen with others in multi-starrer movies (Chekka Chevantha Vanam with Aravind Swamy, Vikram Vedha with R Madhavan, Petta with Rajinikanth).
His most recent movie appearance was as Bhavani, the villain in Thalapathy Vijay starrer Master, which is now running successfully in cinemas across the world and is also streaming on Amazon Prime Video. In the first weeks of the release itself, even with the capacity restrictions due to Covid-19, Master collected more than Rs250 crore from cinemas alone.
Sethupathi, who has acted in Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam movies, is now entering Bollywood. He shared the poster of a silent movie, Gandhi Talks, and the announcement of his Bollywood debut in Santhosh Sivan’s Mumbaikar was made earlier. Now, he revealed that he will be acting alongside Katrina Kaif in Andhadhun fame Sriram Raghavan’s new movie. “I’m also doing a Hindi web series with Shahid Kapoor, which is being made by the directors of Amazon Prime series The Family Man,” says Sethupathi.
Vijay Sethupathi, who is known among his thousands of fans as Makkal Selvan (people’s man), was in Dubai for a private event where City Times managed to catch up with him. He talked in detail about films and the days he worked in Dubai as an accountant almost two decades ago.
Of course, the talk started with Bhavani of Master, whom critics praised more than the hero. However, Sethupathi is of no such opinion. “The director had a soul for Bhavani and then he was looking for a body to play that role. Initially, he was hesitant to ask me and a common friend told me that Lokesh (the director) is hesitant. I called him up and heard the one-liner and told him that I wanted to play the role.”
He says sharing screen with co-star Vijay was a pleasure for him. “Vijay was the first person to appreciate me while doing the movie. He even clapped when I performed. It was because of him the movie came out like this. I respect him a lot.”
For Sethupathi, being a hero doesn’t mean he needs to do solo roles only. “I’m a star or actor because of my cinema, because of the stories they tell the audience. So, I respect my work and that means I do what the roles require from me.”
Having started his career with ‘extra’ roles and TV serials, Sethupathi is very choosy about the movies he does. And the Pizza star has a very good reason for that, too. “When you go to a shop to buy a phone or jewellery, you have an option to look at the product and even see the specifications before buying it. But for a person who goes to watch a movie, there is no such option. You pay the money for the ticket first before knowing how the product would be. So, I have a responsibility towards my audience. I don’t underestimate my audience because they are much more knowledgeable than us. I have to give them interesting ideas, scenes and presentations to entertain them.”
Playing the roles of characters of different age or background is not a huge task, explains Sethupathi. “When I do a role, I believe it’s me. I don’t prepare myself for that role. I start believing the character is me and it connects to the memories or life of the character. For example, in Orange Mittayi, you see an adamant elderly person. My father was like that. I became my father. I was the script and dialogue writer for the movie. Similarly, if you take Andavan Kattalai, you see a young person who works in a theatre and wants to go abroad to pay back his loans."
Sethupathi worked in a theatre group in Chennai before coming to Dubai to work as an accountant. And now, returning as a star to Dubai, where he struggled to survive once, is also a sweet memory. “See, this human mind is a bit cranky at times. We live in the past and future. Now, I enjoy showing the places where I once walked through or struggled hard in, to my family. The places I walked together with my wife when we were lovers... All these memories take you to the old days. In other words, you can say returning to Dubai makes me younger once again.”
While receiving critical acclaim for more offbeat roles, Sethupathi never distanced himself from commercial films. Take Kavan, Karuppan, Rekka, Rummy or Sethupathi. And he says he loves doing such movies. “But the problem is I’m not getting proper scripts for such movies. Most of the scripts I get are stereotypes. But I want something interesting in mass movies. There are such ‘mass’ moments in every person’s lives. I wait for such moments and movies.”
Master waited for months for a cinema release and then it came out on an OTT platform as well. For Sethupathi, watching a movie in a cinema is an ideal option. But there are certain situations and conditions that make OTT ideal too. “We love to watch movies in cinema halls. Take the current Covid-19 situation. OTT is an option now which makes it possible for people from 240 countries to watch a movie. And then there are pirated copies spreading all over the Internet. So, it’s better for the producer to get some money by selling it to OTT. We are making movies to reach the audience and some people are misusing it. In addition to that, during the coronavirus pandemic, because of OTT, we are able to watch movies without any regional barriers. Through our art forms, we are introducing our culture to others. It’s a very good thing. Through movies we know people of other cultures and connect with them. OTT makes it very simple.”