Getting real about a 'Farzi' world
Shahid Kapoor and Vijay Sethupathi speak about their upcoming series, Farzi, the quest to reinvent their craft, and more
For any artist, who is serious about their craft, a constantly changing environment is essential to thriving. While the tools to reinvent — experimentation, unlearning, and relearning — are the same, the wonderful thing about this quest to conquer new horizons is how there is no one right path.
On one end, we have someone like Shahid Kapoor, who made his charming debut with the 2003 Ishq Vishk, and continued to make a mark with his neat performances in Vivah and Jab We Met, and tries his hand in experimentation with Haider, Udta Punjab, Padmavat, Kabir Singh and Jersey. On the other hand, we have someone like Vijay Sethupathi, who started off in multiple uncredited cameos, before playing the unconventional hero in genre films (Pizza, Soodhu Kavvum), breaking patterns by essaying villainous roles (Master, Petta, Vikram), and experimenting with roles and genres (Super Deluxe, Seethakaathi, 96). And these two similar yet hugely different paths converge in Raj and DK's upcoming web series, Farzi.
This Prime Video series marks Shahid’s OTT debut, and the actor is confident about his directors showcasing his best version in the new format. “I have been watching OTT content for the last 4-5 years. Raj and DK, who are currently the best at this in the country, had something for me. When I read it, I got super excited. I felt it was a great opportunity to play a character for a longer period and delve deeper into it. Sometimes, we don't have enough time to say a lot in films and this medium gives more scope," says Shahid beaming his trademark smile.
Incidentally, this also marks a first for Vijay Sethupathi, who is starring in his first full-fledged web series. The actor is on the edge of something really impactful in Hindi with his lineup of releases including Jawan, Merry Christmas, Gandhi Talks and Mumbaikar. Will Farzi mark the first step in the elevation of Vijay Sethupathi among the discerning Hindi audience? “It is always for the audience to decide. I don't want to boast about my role and performance,” says a rather humble Vijay Sethupathi. Showcasing his refreshing candour, the actor reminisces how the seed of his journey in cinema was sown in a nondescript street corner in Dubai. "I was working in Dubai before becoming an actor, and one day, I saw a Laurel Hardy cartoon playing on the TV screen on a street corner. In a scene, one of the characters kept saying ‘I am a bird’ and eventually he became one. It inspired me a lot. From then on, I began saying to myself 'I am an actor' and I became one. Now, I am saying 'I am a good actor' in the hope of becoming that too," says Vijay Sethupathi, who is quickly interjected by Shahid. "Now, you should say 'I am a legend'"
Another bridge between these different paths is the way both these actors have figured out a new approach to their craft. Shahid has started becoming part of the film's pre-production rather than just entering the sets at the time of the shoot. Shahid started it with Jersey, and he did the same with Farzi too. “This process helped me prepare myself for the role. By the time I came on set, I felt like I knew what I needed to do. The acting became organic,” he adds. Similarly, wanting to break the rhythm of his recent performances, Vijay Sethupathi employed an acting coach, Pooja Devariya, to reinvigorate his skills. “I choose to work on many projects across languages as I get a chance to observe and learn a lot of things from other actors. For instance, in Farzi, I had only one scene with Shahid. I observed how he analyses a scene and performs it. I have to thank him for making me comfortable. I learnt many things while working with Rajini sir (Petta), Chiranjeevi sir (Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy), and Shah Rukh Khan sir (Jawan),” he explains.
Shahid agrees with Vijay Sethupathi and adds that he too was curious to see how the latter would perform. “The curiosity creates interest and focus. We eventually start observing and assimilating it. He is very instinctive. While rehearsing, he bounces off an idea and I enjoy that. It is visceral. I feel reacting live and doing things unplanned is the most interesting part of filmmaking,” shares a zesty Shahid.
About playing a con artist named Sunny who is involved in counterfeiting currency, Shahid says, “I could understand Sunny's artistic frustration. Growing up in a middle-class family in Mumbai and speaking the local dialect, I feel there was a Sunny inside me always. I also told Raj and DK to make Sunny's character dark and not necessarily show him as a nice guy.” He also asserts that seeing honest stories and hard-hitting characters liberate the audience.
This audience connect is also seen in Vijay Sethupathi's career, who is fondly called the Makkal Selvan (The people's treasure). Walking down memory lane, Vijay Sethupathi recalls that director Seenu Ramasamy, who launched him as a lead actor in Thenmerku Paruvakaatru, gave him this title. “Near our shooting location for Dharma Durai, I saw some people eating Puliyotharai. I sat down and ate with them. My director saw this and gave me Rs 500 and said that I will be henceforth called the Makkal Selvan,” he signs off rather philosophically. A cheeky Shahid sneaks in the last word. "Even my directors (Raj and DK) gave me a Rs 500 note. However, it was a 'Farzi' note." The parallel paths converged again to give us two distinct ways to end the same interview. As I said, there is no one right path.