‘Despite his growth, Vijay Sethupathi’s still the same’
... says director Balaji Tharaneetharan whose comeback film Seethakaathi is receiving positive reviews
Director Balaji Tharaneetharan who debuted with the rib-tickling Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanom (2012) is back with last week’s release, Seethakaathi, which again features Vijay Sethupathi in the lead. The director cites the delay surrounding his other venture, Oru Pakka Kathai, as the reason for the long gap. “OPK has now been bought by Zee 5; so you can see it in their OTP platform soon,” says Balaji.
The director feels that his perception of cinema has changed over these years. “I now believe that a film needs the complete attention from its maker. While doing NKPK, we didn’t think much and we did whatever occurred to us. After the reception it received, I was keen on writing a good story. When doing Seethakaathi, I wanted to give my best,” says Balaji, who denies that the film is a biopic of the philosopher named Seethakathi. “There’s a famous proverb, Seththum Kuduthaar Seethakaathi. That’s the meaning behind the title. The film is a journey of art and artists.”
Balaji got the film’s idea five years ago. “But thankfully, I didn’t have to make any major changes to make it relevant,” says the director, who narrated this story first to Vijay Sethupathi. “He was interested in doing the film, but I didn’t have the conviction of pulling off a film that has him playing a 75-year-old. After finishing OPK, I revived this project, but I wasn’t satisfied with the casting. I didn’t want to go with a newbie for this role,” says Balaji, who then considered prosthetics to have Vijay Sethupathi play the part.
“When I asked him after all these years, he simply said that he had already expressed interest in this film long ago. His position in the industry and among fans has gone up manifold, but Vijay is still the same.” The prosthetics for the film were done by technicians from Hollywood. “The makeup wasn’t just for his face but also for his hands and fingers. It would take five hours to put it on and an hour and a half to take it off,” says the director.
On roping in real-life stage artistes for the film, he says, “It was a beautiful experience to work with them. They’d wait for us to give them a dialogue or a situation to show their acting prowess. Their enthusiasm was contagious. They find such satisfaction while acting that they would be ready to go for multiple takes if needed.” The cast also includes veterans such as Archana, Mouli and director Mahendran as well as other directors in guest appearances. “Only when working with such veterans do we understand why they’re called legends,” says Balaji.
Seethakaathi also happens to be Vijay Sethupathi’s 25th film. “During the final stage of pre-production, he called and told me that his 25th film is approaching and asked if he could announce Seethakaathi as the one. I said, sonnaa santhosham thaan (happy if you say so),” says a smiling Balaji.
Speaking about Vijay Sethupathi, the director says, “While doing NKPK, I knew I could call him the night before a shoot, and request him to make it. But now he’s extremely busy and despite knowing him so well, I have to make sure the call sheets are perfectly scheduled. He’s a thorough professional, and his understanding of the art and the industry has become better over the years.”
After giving one of the best albums of this year with Vijay Sethupathi’s 96, music director Govind Vasantha, who was supposed to debut in Tamil cinema with OPK interestingly, has made music for Seethakaathi. “Not only is he a brilliant technician, he also is my favourite musician. He deserves more appreciation, and he’s got the talent to elevate any content. Many don’t know that he actually worked as the keyboard programmer for NKPK,” says Balaji.
Speaking about OPK getting released on television, Balaji says, “I made OPK for the big screens; so I would wish to see it getting a theatrical release. But web content does allow us to explore more. The fear one would have while doing a web-series is less, when compared to a feature film. A director needs freedom to make the film they want.”
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