Vijay Sethupathi: I’ll never do anything different for the sake of being different
The actor's third productional venture, Junga, released last Friday
It’s not uncommon for actors to turn producers after a few years in the industry, but Vijay Sethupathi’s choice of films to produce has been as unconventional as his first few films as an actor. His first production venture was 2015’s Orange Mittai, followed by Merku Thodarchi Malai, which didn’t even feature him as an actor. In that line, a commercial film such as Junga does stick out. He is terse with his response: “It’s not necessary to keep funding similar films. The previous two films were different from each other, and Junga is different from both.” Excerpts from a conversation with the actor:
You’ve always been subtle as an actor. So, it was surprising to hear lines like Rasiganai rasikum thalaiva in a song from Junga.
Back in 2013, a fan from Tuticorin used those lines in a calendar he presented me with. I loved it and so did director Gokul. But I didn’t know that he was going to use it in the song. I got to know about it quite late. Calling your favourite people thalaiva is quite normal. The thalaiva you are thinking of is quite different.
The film also has lines that break the fourth wall: Intha edathuku na romba kashta pattu vanthuruken and evalo selavu panni padam eduthuruken theriyuma?
It might seem like I’m referring to something else when taken out of context, but it all makes sense as part of the film. When you understand the context, the lines will actually make you laugh.
In an earlier interview, you said you like to surprise your fans.
That’s what I strive to achieve with every film. I believe that surprising them with such varied content keeps them engaged.
It seems like you are not signing as many films these days.
People keep asking me why I sign so many films. I think you’re the first suggest otherwise. Actually, I agree with neither of those statements. I’m just going with the flow. You can’t do a lot of films simply because you feel like it. A director has to like you for that particular role and approach you, and of course, a producer should be ready. Interestingly, most of the films I do are ones I’ve refused in the beginning owing to date issues but somehow, the scripts return to me eventually.
What do you look at when you’re listening to a script?
The script, itself, of course. But also the person who’s narrating it. I believe that a person’s thoughts reflect in their work. So, how open-minded and flexible they are is very important. I can’t work with those who think they own the art form. In the first discussion itself, I’ll know if it will work or not. But I’ve also wrongly judged a few people. Sometimes, the title and one line might be interesting, but the film won’t be.
And sometimes, the film won’t do well either.
An accident can happen if I forget to wear a helmet. That’s one scenario. Another is when I’m wearing it but someone else comes and hits my vehicle. Similarly, there can be many reasons for a film not doing well — not just the director or the actor. I analyse the reason and keep it aside. It clears my mind, and ensures that a mistake isn’t repeated.
Your 25th film Seethakaathi is coming up.
I don’t believe in the number game. I’ll never do anything different for the sake of being different; so you shouldn’t ever expect that from me. I keep myself open to changes and don’t like to restrict myself to a circle. Thankfully, in this industry we get to meet new people, situations, jobs, locations, and thoughts which keeps me engaged. I’ll be happy if I have the same enthusiasm when I’ve done 50 films.
Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming films?
96 is a love film also starring Trisha. Athu oru ganiyamana kadhal, gambeeramana kadhal-nu kooda sollalam.
Seethakaathi is a beautiful script. And I consider it a blessing to have acted in such a film.
Super Deluxe is an experience that can be summed up in two words: Thiagarajan Kumararaja (the film’s director). Playing the role of a transgender person was an amazing experience. It’s not just about transforming externally but feeling it inside as well. That touched me.
Chekka Chivantha Vaanam has given me the opportunity of seeing Mani Ratnam sir up close. I’m happy to work with him and happier that he said he liked my work. What else can I ask for?
I’m also doing Arun Kumar’s film and the Karthik Subbaraj-Rajini sir film.
It looks like Vikram Vedha is going to be remade in Hindi. Do you have preferences for who should play those characters?
I really don’t know as I don’t watch Hindi films much. I think that script needs two top actors playing those parts. But if it’s remade in other languages, I’d quite like to act as Vikram.
Aside from being an actor, you’re also a producer, lyricist and singer. Any other aspects of filmmaking you’re interested in?
Of course. I want to direct a film but can’t find the time. Senju paathudanum aana.