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Chetan Interview: A new villain in town- Cinema express

A new villain in town

The actor speaks about his breakthrough role, association with Vetri Maaran, staying relevant by upgrading his skillset, and more

Published: 16th April 2023

For a decade since the mid-90s, actor Chetan became a prominent household name through his memorable characters in some of the landmark television serials like Rajendran in Vidaadhu Karuppu, Manickam in Metti Oli, Manohar in Athipookal and Sivanesan in Uthiripookal. The actor slowly and steadily transitioned to the silverscreen, in the capacity of a supporting actor, and has nearly 30 films to his credit. However, despite some interesting roles in his filmography, Chetan strongly believes his brutish cop Ragavendar from Vetri Maaran's Viduthalai, is his breakthrough role.

"I think I can divide my acting career into two parts-- Pre-Viduthalai and Post-Viduthalai. The film, my scope for performance, Vetri Maaran's direction and his confidence in me ushered in a reinvention of my acting abilities," says Chetan, who is humbled by all the appreciation coming his way for the terrific performance. 

While Chetan is indeed a household name, and has starred in a few huge successes in cinema, the actor reveals his initial surprise when a section of the audience knew him for the first time through Viduthalai. "I always thought people knew me. But after this film, I understood that some of them, especially these 2k kids are seeing me for the first time, and I realised the importance of being relevant to thrive in the industry," he observes. In many ways, Viduthalai was a blessing in disguise for Chetan, who could use this 'newfound' spotlight to shed his image, and showcase a new avatar for the old and new audience. "I have played the 'good man' mostly. This is the first time I am playing a full-fledged negative role. And I think a new villain has arrived now," Chetan laughs. 

Viduthalai marks Chetan's second collaboration with Vetri Maaran after Polladhavan (2007), and the wait was clearly worth it. "After a gap of 13 years when Vetri Maaran calls, you know that it is something important. After Polladhavan, we were in touch and I always asked him why he is not casting me in his films. He always said he wanted me to give a proper role. When he called me this time, I was pretty sure it was for a significant role."

About preparing for the character, Chetan recalls that Vetri Maaran asked him to become fitter but not shed weight and gave him an extensive walkthrough about the psychology of Ragavendar, who is a cop with utmost disregard for his subordinates.

"I learnt how to not "act-act". Vetri Maaran did not allow me to do conventional and obvious expressions. He asked me to internalise the emotions for every scene and just feel them. It automatically reflected in my performance. It was fresh and I think it's the biggest learning for me," Chetan shares. 

Apart from the plight of tribals and a rebel leader's fight against the system, the film also discusses custodial violence. And one of the most disturbing scenes in the film was the one involving tribal women and their torture by the cops. About shooting the scene, Chetan says, "Though the women were equipped with skin tights, just imagining the inhuman series of events was very heavy and uneasy. But the director ensured that not many were allowed on the spot. He executed the scene with sensitivity."

As the film was predominantly shot inside forests and hilly terrains, the actor also speaks about one of the most challenging and memorable incidents-- shooting in Malliamman Durgam, an interior hilly hamlet. "Only a few pick-up jeeps could ply up the terrain. We rented houses in that hamlet, and our production house built toilets and barracks at the shooting spot. Trekking through the rocky terrain in the forest to reach the shooting location was not easy. And while returning from the location, it had rained heavily. Soori and I had hearts in our mouths as we descended, it was extremely risky," he adds.

Chetan reveals that although he does not know why exactly Vetri Maaran wanted to cast him for this role, he was confident about the filmmaker's decision. He was convinced that the audience will accept him in this role. "After watching the film, audiences are furious with Ragavendar. Many cursed him for his inhuman behaviour too. I think such a reaction to a negative character itself is a success. Our technicians and a few others who watched the film before the release told me Viduthalai would be a game-changer for me. However, I kept my expectation low. Now, that my performance is being recognised, I am humbled and happy," he says. 

Back in the day, Chetan opines, TV artists getting a prominent role in films was a challenge in itself. But he believes Viduthalai would open newer avenues for him. "I hope I get opportunities to play meaty characters that steer the plot forward and be part of films that give me substantial space for performance," he adds.

Hinting about the much-awaited second instalment of Viduthalai, Chetan shares that it will have more surprises and that his character will be rounded-off properly. "You will see more of Ragavendar...of course, darker. He will go through a whole gamut of emotions and a lot of metamorphoses. You have to wait to know what it is all about," Chetan signs off. 

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