Tamil superstar Vijay Sethupathi is seen to be one of India’s most accomplished actors. And rightly so. His sterling performances in Vikram Vedha, Karuppan, Super Deluxe, Ka Pe Ranasingham, Seethakathi and Master have earned him the title of the invisible actor. Humble and down-to-earth, Vijay Sethupathi speaks his yearnings as an actor.
You are making a transition from the South to Hindi cinema. Why do you see the need to do so when you have such a sturdy market in the South?
I have done nothing, Sir! I never planned anything. Not my life, not my career as an actor. The transition, as you call it, is also happening on its own. I always believe the work I am doing is not in my hands. There are powers far stronger than me guiding my destiny. I also believe there’s no language barrier in cinema, no language barrier in art. The audience wants to watch good films, no matter what the language. Recently, the lockdown taught all of us so much about world cinema. I think the lockdown broke down all barriers between regional and mainstream cinema. It’s a very good thing that happened. Sitting at home we watched Korean films, Iranian, films, Malayalam films...Everyone was discussing world cinema from home. This is a wonderful thing to happen.
Why do you purposely choose roles that take the audience by surprise?
It is J Krishnamurthi who said, ‘To transform the world we must begin with ourselves’. Art unites the world. I am a small part of that world. What is language? It is nothing but a collection of sounds. To be a good successful artiste you need to listen to those sounds. Maybe I am a good listener. Language is the sound of the soul.
How will you strategize your career between the South and the North?
Like I said I follow no strategy. I believe I have little control over what happens to my life. Nothing in life is controlled by us. I never plan anything. I love to go with the flow even in my performances. To become someone else on screen…yeh asaan nahin hai…
How do you select your roles? I know the remuneration is not the criteria for you…
By God’s grace, I’ve managed to make enough money to look after my family. I live in a good house and move around in a luxury car. For a man of my humble beginnings, that’s more than enough. I can work on the films I want to without worrying about my home expenses. It’s the soul that I look for in every role. I can afford to support good cinema without thinking of salary. It is my duty to do so.
So you look at the larger picture?
Yes, Sir. 4-5 years after I started my film career when I became popular, anxious distributors and producers came to me asking not to do a non-mainstream film. ‘Aapka image kharaab hoga, aapko pagaar Kam Milegi. Don’t do it.’I told them, ‘Yeh sab chhor do.’ I am here to make a difference, not to make money. That Vijay Sethupathi who came into the film industry looking for small roles is still alive. I want to make sure he remains alive. When I came into the cinema, all I wanted to do was to stand in front of the camera and say my dialogues. Even today I feel so alive when I’m in front of the camera.
In Master, you play an out and out brute, a man who kills children. How difficult was it for you?
Whether it is good or evil, it is all within all of us. It’s up to us to tap which side of our personality we want to show. I can tell you with confidence that I am not a good guy. But I want to be a good guy. The idea of killing two kids in Master worried me. I didn’t want to make the violence anything but disturbing for the audience. The director and I had several discussions on this. We decided not to show the actual killings of the children. We wanted to show how evil the man is. When I play a violent character it is like cleaning my house and throwing all the dirt outside.
You mean it’s cathartic?
Yes. Every character I play brings something to me and takes something away. Now I am working on my first Hindi film with Sriram Raghavan and my first web series with Raj-DK. I love my character in both. But I don’t know how I’ll approach it. Every time I start a new film I feel like a nervous student giving my exams. I need 4-5 days to settle down with every project, the team, the set, the director. I’ve to take them all in.
When are you turning director?
Me? Sir, I don’t think I’m mature enough yet to direct a film. I believe it’s a job of great responsibility. But I can tell you I love the idea of directing a film. And I will direct a film soon.
Which is your favourite role so far?
Sir, which role of mine do you like best?
I can’t say because I love every character I played so far. But in Super Deluxe my character Shilpa is my guru. I learnt so much from getting into her body and mind. When I was playing Shilpa, I became Shilpa. I was transformed into a transgender character. The other character of mine that I enjoyed playing was the 75-year old man in Seethakathi. These two characters were so distant from me and so inspiring. They changed my life. I don’t know how I did it.
Each time I see your film I don’t see Vijay Sethupathi on the screen at all?
What a compliment you have just paid me, Sir. I loved doing this interview with you.
Image source: Instagram/actorvijaysethupathi