The ongoing dispute between actor Vijay Sethupathi and producer RK Suresh of Studio 9 over the stalled movie Vasanthakumaran has escalated, with Sethupathi accusing Suresh of using threats to get him to work on the movie. The dispute between the two began when RK Suresh filed a complaint against the actor with the Producers’ Council alleging that Sethupathi was backing out of his movie after having accepted an advance of Rs. 10 lakhs.
The duo was reported to be in talks to bring an end to the issue, but the talks seem to have failed. An advertisement for the film featuring Vijay Sethupathi appeared in several newspapers yesterday and the actor was reportedly outraged by them. Through a press release, Vijay Sethupathi denied beginning work on the project, and also added that the only films he is working on at the moment are Purampokku and Naanum Rowdy Thaan.
Following this, RK Suresh held a press meet. He said that he roped in Vijay Sethupathi to play the lead role in Vasanthakumaran and also paid him Rs 10 lakhs in 2013. The project is populated with friends and well-wishers of Vijay Sethupathi, and to see them put their lives on hold for two years is a source of frustration, he added. “The director Anand Kumaresan is a friend of Vijay Sethupathi and the technicians in my film are the ones working on Orange Mittai, being produced by Vijay Sethupathi. I am his friend too. Even now when we meet, we speak normally. I don’t know what the problem is,” he revealed.
The dates that Suresh secured for Vasanthakumaran were used by Vijay Sethupathi for his other films. “I’m very flexible when it comes to good projects. As per the existing rules, Vijay should have got an NOC from me before proceeding to work on the others, but he didn’t. Dhanush is a close friend of mine and he asked me for one to begin Vijay’s Naanum Rowdy Thaan immediately. I gave them one, but also mentioned in the fine print that the certificate was valid only if talks between me and Vijay do not fail and he agrees to work on the project.”
Vijay Sethupathi allegedly refused to get the NOC from Studio 9, asking them instead to ‘settle the dispute first’. A meeting was subsequently held at a hotel in the city, during which the actor is said to have agreed to work on the project at a later date. “It was a verbal agreement only. We regret the fact that we didn’t make it legal,” added Suresh. He also denied the actor’s claims that he was the source of threatening calls and death threats that Vijay has been receiving since this problem came to light. “Vijay and I are friends, and this issue has been going on for a long time now. If I wanted to threaten him to make him work on my film, I could have done it two years ago! Why should I do this now?”
The reason for Vijay’s reluctance to act in Vasanthakumaran is reported to be his dissatisfaction with the salary he received. “I paid Vijay Sethupathi Rs 9 lakhs* at the time when he was earning Rs 15 lakhs. And I also have the necessary documents to prove it. If he wants more, he should tell me so. But he has never approached me regarding this. To be frank, I’m not sure what has happened to put us all in this situation. I have been an integral part of his rise to fame and I consider him a friend. He is being guided by wrong people.” [* Plus an additional 1 lakh for taxes].
Suresh was also insistent that the film would begin at any cost, as ‘it is a solid script’. “I will give him a bigger heroine if he wants. If he’s acting with Nayanthara now, I will get him Lakshmi Menon. Anirudh is composing the music for his film? Then I will get Yuvan Shankar Raja to work on Vasanthakumaran. I’m ready to agree to all his terms and conditions as long as he’s willing to work on this.”
The Producers’ Council is mediating the conflict and has urged the warring duo to part ways, as continuing to work on the project would lead to further trouble. RK Suresh has even offered to step aside from the project and get another producer to work on it on a profit-sharing basis. “He doesn’t like me? Then he doesn’t have to deal with me. I will get another person to work on this project in a 80 – 20 share situation. But for all this to happen, he has to co-operate. I’m sure he is being guided by the wrong people and I will not take this matter up in court as I consider him a friend.”
In direct contrast, Vijay Sethupathi has threatened legal action against RK Suresh if he persists with his threats. The actor claimed that he promised to give Rs 10 lakhs back with interest six months ago. Suresh had apparently rejected the offer. Vijay Sethupathi has now filed a complaint with the Nadigar Sangam and hopes that they can get him out of this mess. But Suresh is equally insistent that Vijay ‘fulfill his commitment’ and finish Vasanthakumaran. “My reputation is at stake now as I’m putting myself in a tight spot by coming out to the media. But I am doing this because a lot of good people are involved in this and they’ve already sacrificed two years of their life. I want to see something come out of this and that’s why I’m taking the risk.”