Tamil Interviews

An Actor Prepares : The Vijay Sethupathi Interview


Vijay Sethupathi lets you in on his uncomplicated route to stay in show business

Making his craft sound deceptively simple, he speaks as if he can’t figure out what the fuss is all about. In fact, even a request for an interview is met with a calm and direct why-you-want-my-interview query? It’s left to us to convince him.

Last week, he levelled it at the box office. For an uninspiring Rummy, he made amends with a very successful Punniyarum Padminiyum. “It worked mostly through word-of- mouth publicity. This is one film I want to watch with my parents in the theatre. I got standing ovations wherever I went,” he confides. But why Rummy? “I did Rummy for friendship. I can’t help it if it was promoted as a Vijay Sethupathi film. I was hardly there. Come on, I can go wrong too. I can’t predict certain things,” he tells me. The film is clearly a case of misadventure for the actor.

[quote]What you see is what you get. That’s more or less what Vijay Sethupathi will tell you. He is a man of few words, but he doesn’t believe in mincing them either. He loathes twitter, thinks Facebook is an exercise in narcissm and would rather spend his all his days by himself. Acting is cathartic, each character he essays is instinctive and his films mean more to him than just box office performance. [/quote]

He’s got six films lined up and each promises to be experimental in nature. There is Idam Porul Eval with Seenu Ramasamy, Vanmam by Jayakrishna, Vasanthakumaran directed by Anand Kumaresan and Ranjit’s Mellisai. With the exception of Seenu Ramasamy, he has only handpicked first time directors. What is the biggest plus of working with a new director? “Though I don’t find much difference between new and experienced directors,” he says before adding, “I feel new directors have lots of energy and novelty. And they are ready to give their all to their first film. So, as an actor I get to capitalise on it,” he says. Right now, he’s shooting for debutant Renjith’s Mellisai, a mystical tale, something he has not attempted before. Asked about it, the actor professes ignorance about genres. “I don’t know how to classify movies. I just go by the story. The rest just falls into place,” he offers.

As for offering creative inputs and improvisation on the sets, he says that goes with the job. Surprisingly, though his first break came via a horror film (Pizza), he admits to be personally averse to that genre — “I don’t watch horror. I hate the makeup and special effects that come with it,” he shudders. Though he likes to brand himself as a “no homework actor”, he admits preparing for his two crucial films, Pizza and Naduvila Koncham Pakkatha Kaanom. “For Pizza, I tried to be alone for 30 minutes before shots. And for Naduvila... since I deal with memory loss, I did a month long rehearsal to understand that character. Otherwise I interpret the scene on the spot according to the mood, situation and character,” he maintains.

Another thing that he would rather not do is observe other actors “as it tends to get into (his) psyche.” He thinks every actor should cultivate a style of his own, “be original” he says. He has no favourites, “I love them all,” he laughs.

He promoted Pannayarum Padminiyum on a tricycle. Does he think that goes with the job as well? “Sure. They asked me to ride on it, I did, as simple as that. I have a responsibility selling my films. I don’t think I can sell anything else so I don’t do ads,” he states. His grouch against Twitter is simple- “Romba sandei podaranga. They fight over trivial issues, take things personally and use bad words. Everybody has an opinion and it invariably leads to fights. I don’t want to do that. I would rather meet someone in person and talk it out. And why we are so worried about the number of likes we get on Facebook, I don’t know,” he says.

He picks Naduvila…, Idharkuthane Aassaipattai Balakumara and Pizza as his most difficult roles. He is open to doing films in other languages, but says he doesn’t like his films to be dubbed in other languages. Remakes are different though. “I am happy when they remake my films. I don’t think there is anything wrong in remakes. We don’t see anything wrong in translating books so why not films. More people will get to see it.”

But there is a contradiction between the actor and the man. Unlike the actor Sethupathi, who likes working round the clock, off screen, he would relatively spend the day doing nothing. “I am extremely laid back and would rather spend time with family than hang out with friends. Even when I went to   Norway and Denmark recently, I spent my day in the hotel room watching TV,” he laughs. Even on the sets, he likes to be left alone – “I like to stay focussed on my work. I don’t mingle much. But I talk to everybody and love the appreciation coming from my contemporaries,” he admits.

As we wrapped up the interview, we wanted to tell him his dedication and clearheaded thinking would take him far, but he’d probably have shrugged our praise off.