Vijay Sethupathi compares choosing films with making friends.
“We don’t have any rules and regulations when we pick friends. We meet them, we get to know them and we end up liking them. Similarly, I see stories as fellow humans. If I like them, I make them part of my career,” he says.
Last year, the films he was part of were all of different genres — a thriller, a gangster film and a rural subject.
“Whatever genre it is, I’m only keen that it be entertaining. What we try to communicate with the story should reach those who are seeing it. People have a lot of personal troubles. Ulle vechu saavadika koodathu (shouldn't tourture),” he says.
The actor’s first release this year will be Oru Nalla Naal Paathu Solren in which he stars alongside Gautham Karthik, Gayathrie and Niharika. He explains the story in his own inimitable way: “If you think of Gautham as the hero, I’ll become the villain, and viceversa. That’s the beauty of this script,” he says.
“I play a thief who’s referred to as an ‘organic thirudan’. He’s someone who steals without hurting or affecting anyone.” But his character isn’t just a thief.
“I’m a tribal leader of a group that has its own rules. For instance, we always treat women with respect. Despite being thieves, we make sure that we share what we get. It may sound too serious, but it’s a jolly, fun film.”
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Perhaps in keeping with the trend, a line from the film — about Rama and Ravanan — courted trouble. Vijay is quick to say, “We removed it immediately when we learned of the issue, and we have also replaced that line.” After starring with Madhavan in Vikram Vedha, Vijay will once again share the screen with another actor in this film: Gautham Karthik.
“He has a lot of passion and I know he’s going to go places. Some actors impress me with their acting, but Gautham also impressed me with his disposition,” he says. “There were instances when I went to the sets slightly late, but he was always on time. Despite the richness of his family heritage, he showed no banthaa and thimiru (showoff and attitude).”
He compares Gautham Karthik’s role in the film to Sumaar Moonji Kumaru, the character Vijay Sethupathi played in Idharkuthaane Aasaipattai Balakumara, and believes that it is quite in contrast with the ‘chocolate boy’ image some attribute to him. While some stars stick to doing a film or two per year, Vijay has been consistently doing an average of five films for the last three years. This year, it appears that he will have six releases.
“I just go with my instinct. I don’t have a set target.”
But surely, doing as many films will bring him a lot of work-related stress?
“I do what I do happily. I don’t have too much time on hand, yes, but films excite me and they clear my mind. When the mind is happy, the body works wonders,” he philosophises.
Ask him about his penchant for such deep talk, and he says he owes it all to the films he does and the interactions he has with people around him.
“Every time I do a role, I don’t just act in it. I try to understand why that character was written, why the director thought of that character, and whether the audience will clap for the character,” he says.
“Even when we expect some scenes to do well, due to some technical error, it might not get such a response. When we research so much about a story, I believe that our knowledge, in general, grows alongside. Sindhikka practise panna mudiyathu, unara thaan mudiyum (We can't practice thinking, we can just feel it). I try to do that.”