Hailing from Chennai, Vijay Sethupathi found his way into acting serendipitously, seeking an escape from his NRI accountant job in Dubai and taking on various odd jobs, such as a cashier at a food joint and a phone booth operator. Although he may have initially entered the cinema industry out of boredom, today he stands as a force to reckon with.
Having featured in over 50 films and having won three national awards for his acting, he has made a significant contribution to Tamil, Hindi, Malayalam, and Telugu cinema. At the 54th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa, Sethupathi shared insights into his diverse journey.
In 2023 alone, his versatility shone as he portrayed a corrupt cop in “Farzi” and a formidable villain in “Pathaan,” contributing to its 1100-crore success. His notable roles as a supervillain in films like ‘Master,’ ‘Vikram Vedha,’ ‘Vikram,’ ‘Jawan,’ and ‘Petta’ have earned him acclaim.
Set to make history, his forthcoming movie “Gandhi Talks” is poised to be the first silent film screened at IFFI Goa in 2023. Directed by Kishor P. Balekar and featuring music by Academy Award-winning composer A.R. Rahman, Vijay Sethupathi discusses his film, career, and more in an engaging conversation with Lipika Varma.
You are known for playing action and romantic roles; how challenging was this silent role for you?
Where is the challenge- I wouldn’t know! I didn’t choose the film because it is a silent film. I chose the film because I wanted to do something new. It’s a beautiful film, and I liked and believed in the story. I tried to communicate to the best of my ability by showing emotions and through silent efforts. I try my best to perform well in every film.
You are at the extreme peak of your successful career, taking the risk of doing this silent film. What would you like to say?
The risk is there with every film. With every film, we always wait for the people’s reactions; this will never change.
Would the action-packed dialogue of Vijay Sethupathi that you have served go missing with this out-of-the-box film?
I think there is nothing out of the box. We make films to return the money to the producers who believe in us. I don’t want any appreciation for my work. We always try to bring the audiences into the theatres; that’s our responsibility.
You have been appreciated on the big screen and have also created a niche for yourself on the OTT.
I feel thrilled to be appreciated, but we are just storytellers. I don’t find any difference when we watch films, whether on the big or small screen. We just tell stories and play different characters.
Have you also been loved by Hindi audiences?
I see the whole world as one country; everyone is the audience. We watch all kinds of films, whether made in India or any part of the globe. If the film is good, everyone would love to watch that film. That’s what happened during the lockdown phase. Everybody was asking each other –Have you watched this or that film? We also kept recommending good films to watch.
Is it true that you want to take a break from playing antagonist roles in films?
There are restrictions when I play a villain. They control me so much to make sure I don’t take overpower the protagonist and some things go in the editing also. So slowly it is happening and I am confused and worried if I should do it or not. So I have decided, not to do any villain roles at least for a few years.
What makes film festivals so crucial to all cinema lovers and filmmakers?
Cinema is a very beautiful language. It allows creative people to introduce their cultures and experience worldwide cultures. Cinema has emotions and tells everyone how to treat people [Human beings]. It’s a wonderful medium. I am thrilled and blessed to be a part of this industry, and working in this medium gives me immense happiness. It’s been a long time since I attended the film festival. I am coming here for the first time, and that too for IFFI; it feels great. My silent film, “Gandhi Talks,” will be shown here. I am happy about that as well.
We make films to return the money to the producers who believe in us. I don’t want any appreciation for my work.
I see the whole world as one country; everyone is the audience. We watch all kinds of films, whether made in India or any part of the globe.
I don’t find any difference when we watch films, whether on the big or small screen. We just tell stories and play different characters.
I have decided, not to do any villain roles at least for a few years.