It’s hard to guess what Vijay Sethupathi is up to next. One day, he sports a boy-next door look and the very next day, he transforms himself into a 55-year-old man. Unlike others, Vijay Sethupathi doesn’t seem to be cautious about his ‘image’ both on and off-screen, as he says that he doesn’t believe in it. After a day-long shoot for Nalan Kumarasamy’s upcoming film, the suave actor sat down for a chat with Times of India as his first production venture, Orange Mittai readies for release. Excerpts…
The trailer of Orange Mittai, has already garnered good reviews from the audience. Tell us about the film…
The film is about the journey of a 55-year-old man, Kailasam, (Vijay Sethupathi) in an ambulance. There are two other main characters in the film — a driver (Arumugam Bala) and a paramedic (RJ Ramesh Thilak) and the story revolves around the three of us. Though it has scope for many emotions, we have treated the entire film with dark humour. Also, there are emotional moments in the film, which every one of us can easily relate to. Actor Karunakaran is doing an interesting cameo in the film too.
Why did you decide to both produce and act in this film?
When Biju (director) sir narrated the script to me, I strongly felt the need to produce it. But to be frank, I had no idea of acting in it. In fact, we approached another actor for this project, but since he got busy with other films, he couldn’t take it up. That’s when I decided to play the old man myself. First, we tried placing a wig to give the old-man-look, but it didn’t suit me. So, I decided to just be myself. I dyed my hair white and gained some weight. It suited the look of the character, and we began the shoot immediately.
You have already gained appreciation for your old-man makeover. Do you think it will affect your career in future?
I am an actor who doesn’t believe in carrying an ‘image’ in the industry. I don’t want to get trapped in an image. I am an artist who is ready to grab interesting roles that comes my way. I am not bothered about my career graph, as I am someone who doesn’t believe in planning things.
Tell us about your experience of working with international filmmaker Biju Viswanath…
I met him four years ago through a common friend. Since then, we have been good friends. He doesn’t forcefully extract things from his actors. Instead, he gives them time to understand the scene. As Biju is also an editor, he believes that taking extra shots for ‘safety’s sake’ is a criminal waste of time. Even while shooting, his mind knows where to cut the visuals that he is filming. It was convenient to work with him as there was no delay in the schedule.
Looks like the film is more about father-son bonding…
The old man’s character has been written in such a way that audience will be reminded of their father and the time they spent with him. The role is that of a stubborn old man. In one scene he says, edha pudichu onnukku adikanum nu avan solla koodadhu, enna naa dhan avanukku appan. While shooting that scene, most of the cast, including me, were reminded of our father. In fact, even I have argued a lot with my dad and that only brought us closer. I still miss him a lot. That’s why I used my dad’s photo in one of the scenes in the film, and I am very happy about it. I am excited to see his photo on the big screen.
Do you find time to spend with your kids these days?
Of course. Whenever I am shooting in Chennai, I spend most of my time with my wife and kids. Sometimes, I take my kids to the shooting spot, and they just love it. My kids love me both on and off-screen (smiles) and that’s true love. Enna irundhalum avangalukku na appa la.
You have been a part of many multi-starrers. Do you think it’s time to go solo?
To be honest, many of my well-wishers want me to play the solo lead in films. Maybe, it’s time to think about it. In fact, I have cut down on signing up multi-starrer films. In Mellisai, I play a solo lead, but the film is getting delayed due to unknown reasons. The problem is, I don’t see how much screen space I have in a film, and I sign a project if I love the script. As an artist, all I want is to be a part of good films. For instance, I agreed to act in Purampokku Engira Podhuvudamai as I loved the script and I am a huge fan of SP Jhananathan. Such scripts can be written only if you have immense knowledge of politics and history.
How has your journey in this industry been so far?
It’s been five years now, and I have learnt a lot in this industry. When I tried for a break in the industry, the only thought in my head was — ‘Once I have a breakthrough, everything else will fall in place.’ But now, surviving in this industry is the toughest part — tougher than getting your first break. For me, nothing has changed in life. I have both joyful and heartbreaking moments in life even now. Stardom doesn’t give us everything. Life now is just like an orange mittai — bittersweet.
Has the issue between Studio 9 Suresh and you been resolved? Will Vasantha Kumaran be revived?
As of now, the issue is with both the Producer Council and Nadigar Sangam, and only they will come up with the solution. I will do whatever they say. If they want me to act in Vasantha Kumaran, I will — and if they don’t want me to act, I won’t.
Can you tell us about your character in Nalan Kumarasamy’s project?
I play a lazy, rugged character in Nalan’s film. I am teaming up with him again after Soodhu Kavvum, and this time, it’s for a feel-good, cute film. The shoot is almost over, and Nalan’s magic is there in almost every scene. I can’t call it as a love story as it has both romance and friendship. In fact, I can’t even say if it is love or friendship. It’s something new, and beautiful.
What about your other projects?
I am waiting to shoot for Karthik’s Iraivi, as I share screen space with Simhaa and SJ Suryah. Also, I am playing a role of a cop in director Arun Kumar’s next film. I am not sure to what extent the khaki outfit will suit me. Though it’s a police story, the film has many emotional moments in it.
You do have a lot more female fan followers than males. What’s the secret behind it?
I don’t know whether it’s true as I am not that good-looking. But some people I have met have said that I carry some kind of charm on my face — and have complimented me for my eyes, too. Once, when I was driving my bike with my helmet on, two girls recognized me by just looking at my eyes. They called out to me and said that Pannaiyarum Padminiyum is one of their favourite films, because, apparently, after seeing that film, their fathers’ love for their moms increased.