Script Sense Is A Skill That Can Be Developed: Vijay Sethupathi

“There is no specific style for a specific scene, it is all about attempting to perform the written script in the best way possible and to keep trying until it works”, says the Farzi actor
Script Sense Is A Skill That Can Be Developed: Vijay Sethupathi

A few days before the release of Kaathu Vaakula Rendu Kadhal (KRK), Vijay Sethupathi talks to Vishal Menon about working with Vignesh Shivan for the second time, his script selection process, and how he approaches a scene.

The best scenes of Naanum Rowdy Dhaan are scenes that you cannot read or narrate, you only understand it when you watch it. It also has a complete comedy climax. So when you listen to a script like that, at which phase or time did you realize that you could trust Vicky (Vignesh Shivan)?

I had spoken to him after watching Poda Podi (2012) because I liked it a lot. I actually didn't like the first version of Naanum Rowdy Dhaan (2015). The first version had a few things I didn't like. Vicky keeps writing, so he came up with a second version. I heard only like 30 minutes outline of the second version, and it was good. I trust Vicky's sense and I know how he works. He'll give his best for the audience to be presented with the best version. 

You'd spoken previously to Film Companion about MGR's script sense, now that you've been in the industry for 12 years yourself, after seeing various hits and flops, do you think script sense is an instinct or a skill that can be developed?

It is a skill that can be developed. Ten years ago, I had a basic sense of the story and the plot. The more films I did, the more I started understanding the nuances in the script. I started changing based on the audience reaction, my stardom and growth. Sometimes you might get good scripts at the wrong time. Similarly, some scripts will be good only if you do it immediately. After two years, it might not be good. You understand if a scene will work or not and also judge based on how a region reacts to a specific scene or movie.

When a director narrates, we will see what he thinks is the important character, concept and scene. Then we hear his opinions. Sometimes they might present a theme but have scenes contradictory to it in the film. So we will understand whether to work with them or not. Sometimes we think that we will work the complications during the shoot, but then it might not happen. With time, you will start knowing whether the director will understand or not, and you can filter the script. 

In the beginning, it would've been far easier to make decisions compared to how complicated it is now. So were those decisions based on instincts?

Those too are not instincts. Your first film is your chance and not something you can choose. In my first film Thenmerku Paruvakaatru (2010), the director gave me the space and freedom to discuss the script. Then later on Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanom(2012) and Pizza (2012) were made by my friends, so I had the opportunity to discuss them, and I completely believed in the script.

I received an offer for a film in between but didn't take it because I didn't believe in it, but they were upset with me for rejecting the film. A few directors wouldn't even give me the script or the story because I'd only done one film. With Manikandan, Karthik Subbaraj and a couple of assistant directors, I would analyze and discuss films and scripts. This is when I started understanding more and used this in my approach.

Say there is a film you liked completely. You liked the whole process from the script to the direction and even the final cut; does it confuse you when a film like this fails at the box office or the audience doesn't enjoy it?

Yes, definitely. Also, there is more than the script and the director. It also heavily depends on the producer who carries the film; how he markets the film, and the release date. Even this placement is an art form. A few films didn't work because of that, a few films flopped even though we thought we've presented everything in the right way. When such films do not do well, more than disappointment, there's confusion about what we missed. 

In KRK's trailer, there are two heroines on both the sides and you are in the center. So, in such a set up, what is your approach for a scene like this; in the sense do you want to do it once and see if it is working out or do you want to keep trying different ways? What is your favorite style of working in a scene like that?

There is no such thing as a specific style for a scene. When I get a scene, I see how it's been written and choreographed. Then I see how I would like to present this particular scene; I try to understand the rhythm of the scene. When I don't get it, I call for a cut in between the take. I don't have to go and see the monitor for this. 

We keep trying and if it still doesn't work, we get a different idea by then. When you've explored an idea and performed it, you will know if you've missed something, so you keep trying until it comes out good. So, it's an attempt to perform the written scene in the best way possible for the audience to watch.

When it comes to comedy, every director has a different style right, how long does it take to understand it?

Yes, that is what the actor has to understand and perform accordingly but there is no specific time for this. Soodhu Kavvum (2013) was a hit, but till the end of the movie, I didn't understand the character of the film. I acted in Nalan Kumarasamy's Kadhalum Kadandhu Pogum (2016) and I slowly started understanding only after the first half. Then I re-watched it during the lockdown and that is when I understood the timing and the character. 

So, each person has different timing. For example, when director Seenu Ramaswami writes, I understand the script instantly and connect to it. Even Manikandan's writing is like that for me, but I struggled during his Kadaisi Vivasayi (2022) to get into the character. For Super Deluxe (2019), we'd filmed for ten days but director Thiagarajan Kumararaja didn't like it, so we'd started again the next year, where I went for over fifty takes. So, you can't fix a time for these things, it happens at its own time.

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