Vijay Sethupathi has had two releases as an antagonist this year with Master and Uppena. He has two releases this week, Laabam directed by late SP Jananathan that’s getting a theatrical release and Tughlaq Durbar that’s premiering on Sun TV and streaming on Netflix. In this interview, he talks about roles that were very close to his personality and those that were totally different, playing Shilpa from Super Deluxe, and his direction plans. Edited Excerpts…
Director SP Jananathan passed away during the making of Laabam. Had he completed the film?
He had finished the film and had also edited it almost until the climax. I had come to dub for the climax and he was seeing it for the final time, because he kept working on it until the last moment. As he was having lunch he fell down and injured his head. I arrived just after he was taken to the hospital. His condition was getting serious over time. I can’t even express the loss. When I see his interviews I cannot believe that he’s no more.
Of all the characters that you played, which ones were very close to your real life persona. Like, you didn’t even have to act.
The portions of Sethupathi that happen at the character’s home are all very similar to my home. All the characters that you choose will be close to either your natural life or your imagination. I’m not a doctor but I’m emotional like the character in Dharma Durai. I’m not a rowdy like in Ka Ka Po but I can be affectionate to someone like that. I don’t steal statues like in Iraivi but that character is also within me.
Did you hear a narration or read a script where you couldn’t even connect with the character?
Shilpa [from Super Deluxe] and Ayya [from Seethakaathi]. I didn’t know the character I played in Master. There’s a villain inside me but not so extreme like that. I forgive even my enemies quickly. A lot of people have betrayed me. I used to fight before, but now I forgive because it’s healing. If we’re traveling a long distance and yet keep fighting with people around us, it’s a big burden.
You mentioned that Shilpa and Ayya were two characters that changed you a lot. Could you explain how?
Until I played Shilpa, a trans woman, I used to be a teacher and my characters were students. I taught them what I knew. With Shilpa, I learnt from her. I forgot all I knew and imagined that I was a woman from her story and the way society looked at her. My performance came from the interaction of the character with Thiagarajan Kumararaja. It just happened, that’s the truth.
I felt Seethakaathi was like time travel. I got to live, die and then come back again as that character. There’s a scene where I die in the film. I asked the director if I should just die or die in a way that looks like I’m coming back from the dead. When I showed him both, he understood that I was trying to depict that the character didn’t want to die.
You’ve worked with many directors and been in the industry for so long. You’ve mentioned that you want to direct but haven’t mentioned anything concrete. Do you have a story?
If I get one I will make a film. I have no fears. If the film isn’t good, it’s not good. If my friends think the film is good, I’ll release it. Surely, I’ll do it someday. I want to make at least a short film. I am not worried that people might mock me if it’s not good. It’s something I don’t know how to do and so I’m making an attempt. If the film isn’t good, I’ll throw it away and make something else.
I want to direct only to understand what it is. Sometimes, some shots occur to us. I can share them with some directors and not others. Also, my suggestions might not always be correct. I want to experience the high of telling a story as a director. The director’s mind will be totally engaged during shooting. I want to try it.