Vijay Sethupathi on being the busiest lead Tamil actor — even during a pandemic

Vijay Sethupathi currently has 25+ films in his kitty, including Laabam that released in theatres last week, Tughlaq Darbar that released on Netflix India this past weekend, and Annabelle Sethupathi, that will release this Friday (17 September) on Disney+ Hotstar Multiplex.

Surendhar MK September 14, 2021 08:02:42 IST
Vijay Sethupathi on being the busiest lead Tamil actor — even during a pandemic

Vijay Sethupathi in Tughlaq Darbar

Vijay Sethupathi is inarguably the busiest lead actor in Tamil cinema. He is busy not just with Tamil films but also web series and feature projects in other languages such as Hindi, Telugu, and Malayalam as well. The pandemic has in no way reduced his pace; it has, in fact, increased his working speed and frequency of signing new projects.

The actor has a very busy September with releases across all mediums — Laabam in theatres from 9 September, Tughlaq Darbar on Sun TV on 10 September (6:30 PM) and Netflix from 11 September midnight, and Annabelle Sethupathi on Disney+ Hotstar Multiplex from 17 September, and also possibly Kadaisi Vivasayi (in which he has a cameo) in theatres.

Sethupathi recently met the press in Chennai ahead of the release of Laabam, primarily held in remembrance of the film's recently departed director SP Jhananathan. Excerpts from a group interaction with the Makkal Selvan below:

On SP Jhananathan

“Yes, I miss Jhananathan sir so much. First and foremost, I express my heartfelt condolences to Jhananathan sir’s assistant Mr Aalayamani, who was always with him. I’ve seen them from the time I was a junior artist and approached them for an opportunity. Thalaivar Jhananathan’s loss can’t be described in words, I still can’t believe that he is no more. I’ve been watching a lot of his interviews after his death. I feel like a sinner now; I could have spent more time with him but time is so unpredictable and cruel. I’ve known him closely for the past five years. After having done Purampokku and Laabam with him, it felt like a father-son relationship in some ways."

"He was a workaholic, who was constantly updating his film as it progressed, and also based it on current affairs and the political climate. He deserves all the credit for the way Laabam has shaped up. He was a great teacher, very intellectual. Please watch his interviews; there is lots to learn for all of us. He will keep you engaged throughout. Our outlook may even change after watching him talk! Jhananathan sir strongly believed that cinema is not just a medium for entertainment and time-pass. Films touch our emotions and make us think, like any other art form. I echo his thoughts and viewpoint. I also teach my kids through cinema."

On his journey as a producer

Sethupathi opened upon how he has only suffered losses as a producer. “I’ve produced four to five films over the past few years. Though Merku Thodardhu Malai was a highly critically acclaimed film, it set me back by Rs 1.5 crore. Orange Mittai was another loss-making venture for me; the same with Junga. I’m not aware of the business side of cinema, and have never kept track of money. Laabam’s co-producer Arumuga Kumar has been my friend for the past 12 years. I let him deal with the business side of production. I didn’t take any salary for Laabam; it’s a proud feeling to have produced the film."

On theatres getting reopened in Tamil Nadu

"I really like the way the new government has been operating ever since they took charge of the state. Cinema is not just about the big heroes and other noted names. Lakhs of humble workers and their families are dependent on it. Theatres are a vital part of the overall business chain. I wholeheartedly welcome the audience back to theatres to watch Laabam."

On being the busiest Tamil actor

Recently, a whopping list of 25 films, all starring the man, went viral on social media and WhatsApp. "Some of those films were wrapped a long time ago, some are yet to start, a few of them are currently being shot, and some are ready to release. Due to this lockdown, it has all been dragged, and now the number appears really big (25+). I’m not doing that many films at the same time; it’s not possible either, to do so many films simultaneously!"

On his most awaited project

Vikram is easily the most prominent in the list of Makkal Selvan’s upcoming films. As we know, Vikram is packed with stars such as Kamal Haasan, Fahadh Faasil, Narain, Kalidas Jayaram, and of course, Sethupathi. The star briefly talked about Vikram, roping in an acting coach, and his immense respect for Haasan. "I’ve already shot for seven days in Karaikudi. Vikram is a very important film in my career. It’s beyond a dream-come-true moment and a blessing. I can understand the kind of efforts that Kamal sir has put into cinema now that I’m active in the field. I’m eagerly looking forward to the days that I’ll be shooting with Kamal sir."

"And in Vikram, for the first time, I’ll be using the services of an acting coach. Her name is Pooja Devariya (one of his co-stars in Iraivi) and she’s brilliant. I had wanted to use a coach for my Hindi films as I'm new to that language and culture. Tamil is my home territory, and I know how to manage and connect with my people here. This acting coach would ideally be the bridge between me and the character that I play in the film. Pooja was supposed to start with me for the Sriram Raghavan film (Merry Christmas, co-starring Katrina Kaif). We had also worked briefly for the Muthiah Muralidharan biopic (now shelved). Maybe Kamal sir’s energy and passion to always learn new things in cinema indirectly led me to start off with an acting coach in his film Vikram."

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