VIKRAM VEDHA: BAD IS BRIL­LIANT

India Today - - INSIDE - —Prachi Sibal

Vi­jay Sethupathi, Tamil cin­ema’s new favourite, makes the vil­lain as big as the hero in Vikram Vedha—which cel­e­brated a 50-day run of packed the­atres. Dressed in ca­su­als and slip­pers, with only a printed yel­low scarf for piz­zazz, he nev­er­the­less oozes charisma. In an in­dus­try dom­i­nated by young, im­age con­scious boys, Sethupathi is mid­dle-aged and un­apolo­getic about it. He ef­fort­lessly moves be­tween hero and vil­lain, swag­ger and hu­mil­ity. He is the an­ti­hero au­di­ences can’t com­pre­hend, but have come to love. Be­gin­ning his ca­reer with “neg­a­tive roles” and pack­ing on the pounds or let­ting him­self look old when the part re­quired, Sethupathi says he’s never been afraid of risks. “If you start wor­ry­ing about risks, you might as well stay in­side the womb,” he says.

In this crime thriller, loosely based on the folk tale Vikra­math­ithan Kathai­gal, the vil­lain out­shines the hero. Fans of­ten stop Sethupathi in the street, call­ing out “Sir, oru kad­hai sol­lata? (Sir, can I tell you a story?)”, his char­ac­ter’s oft-re­peated sig­na­ture line. Gone are the days when hav­ing played a vil­lain made it im­pos­si­ble for an ac­tor to land a lead­ing part—watch­ing Vikram Vedha, au­di­ences weren’t even sure which side they were on.

“I don’t go through any prepa­ra­tion for the role. A new char­ac­ter is like bring­ing a new hu­man be­ing into your life,” he says, ex­plain­ing a line in the film where he asks if the snake Lord Shiva wears around his neck is for his own safety or that of the snake. “You have to un­der­stand how he thinks and what he feels, not just how he looks or be­haves.”

Sethupathi says he knew at once that he wanted to do Vikram Vedha when he read the script in 2014—he’s of­ten praised for his abil­ity to recog­nise good scripts and star-mak­ing roles. So what’s next on the docket? Ac­tion thriller Karup­pan, al­ready in the­atres and Su­per Deluxe, he says—the lat­ter of which sees him play­ing the role of a trans­gen­der per­son. Stay tuned.

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