VIKRAM VEDHA: BAD IS BRILLIANT
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.