Following a hat-trick of hits, actor Vijay Sethupathi says that for him, only script rules

Vijay Sethupathi already has three hits in a row, many films in his kitty and a growing fan base… “I never dreamt I would see this day. It feels great,” laughs the actor, 34, who made a mark with the National Award-winning Thenmerku Paruvakaatru.

After the hits Pizza, Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanom (NKPK) and Soodhu Kavvum (SK), he’s the actor talented, new directors are seeking out. But, Vijay says he never sought to do “different films”. “I merely looked for good stories. Luckily, I found them.”

A shy boy, Vijay always nurtured filmi dreams in a corner of his heart, but he studied to be an accountant and worked in Dubai. It was after he joined Koothu-p-Pattarai that he felt he stood a chance. “I learnt the importance of body language and the difference between acting and being an actor. I understood the logic of it all.”

It helped that he had a fantastic set of friends who kept his hopes up. “They convinced me I had a photogenic face,” he says.

Vijay waited for about seven years for his first solo film, yet, he feels he had it easy, considering his non-film background. “The difficult part was the finances. My wife handled our home and two children.”

Now, he’s shooting for three films — Rummy, Pannayaarum Padminiyum (PP) and Idharkuthaane Aasaipattai Balakumara — each unique. In Rummy, he travels back in time to the 1980s to play a college student; in PP, the feature version of the popular short film,he essays the role of a driver; and in Idharkuthaane, he gets down and dirty in the Chennai slums.

Speaking about PP…, he says, “I loved the very name. I had heard of the short film, but decided against seeing it. I did not want to question how director Arun would translate it onto the big screen,” he says.

About working with new directors Karthik Subbaraj (Pizza), Balaji Tharaneetharan (NKPK), Nalan Kumarasamy (SK), Arun and Sudhakar (Sangudevan), he says, “I was also new at one stage! Their scripts are interesting, they narrate them well. Why miss an opportunity to work with them? They know their life depends on the film; so they stick to the demands of the script.” He cites the example of Balaji who did not shoot for the hit song ‘Hey Crazy Penne’ because he was afraid it would take away from the film’s theme of friendship.

The actor also takes time to work on his look for each film. The flabby, greying kidnapper of SK is nowhere to be seen now. “I will do whatever I can to become the character. I have no right to distract the audience from the mood of the film,” he says.

Moulded by short films

Vijay says the short films he has acted in moulded him as an actor. “In feature films, I used to be the hero’s friend, a regular character. In short films, I played the hero; I got roles where I could work on my character and performance. They made me aware of myself as an actor.”

He has signed up for Sangudevan, Sondha Oor, Vasantha Kumaran, Mellisai… and is booked for the next two years. “If you had told me this two years ago, I would not have believed it.” Vijay is also producing Sangudevan, and has been shooting or dubbing non-stop since the release of NKPK… He’s also realised he can’t take up all the films that interest him. “Why keep talented filmmakers waiting for dates?” he asks.

If anything, Vijay feels bad that he can’t spend as much time with his son and daughter. “There was a time when I was constantly with them, taking them to tuitions, to the beach, just the three of us…”