Vijay Sethupathi Talks ‘Maharaja’ Magic, Fatherhood and Cross-Industry Leap: ‘Life Is a Beautiful Script’ (EXCLUSIVE) (2024)

From accountant to acting powerhouse, Indian actor Vijay Sethupathi‘s 50-film journey has been anything but ordinary.

The actor’s 50th film, the Tamil-language “Maharaja,” written and directed by Nithilan Saminathan (“Kurangu Bommai”), is an action-packed saga that blends thriller elements with family drama and has a father-daughter relationship at its core. It has emerged as one of the biggest Tamil hits of the year.

The actor says he didn’t specifically choose “Maharaja” as a milestone project, but he was drawn to the story and the director’s energy. “We do all the films with so much fear and passion. We just wanted to do what we had imagined,” Sethupathi told Variety about the film’s success. “We didn’t expect this. Of course, I’m happy. But we just wanted my producer to collect the money, he should be safe. Because he has invested so much money just based on the paper [script] and the actors.”

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When asked about how his personal experiences as a parent influenced his role in “Maharaja,” Sethupathi opened up about his relationship with his children. “I have a son and daughter. I love my daughter so much. If she dominates me, I always love that. I call her ‘amma’ [mother] and my son ‘appa’ [father],” Sethupathi said. The actor emphasized the importance of open communication with his children, often sharing details about his work and even seeking their input. “I keep talking to them and whenever I go to shoot, if I have any interesting scenes, I talk to them, I share with them,” he said. Sethupathi says he has a keen sense of responsibility about his choice of subject matter and takes his children’s suggestions seriously. “I never project myself as a father figure, no. Sometimes I am the kid,” Sethupathi said.

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Beginning his professional life as an accountant, Sethupathi yearned to be an actor and initially joined a theater company where the only vacancy was for – an accountant. “I thought if I join as an accountant, I can watch the actors every day. I can be with them. I can talk to them. I can understand what acting is,” Sethupathi explained. “Everything was my lessons. Even lunchtime was a class for me. Being with actors was always a class.”

The actor’s subsequent journey from junior artist to leading man was highlighted when he recalled shooting his first scene as a lead in the same auditorium where he once worked as an extra. “I never imagined that circle would complete like this,” Sethupathi reflected. “There are so many circles I have like this.”

Since then, Sethupathi’s journey to this milestone film has been marked by a string of critically acclaimed performances in Tamil cinema. His breakout role in 2012 title “Pizza” established him as a talent to watch, while films like “Vikram Vedha” (2017), “96” (2018), and “Super Deluxe” (2019) cemented his reputation as one of the most versatile actors in the industry. Known for his ability to disappear into diverse characters, Sethupathi has become a mainstay in both commercial and arthouse cinema.

“Maharaja” has been selected as the closing night feature at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA), one of the oldest Indian-themed film festivals in the world. For Sethupathi, it’s another full-circle moment – he previously visited L.A. for the prosthetics makeup work done for 2018 film “Seethakaathi.” “That was my 25th film. Now I am going again to LA for my 50th film, at a festival,” Sethupathi said. “Life is a beautiful script, my life has so many connections.”

Another connection was filmmaker Anurag Kashyap, who plays the antagonist in “Maharaja.” Their connection began in 2016 when they were set to work on a project that didn’t materialize. In 2018, Kashyap played the antagonist in “Imaikkaa Nodigal” in which Sethupathi had an extended cameo, but they didn’t have any scenes together. Years later, Kashyap asked Sethupathi to watch his directing effort “Kennedy” and provide feedback. “I saw the film and told him whatever I felt, my opinions about the film, and he liked it,” Sethupathi recalled. “Then he put a ‘Special Thanks’ for me in the film when it was screened at Cannes. That was surprising.”

With recent forays into Hindi cinema with films like “Jawan” and “Merry Christmas,” plus the hit Prime Video series “Farzi,” Sethupathi has now become a pan-Indian phenomenon. “I have to read the dialogues 100-200 times to get the flow,” he said of working in Hindi. He has since incorporated that methodology into his Tamil work as well. He’s open to more Hindi projects, and his approach to selecting projects remains consistent across industries: “It depends on the script. I’ve been listening to stories from Hindi, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada. I’m just waiting for good scripts.”

Next up for Sethupathi are Vetrimaaran’s “Viduthalai Part 2,” a Disney+ Hotstar series where he reunites with his “Aandavan Kattalai” and “Kadaisi Vivasayi” director M. Manikandan, and Mysskin’s “Train.”

Vijay Sethupathi Talks ‘Maharaja’ Magic, Fatherhood and Cross-Industry Leap: ‘Life Is a Beautiful Script’ (EXCLUSIVE) (2024)

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