Vijay Sethupathi speaks the magic of 'Maharaja’

From accountant to acting powerhouse, Indian actor Vijay Sethupathi’s journey of 50 films has been anything but ordinary.

The actor’s 50th film, written and directed by Nithilan Saminathan („Monkey Puppet”) in Tamil, „Maharaja” is an action-packed story that mixes thriller elements with family drama and has a father-daughter relationship at its core. It has emerged as one of the biggest Tamil blockbusters of the year.

The actor says he didn’t specifically choose „Maharaja” as a landmark project, but he was impressed by the story and the director’s energy. “We do all the films with a lot of fear and passion. We wanted to do what we thought,” said Sethupathi Variety About the success of the film. „We did not expect this. Of course, I am happy. But we wanted my producer to collect the money and he should be safe. Because he has invested so much money based on the paper. [script] and actors.”

When asked how her personal experiences as a parent influenced her role in „Maharaja”, Sethupathi opened up about her relationship with her children. “I have a son and a daughter. I love my daughter very much. I always like it when she dominates me. I call her 'Mom’ [mother] and my son 'father’ [father],” said Sethupathi. The actor emphasized the importance of open dialogue with his children, often sharing details about his work and even seeking their input. „I keep talking to them, whenever I go to shoot, if I have any interesting scenes, I talk to them and share with them,” he said. Sethupathi says she is very responsible in her choice of subjects and takes her children’s suggestions seriously. „I never project myself as a father figure, no. Sometimes I am a child,” said Sethupathi.

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Sethupathi, who started his career as an accountant, aspired to become an actor and first joined a theater company where there was only one vacancy for an accountant. “I thought if I joined as an accountant, I would be able to see the actors every day. I can be with them. I can talk to them. I can understand what acting is all about,” explained Sethupathi. “All my lessons. Even lunch time was a class for me. Being with actors was always a class.

Highlighting the actor’s subsequent journey from junior artiste to leading man, he recalled that he once shot his first scene as the lead in an extra auditorium. „I never imagined that the circle would end like this,” reflected Sethupathi. „I have many such circles.”

Since then, Sethupathi’s journey to this landmark film has been marked by critically acclaimed performances in Tamil cinema. His breakout role in the 2012 title „Pizza” established him as a talent to watch, while films like „Vikram Veda” (2017), „96” (2018), and „Super Deluxe” (2019) cemented his reputation. The most versatile actors in the industry. Known for his ability to disappear into diverse characters, Sethupathi has been prominent 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 was another full-circle moment — she had earlier traveled to LA for the prosthetic makeup work done for her 2018 film “Seethakhaadi”. “It was my 25th film. Now I am going to LA for my 50th film at a festival again,” said Sethupathi. „Life is a beautiful script, my life has many connections.”

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Another contact is filmmaker Anurag Kashyap, who plays the villain in „Maharaja”. Their connection started in 2016 when they started working on a project. In 2018, Kashyap played a villainous role in the film Imaika Nodigal, which featured Sethupathi in a long cameo, but they did not have any scenes together. Years later, Kashyap asked Sethupathi to watch and comment on his directorial venture “Kennedy”. „I watched the film, told him what I felt, my views on the film and he loved it,” recalls Sethupathi. “Then he gave me a 'special thanks’ when the film was screened at Cannes. It was amazing.”

Sethupathi has now become a pan-India phenomenon with Hindi movies like „Jawan” and „Merry Christmas,” and his recent foray into Hindi cinema with the hit Prime Video series „Farsee.” „I have to read the dialogues 100-200 times to get the flow,” he said of working in Hindi. After that he incorporated that method in his Tamil work as well. He is open to more Hindi projects, and his approach to choosing projects is consistent across industries: “It depends on the script. I have been listening to stories in Hindi, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada languages. I am waiting for good scripts,” he said.

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.”

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