EXCLUSIVE: I never like to spend too much time dwelling on success or failure, says Vijay Sethupathi

Despite facing brickbats, 'Maharaja', which was released on 14 June, is proving to be successful at the box office.

ByHaricharan Pudipeddi

Published Jun 23, 2024 | 4:57 PM Updated Jun 23, 2024 | 4:58 PM

Vijay Sethupathi mentioned that he has listened to 500 scripts but selected only 50 to act in. (X)

Vijay Sethupathi is basking in the phenomenal success of his latest release, Maharaja–which also happens to be his 50th film. Directed by Nithilan Saminathan of Kurangu Bommai (2017)-fame, Maharaja has emerged as the fastest ₹50 crore-grossing movie in Vijay Sethupathi’s career. After a string of unsuccessful and forgettable outings as a lead actor, the actor finally achieved significant success with Maharaja and credits his director entirely without any reservations.

In this chat with South First, Vijay Sethupathi opens up about Maharaja, its success, and what milestone achievements mean to him in his career, which has a good mix of highs and lows. In the dark crime thriller, Vijay Sethupathi portrays a barber, whose life is thrown into turmoil when a cherished dustbin named Lakshmi disappears from his home.

Apart from the highly positive response to the film, it was also snubbed by a section of the audience for its depiction of a subplot involving sexual abuse. Some of the people felt the makers should’ve warned audiences about some of the trigger-warning sequences in the film. Nevertheless, Maharaja went on to strike gold at the box office and is looking at a long theatrical run.

Excerpts from a quick interview:

Q: How did you celebrate the tremendous success of Maharaja, and did you anticipate this level of achievement?

A: I never expected this kind of success, especially after seeing the response to my last few films, which didn’t do well. We thought Maharaja would at most receive average to above-average verdicts from the audience, but what happened has been quite overwhelming. During the release of Maharaja, I heard people questioning the purpose of putting up large banners when audiences weren’t turning up to watch my films. I’m glad that Maharaja has addressed those criticisms. I never wanted to prove to the people that I’d deliver a successful movie. That was never my intention. But when I heard the script of Maharaja, I genuinely felt it was an important story to narrate.

Maharaja review: Vijay Sethupathi reigns in this convoluted yet convincing drama

'Maharaja' poster. (X)

‘Maharaja’ poster. (X)

Q: Maharaja wasn’t deliberately planned as your 50th film but how does it feel to have achieved this milestone moment in your career?

A: I don’t like to spend too much time thinking about success or failure. When we realised Maharaja was my 50th film release, it felt special. However, we didn’t work any harder just because it was my milestone film. We put in the effort that the film required. I promoted it vigorously because I felt my last few releases didn’t receive adequate promotion from the producers. I wanted to ensure that Maharaja generated significant buzz even before its release. Honestly, I didn’t dwell much on the idea of this being a milestone film. I try not to focus too much on these.

Q: One of the highlights of the film is the writing, especially the non-linear narration. How were you convinced that audiences would be able to follow the narration seamlessly?

A: The magic is in Nithilan’s writing. When he pitched the story, I also had quite a few doubts and I was concerned about how audiences will be able to follow this style of narration. It was only after Nithilan explained the flow of events and how they’ll connect at what point, I was convinced. Also, I wanted to give him the freedom as the creator.

Q: Your character in Maharaja is probably the most vulnerable you’ve been on screen. What about it made it exciting for you?

A: What intrigued me most was the storyline and the transition of my character. Rather than mere excitement, I am drawn to challenging roles that push me beyond my comfort zone. As a father to a 17-year-old daughter, I deeply connected with the emotional depth of my character—his sense of helplessness and other personal aspects.

Q: Is it true that Anurag Kashyap came on board just for your sake?

A: Nithilan told me he wanted to cast Anurag as he’s been a great fan of his work for many years. Since I know him, I called him and he came on board. Honestly, if you look at the casting, every actor came on board because of the powerful story. If you look at the women characters, they come for a very brief period but we needed someone like Abhirami to make that part, very special. I’m thankful to all of them for agreeing to be part of Maharaja.

Vijay 50: Actor, leader, the undisputed ‘GOAT’

(Edited by S Subhakeerthana)

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