From Thenmerku Paruvakaatru to Maharaja: Vijay Sethupathi, the all-rounder

His performance as Shilpa (a transgender woman ) in 'Super Deluxe' fetched him a National Award and is still considered his best.

ByHaricharan Pudipeddi

Published Jun 14, 2024 | 1:14 PM Updated Jun 21, 2024 | 12:38 AM

Vijay Sethupathi's latest in Maharaja

Actor Vijay Sethupathi is certainly the best example of making it big in the film industry without any connections or backing.

Coming from humble beginnings, it hasn’t been a bed of roses for the actor, who struggled for many years before finally landing a few small appearances in films such as M Kumaran Son of Mahalakshmi (2004), Pudhupettai (2006), and Lee (2007).

After appearing in a few blink-and-you-miss kind of roles, Vijay Sethupathi made his debut as a lead character in Seenu Ramasamy’s critically acclaimed Thenmerku Paruvakaatru (2010). But he rose to fame with Karthik Subbaraj’s Pizza (2012) and Nalan Kumarasamy’s Soodhu Kavvum (2013).

As Vijay Sethupathi’s 50th film Maharaja released in theatres on 14 June, South First takes a look at his journey to stardom, exploring his versatility through insights from some of his directors.

Also Read: Vijay Sethupathi’s ‘Maharaja’ to hit the screens on 14 June

Driven by script & his role: Nithilan

A still from the film Maharaja

A still from the film ‘Maharaja’. (Supplied)

In Nithilan Saminathan’s Maharaja, Vijay Sethupathi plays a barber.

Talking about the actor’s versatility and what makes working with him so exciting for any filmmaker, the Kurangu Bommai (2017) director, said, “Unlike most actors, Sethu anna (brother) gives importance to the script and his character more than anything. He’s always on the lookout for trying out something new, both in terms of character and story. That’s why a lot of directors are always keen to work with him.”

Nithilan went on to explain that Vijay Sethupathi didn’t see Maharaja as a major milestone film. “For him, he’s just getting started. That’s what he told me when we discussed how this is going to be his 50th film. He said he’s in a learning phase and there’s so much left to achieve.”

Director’s actor: Buchi Babu Sana

A few years ago, Vijay Sethupathi made his Telugu debut with Buchi Babu Sana’s Uppena (2021), where he played the character of the heroine’s father. Unlike most of his contemporaries, he didn’t have any qualms about playing an older character.

About the experience of working with Vijay Sethupathi in Uppena, Buchi Babu said, “He’s a very rare breed of actor. Someone who always wants to ensure there’s something new he can offer to audiences through his characters.”

The director further adds, “He’s a very effortless actor and you don’t have to sit down with him to explain what you want. Most often, he gives exactly what the director wants.”

Nithilan Saminathan on Maharaja: ‘Vijay Sethupathi ensured I felt no pressure’

As a transgender woman in Super Deluxe

A poster of Super Deluxe

A poster of ‘Super Deluxe’, where Sijvay Sethupathi played a transgender woman. (X)

Among his many memorable performances, Vijay Sethupathi left audiences in awe of his sheer talent when he played a transgender woman (Shilpa) in Thiagarajan Kumararaja’s Super Deluxe (2019).

The performance fetched Vijay Sethupathi a National Award for Best Supporting Actor.

“With Vijay, you don’t have to worry much about the output. He gets so involved in a character that he won’t rest till gets everything about it right. It wasn’t easy when he played Shilpa, and it took quite a lot of time to understand and get under the skin of the character. Some shots went over 50 takes but Vijay was quite patient and gave his best,” Thiagarajan Kumararaja said.

To date, Shilpa happens to be the most challenging role Vijay Sethupathi has essayed in his career.

In one of his interviews, Vijay Sethupathi revealed he begged for the role.

“When he narrated the script, I liked it so much. The way it was written was so awesome,” the actor recalled.

Vijay Sethupathi picked a scene that made him want to sign the film as soon as possible.

“In one scene, my kid asks me why I was not born as a female. That scene was written so well that I decided that I didn’t want to miss this film. I begged him (the director), and told him that you don’t need to pay me any money. On the first day, I think it took 50-60 takes. Then finally, I realised the femininity inside me. I got the confidence,” the actor quipped.

Also Read: I’m tired of those kinds of films, says Vijay Sethupathi

As romantic Ram in 96

Trisha and Vijay Sethupathi in 96

Trisha and Vijay Sethupathi in ’96’. (X)

Another standout performance from Vijay Sethupathi’s career is from Prem Kumar’s 96, a story about reunion and unfulfilled romance.

Talking about what makes Vijay one of the most versatile actors of our time, Prem said, “Vijay doesn’t differentiate roles based on big or small. Once he connects with a role on an emotional and personal level, he just owns it and as a filmmaker, you don’t want anything else.”

The filmmaker recalled, “When I told him about Ram, he knew what exactly was needed to make the character instantly likeable. It takes great understanding and internalising of a character to deliver such effortless performance.”

Vijay Sethupathi is undoubtedly a national treasure.

Here’s hoping Maharaja marks an important crossroad in his career and takes up more exciting roles that give him more scope to prove his versatility!

(Edited by S Subhakeerthana)