Badman Vijay Sethupathi may steal the show in Vikram Veda

Even in some of his ruthlessly murderous moments, the actor seems so innocently alluring.

 |  4-minute read |   17-07-2017
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Every time I watch Tamil actor Vijay Sethupathi, I think of the great Hollywood icon, Marlon Brando — who actually mumbled his lines to fame and fortune, often playing in dramatic roles that ranged from A Streetcar Named Desire to On the Waterfront to Guys and Dolls to, of course, The Godfather. If he converted his mumbling into the mesmeric, he is also credited with having made the T-Shirt respectable and popular.

Sethupathi who is now all set to essay a baddie in the July 21 opener, Vikram Vedha — also has this tendency to deliver his dialogues rather softly, but they turn out to be extremely effective in communicating the message. And even in providing a refreshingly different take on a cinema which has been loud, melodramatic and made famous by the over-the-top histrionics of actors like Sivaji Ganeshan.

But what is even more disarming about Sethupathi is his appeal — which even in some of his ruthlessly murderous moments seem so innocently alluring. Remember that scene in Karthik Subbaraj's Iraivi, where he gets into a raging fit to kill a man — and then declares with shocking calm that he could not help but do what he did! The effect of this scene was nothing short of magnetic.

Sethupathi has had a good arc of acting, I first noticed him in Subbaraj's Pizza — where as the delivery boy getting involved with the supernatural, he was outstanding, conveying a deep sense of fear and unbelievable cunning. In Orange Mittai (by Biju Viswanath), he turns into an old man, who feigns a cardiac condition to ward off his loneliness. So, he gets into a hospital pretending to be ill, so that he would have company.

iraivi_071717054109.jpgIraivi (2016)

A novel plot enriched by Sethupathi's wonderful simplicity. Finally, as the god-fearing, honest-to-the core Gandhi in Manikandan's work, Aandavan Kattalai, he was funny as a guy who trapped himself into the most hilarious tangles by blurting out truth.

With a knack to pick characters that are not just varied but attractive to audiences (not a mean task spoilt as they are by the he-manship of men like Ajith, the mannerisms of Ilaiyathalapathi Vijay and the gimmickry of Rajinikanth), Sethupathi now slips into the role of a rogue, who meets his (perhaps) nemesis in the encounter cop, Vikram (Madhavan).

In a recent interview, Sethupathi punched the right button when he averred: “The story is important for any movie. For, it is in the film industry, the consumer pays the money before he or she gets the product. So, the responsibility of delivering a good product is on us. Audiences come with expectations and our job is to engage them for two hours. We take efforts to make the story more interesting and also present it in such a way that it is liked by all.”

vikvik_071717054332.jpgBut what appears purportedly surer is that Vikram Veda was inspired by Steven Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can (2002) – an honest officer on the hot trail of a wily crook.

How apt. This is exactly the most important formula for the success of a movie that some of the greats of cinema have reiterated time and again. In fact, one of the pet sentences of the late Ismail Merchant (of the Merchant Ivory fame) used to be: “Remember a story drives a film. You have to have a good story. Otherwise your movie will flop”.

Indeed, and it appears that Pushkar and Gayathri have got their formula right by adapting a folklore, Vikramaditya, to turn out their Vikram and Vedha. Along with Madhavan, Shraddha Srinath, Varalaxmi Sarathkumar and Kathir, Sethupathi will use his sheer versatility and unconventional looks to get the modern-day version of a courageous king and his sharp intelligence, which he uses to outsmart Betal (someone like a vampire).

The director duo started working on the Vikram Vedha's script in 2014, after zeroing in on the tale of an encounter policeman and his pursuit of a gangster, but one is not sure whether this film will have any resemblance to the cop-chase-forest brigand adventure revolving around the sandalwood smuggler and elephant poacher, Veerappan.

But what appears purportedly surer is that Vikram Veda was inspired by Steven Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can (2002) – an honest officer on the hot trail of a wily crook.

While Madhavan trained himself in the use of arms (he also trained himself as a boxer for Irudhi Suttru), Sethupathi is a natural, preferring to be spontaneous on the sets. This form of performance is completely different from "method acting" — a technique based on the system evolved by Stanislavsky and pushed into prominence in the US in the 1930s. Method acting was further developed by Elia Kazan and Lee Strasberg in particular.

With the original Vikram Veda score composed by Sam CS, the movie has another villain, portrayed by John Vijay (with three different kinds of looks), and a couple of heroines (Srinath and Sarathkumar), the movie comes off as a cocktail.

But will it make us heady?

Also read: Love, sex and nothing in Hanif Kureishi's new novella


Gautaman Bhaskaran Gautaman Bhaskaran @gautamanb

The author is a writer, commentator and movie critic.

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