‘I always feel I speak best through my silences.’
As Dheena, the guilt-stricken murderer in Edhiri — the Karuna episode of Mani Ratnam’s Navarasa – Vijay Sethupathi kills it. Literally.
As a man who craves for atonement for his sin, Vijay’s face is a map of the human heart.
“Luckily for me, Bejoy Nambiar is a very democratic director,” Vijay tells Subhash K Jha.
“He listened to my suggestions. They may not have been all great but they were interesting. After the shooting was over, Bejoy called to say, ‘Whatever you suggested, Vijay sir, is very good for the film.’
“Thank God the dictatorial directors are getting rare. Abhi bhi hai… whatever I say is the final word. I can’t work with those directors. For me, film-making is a collaborative effort. I always have suggestions to make and yes, I will be directing my own film soon. What stops me? My busy schedule as an actor.”
In Edhiri, Vijay contributed quite a lot.
“I wrote my own dialogues. Even that Tamil song which Prakash Raj sang, I chose it for him. It’s a famous song from an old Tamil film. I gave it to him with the lyrics and he memorised it. It’s such a pleasure to work with veterans like Revathy ma’am and Prakash Sir. They bring so much experience and talent.”
How does Vijay see his character Dheena in Edhiri?
“As a victim of circumstances,” he replies.
“He kills because he is cornered. When pushed against the wall, he retaliates. He has no other choice.
“I saw my character as Karan in the Mahabharata, who is forced to kill and Lord Krishna explains why it is sometimes imperative to take to the weapon. Dheena wouldn’t have dealt that fatal blow on his victim’s head if he wasn’t cornered. Sometimes, justice is more important than staying on the right side of the law.”
Vijay believes life must not make man an eternal protester.
“You have to choose your battles in life. I keep telling my children not to waste their time in frivolous fights. If you are making a journey of a 1,000 km and you keep getting down from your car to fight every time someone overtakes you recklessly, you will never get where you want to in life.”
It is Dheena’s silences which speak the loudest.
“That’s the way I wanted it to be,” he says.
“I wanted the audience to hear my character’s silent screams of protest. Like Om Puri in Aakrosh. I always believe words come in the way of my performances. I always feel I speak best through my silences.”
Doing Navarasa was a learning experience for Vijay Sethupathi.
“There is so much unspoken anger and unshed tears in my character. I wanted to know Dheena better. I didn’t want to play him. I wanted to know him.”