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Vijay Sethupathi on finding acceptance in Bollywood

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Actor Vijay Sethupathi says he initially thought his career up north would be limited to a couple of films as he wasn’t confident about his language skills, but little did the actor know that there was a new audience waiting to welcome him with open arms.

The 45-year-old actor, regarded as one of the dependable performers in both commercial and indie space in south cinema, is now among the most sought-after names in the Hindi film industry following his roles in web series Farzi and Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Jawan.

He made his Hindi film debut with the 2023 movie Mumbaikar, directed by Santosh Sivan, and then signed Zee Studios’ silent feature “Gandhi Talks”.

“It is a huge blessing and I didn’t expect this. I didn’t have this much confidence. I was worried about my language (skills). When they approached me for Mumbaikar or Gandhi Talks, I was like I’m going to do only that and it’s not going to be many films,” Sethupathi told PTI in an interview.

“Then Farzi and Jawan came. So, it was really surprising for me. I didn’t expect that they would give me so much love. I’m grateful for the love,” he added.

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Many of Sethupathi’s films such as Pizza, Vikram Vedha, Master, and the Malayalam movie Super Deluxe had already found audience in the North, but when he started doing Hindi projects, the actor said he was worried he would be trolled for his accent in Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK’s Farzi in which he played a Special Task Force officer named Michael Vedanayagam.

“I thought people would troll me for my Hindi. I remember I would ask Chesta (Goswami, assistant director of ‘Farzi’), ‘Will they troll me?’ She was like, ‘They will like you’. They liked my gaalis (abuses). Once people connect with you, they connect.”

The National Award winner credited the flurry of film offers from Bollywood filmmakers to fans.

“They created this energy and that energy went to so many directors and writers who thought they needed this person to play this role. It’s a mass energy that made writers think of me,” he said.

Sethupathi will next appear in Sriram Raghavan’s Merry Christmas, where the actor plays the lead role opposite Katrina Kaif. The thriller is set to release in theatres on January 12.

The actor said he was excited when he received the offer to work with Raghavan as he liked the filmmaker’s earlier movies Ek Hasina Thi, Badlapur, and Andhadhun.

“About seven years ago, one of my friends gave me a DVD of Ek Hasina Thi and recommended that I watch the film. I saw the film and it was very nice,” he recalled.

After watching Raghavan’s 2015 neo-noir action-thriller Badlapur, Sethupathi said he hoped the movie would be remade in Tamil where he would play Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s character.

“I had watched ‘Badlapur’ in a theatre, and I thought somebody would remake that film in Tamil and I’d get to play Nawazuddin’s role. Later, I met him (Raghavan) in Melbourne. I saw ‘Andhadhun’ and I didn’t expect that I’ll get a chance to work with him. It was really a wonderful and most memorable experience that I’ve had.”

Merry Christmas is set over the course of one night and follows the story of two strangers.

“I didn’t have any expectations. I just wanted to work with this man (Raghavan) because I love his craft. After I met and spent so many days with him, I love him as a person also. The respect became so high,” the actor added.

In the film, Sethupathi plays the role of Albert, a character he described as a “nice and innocent man”.

“He is just searching for love in his life. He fought with his fate and finally, he won,” he said.

Merry Christmas is presented by Tips Films and Matchbox Pictures.

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