Vijay Sethupathi had a forgettable Bollywood debut, but the success of Jawan could shine a new light on the versatile performer – especially with the Hindi audience
Those in Tamil cinema would unanimously agree that Vijay Sethupathi is one of the most versatile performers in the South, if not the entire Indian film industry, right now. It’s no wonder that filmmakers across the country including Anurag Kashyap have him in their bucket list of actors to collaborate with. However, his first Bollywood outing – which is often a litmus test for actors from the South – failed to truly make a mark.
As the popular saying in cricket goes, ‘form is temporary, class in permanent’, in Vijay Sethupathi’s case, the direct OTT release of his Bollywood debut Mumbaikar – the Tamil remake of Lokesh Kanagaraj’s Maanagaram – helped ensure that people don’t remember it much. That he followed it up with a brilliant performance in Raj and DK’s Farzi, in which he played the co-lead with Shahid Kapoor, and is also part of Shah Rukh Khan’s Jawan further cemented his status as a star to look out for in Bollywood circles as well.
Unlike some of the recent South stars such as Yash, Prabhas, Ram Charan or Rishab Shetty, Vijay Sethupathi doesn’t have a pan-Indian superhit to his name – except for being the antagonist in Kamal Haasan’s Vikram. He, like his contemporary Fahadh Faasil from Malayalam, has created his space in the industry through his extraordinary acting prowess.
This is also part of the reason, the actor said he chased down Atlee to be part of Jawan, which has him playing the weapons dealer Kalee and that too opposite the biggest superstar in the country, Shah Rukh Khan. The movie, which is helmed by a filmmaker who knows his strengths, will also help him reach a wider Hindi audience that his OTT releases haven’t.
This could also benefit his upcoming release – Andhadhun director Sriram Raghavan’s Merry Christmas – immensely. The Tamil-Hindi bilingual, which also has Katrina Kaif, doesn’t come with the paraphernalia associated with a ‘mass’ entertainer starring Shah Rukh Khan and would depend entirely on its script, making and performances – something that Vijay Sethupathi has thrived on in the past decade.
Incidentally, Sriram had met Vijay Sethupathi at a film festival in Melbourne and cast him in Merry Christmas, because he was looking out for an “off-beat” pairing for the film, which is set to hit theatres on December 15. The very same film festival also paved the way for Vijay Sethupathi’s casting in Jawan.
In a recent interaction with Shah Rukh Khan ahead of Jawan’s release, Vijay Sethupathi said he met with Atlee in Melbourne and told him that he wants to be part of the film. And not just in any role; “I’d like to be the bad guy in your film,” he said. That Atlee already had him in mind for a year before Vijay Sethupathi was another matter. But what are the chances that two of these films – which could go on to begin a new and exciting chapter in the actor’s already brilliant career – had their beginnings at the same place.
Irrespective of Jawan’s box office collections, the early reviews already predict massive earnings and critics are raving about Vijay Sethupathi’s role in it, the actor is sure to become a popular name even with the Hindi-speaking audience. And that could open more doors in Bollywood to films such as Merry Christmas of South actors, who are performers than ‘mass’ heroes. And that’s a reason to rejoice.