Vijay Sethupathi isn’t a greedy actor: Balaji Tharaneetharan

Balaji Tharaneetharan on directing Vijay Sethupathi for the second time, besides why he believes Seethakaathi is a commercial film.
Balaji Tharaneetharan says he is an atheist but likes to philosophise things.

“I don’t know God, but I know human beings,” he laughed. After a pause, he added, “I think I’m agnostic. I would like to talk on and on about things that actually have no bearing on life. That’s for some other day. But now, let’s discuss Seethakaathi.” The director lets stories happen to him. He doesn’t mind waiting for the “right moment and right script.” That’s why he didn’t rush after his debut project, Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanom (2012).

“Seethakaathi is my third film. Meanwhile, I completed Oru Pakka Kadhai, starring Kalidas Jayaram in the lead, but couldn’t get it to theaters. Zee5 bought the rights of the film, and it will be available on the digital platform soon,” he smiled.

Excerpts from a conversation:Q. I liked Seethakaathi in bits and pieces. I thought it could have been a better film.

I get why you say that. Critics may like the first half, but your average cinema viewer prefers the second half. It’s a meta-film.

Q. Seethakaathi revolves around the story of a man who is passionate about the stage. Tell us about your love for the medium – theatre.
I am neither from the theatre background nor a fan of stage plays. But I always wonder why we don’t come by many theatre-based films in Tamil cinema. Five years ago, I caught a Tamil drama and that was the thought behind Seethakaathi. Barely the hall had an audience, but I could see the artistes perform with so much enthusiasm. I was curious and wanted to know their stories. They were popular artistes once, but pursue theatre because of the satisfaction the art form gave them. They weren’t doing it for money. They simply enjoyed the thrill of being on the stage. To them, it’s an addiction. I came home, and sat through this idea; wrote an intriguing screenplay.

Q. Why did you name the film ‘Seethakaathi’?

There’s a famous proverb in Tamil: ‘Seththum koduththan Seethakaathi’. It pretty much sums up the entire film.

Q. Was Vijay Sethupathi’s character inspired by someone?
Yes. Ayya Aadhimoolam is the culmination of Ki Rajanarayanan and Jiddu Krishnamurti. A true artiste never dies and I sincerely believe in it. They leave something behind that lives beyond them. Death is often understood as a void that defines an end. This may hold true to others, except artistes. You can’t separate art and cinema. You can’t separate art and an artiste. I had a close friend who was trying too hard to become successful in life. After his dad passed away, he reached greater heights. I am not saying that’s because of his father. But I truly believe his soul guided him in the process. Certain things are beyond human comprehension, and we should stop looking for logic. Sometimes, you mingle with strangers and you feel a connection. You can’t explain why. Science doesn’t know everything.
Q. I remember you telling me you are agnostic, but you are talking about belief.

(Laughs) Even now I am telling the same. To me, the concept of God doesn’t exist. I don’t know him. But when someone at home goes to a temple and insist I accompany them, I do. That’s their belief. Let’s not belittle and hurt anyone’s belief. We all hold on to our set of beliefs, but for artistes, their philosophies only matter. They are nothing less than an obsession.

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