‘Sethupathi’: A different, easily digestible kind of “mass”

Vijay Sethupathi in Sethupathi (2016)

I’m a huge Vijay Sethupathi fan. However, I must confess that I didn’t pay much attention to a few of his films when they first showed up in theaters. Director Arun Kumar’s second film with Sethupathi is one of them. Named after his lead actor – who plays an honest and upright cop called Sethupathi – the film initially struck me as just another run-of-the-mill “mass” action film where the hero beats up hundred goons (who all take off and drop to the ground like defective rockets after his “mass” thrashing) and punch dialogues that carry so much “mass”.

I was pleasantly surprised; not because it did not follow the same formula but because it took that formula and slightly recalibrated it. It spends an ample portion of the film celebrating the protagonist but at the same time makes him more human. He is vulnerable yet he possesses the ability to bounce back in an instant. The fight scenes are nothing special but they are more convincing and I don’t recall even a single shot of the goons flying through the air. There are more scenes of Sethupathi with his family – which comprises his wife (played by Remya Nambeesan) and two kids – and fewer punch dialogues. Sethupathi’s charismatic and intimidating presence do most of the talking.

As for the dialogues, a different approach is adopted here – Sethupathi gets his message across with minimal lines, all accompanied by Sethupathi’s naturally piercing eyes and cool gestures which he carries off effortlessly. The police uniform – Sethupathi’s first, by the way – suits him perfectly. As I’ve said earlier, this film works on so many levels because Sethupathi is more relatable than most of the cop characters we see in South Indian cinema today. His tender romantic scenes with his wife and his playful interactions with his kids put a smile on one’s face. Nambeesan is simply terrific and her character perfectly complements Sethupathi’s.

I wouldn’t even attempt to explain the plot because there isn’t much. A cop is brutally murdered and a determined Sethupathi goes after those who dared to kill one of their own. I liked the nice montage at the beginning which serves as an effective tribute to each and every khaki-clad officer working in the country today. In the same month of its release last year, a similar film came out, this one in Malayalam, called Action Hero Biju starring Nivin Pauly. While Biju works because of its relatively realistic plot, Sethupathi works mostly because of Sethupathi’s naturalistic performance. It’s a must watch for the actor’s die-hard fans.

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