|Produced by||A. Kandasamy|
|Edited by||Raghu Baabu|
|Distributed by||Sharmasha Productions|
|Release date(s)||10 December 1999|
|Running time||132 minutes|
Sethu is a 1999 Indian Tamil romantic tragedy film written and directed by debutant Bala. The film stars Vikram and Abitha in the lead roles with Sivakumar and Sriman in other pivotal roles. The film's score and soundtrack were composed by Ilaiyaraaja.
The film opened in December 1999 at a single suburban theatre but later became a popular commercial success. Sethu won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil and secured wins in the Best Film category at the Filmfare Awards and the Cinema Express Awards, while Bala and Vikram won several awards for their contributions to the film.
Sethu (Vikram) is a rough and macho college rowdy and also The Students Union Chairman of the college, who uses violence as the only way to deal with people. He lives with his brother, a Magistrate(Sivakumar), and his sister-in-law, who is the only person who seems to understand him properly.
The movie opens with Sethu winning the elections to the office bearers of the college's Students Union followed by celebrations and in-campus fight between the rival candidates.
Sethu is called as Chiyaan (the meaning of this word was unknown until the director Bala in an annual function of the Tamil Department of The American College, Madurai told to the audience that Chiyaan means a street-smart rogue), a pet name given to him by his friends. Sethu has a staple diet of yes-sir friends surrounding him. He comes across a timid girl, Abitha, who is the daughter of a poor temple priest, and starts to woo her. When she initially rejects him, he kidnaps her and forces her to fall in love with him.
When the girl falls in love with him, Sethu is attacked by brothel goons and ends up in a swamiji ashram with brain damage. With Sethu with no memory of his past and his unusual behaviour he starts to recollect memories. At one point, he is completely back to his normal self and tries to escape by climbing over the gates. Unfortuntely, he fails and ends up with serious injuries.
Whilst sleeping with his injury, Abitha makes a surprise visit. However Sethu is asleep and she leaves with this woeful memory of him. As she is about to leave the institution, he wakes up and realises that she had come to see him. As he calls out, she leaves unable to hear him.
Persistent to meet her he makes another attempt to leave the institution and this time he is successful. When he arrives at her house he is presented with his love unfortuately dead. He realises that she had committed suicide.
Distraught after what he saw, he just walks out and at that point he is met with the mental institution wardens who came chasing after him. The film ends with Sethu leaving with them as he has nothing to live for after his true love's death.
- Vikram as Sethu (Chiyaan)
- Abitha as Abitha Kujalambal
- Sivakumar as Sethu's Brother
- Sriman as Sethu's friend
- Mohan Vaithya as Abitha's Uncle
- Rasheed Ummer as Abitha's brother-in-law
Bala, an erstwhile assistant of Balu Mahendra wrote the script of the film, then titled Akhil, in the mid 1990s and offered the film's lead role to his housemate Vignesh who refused the film. The film was based on a real life incident of a friend of Bala's, who had fallen in love, lost his mind and ended up at a mental asylum. Murali was then also considered for the lead role in the project, but did not sign up. In 1997, debutant director Bala offered Vikram the role of the rogue, Sethu (Chiyaan), in the film of the same name. Keerthi Reddy was initially signed on to play the lead female role, but was later replaced by Rajshri and then subsequently Abitha. To prepare for the character, Vikram shaved his head, thinned down to half his size by losing 21 kilograms and grew nails for the role. Furthermore, Bala did not want Vikram to accept any other offers during this period in order to maintain the continuity of his looks, and asked him to cease working as dubbing artiste. The film's launch was held in April 1997 and production lasted close to two years as the film languished in development hell. The FEFSI strike of 1997 halted filming across the Tamil film industry from June to December 1997 and as a small budget film, Sethu was unable to progress during the period. When the strike was called off, the producer left the project and Vikram and Bala's assistant Ameer had to go and plead the producer to return, with filming resuming in January 1998. After further slow progress, the film was finally ready in June 1999.
The film struggled to find a distributor and only after sixty seven screenings did the film manage to find a buyer, with most refusing the film due to the tragic climax. During the period, Bala and Vikram used Vikram's wife Shailaja's money to organise press previews and despite garnering good reviews, no one was interested in purchasing the film and it remained finished but unreleased. Vikram has since described the period of production as "the worst phase of his career" as he was weak economically, and "his fire was in danger of dying down".
The film released in December 1999 and initially began running at a single noon show at a suburban theatre but gradually built up audiences through word-of-mouth publicity and ran over a 100 days at several cinema halls across Chennai, with Vikram being mobbed by people on the streets as a result of the film's success. Critics lapped up Vikram's performance with a reviewer labeling that "Vikram is a revelation" and that "he is very natural and his acting in last few scenes are just too good and could even be compared with the best we have seen". Similarly, a critic from the New Straits Times described the film as an "unforgettable experience" and described Vikram's performance as "praise-worthy".
The following year, Sethu won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil, while also securing wins in the Best Film category at the Filmfare Awards and the Cinema Express Awards. Bala won the Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Director and the Filmfare Award for Best Director – Tamil for his directorial debut. The performance also drew accolades for Vikram who won the Filmfare Special Award – South and the Tamil Nadu State Film Award Special Prize for his portrayal of the title character, while reports emerged that he missed out on the National Film Award for Best Actor by a single vote to Mohanlal. Post-success, Vikram has described the film would have been close to him regardless of the commercial success and that it put him on the "right path", with Vikram choosing to adapt the prefix of Chiyaan to his screen name. Owing to its success, the film was remade in Hindi as Tere Naam starring Salman Khan which became a success and also in Kannada as Huchcha which gave a major breakthrough to actor Sudeep. Jeevitha then remade the film in Telugu as Seshu with her husband Rajasekhar playing the lead.
|1.||"Enge Sellum Intha"||Arivumathi||Ilaiyaraaja||05:07|
|2.||"Gaana Karunkuyile"||Ponnadiyan||Kovai Kamala||05:13|
|3.||"Kadhalenna Kadhalenna"||Palani Bharathi||Swarnalatha||05:13|
|4.||"Maalai En Vethanai"||Arivumathi||Unni Krishnan, Arun Mozhi, SN. Surendar||05:04|
|6.||"Sethuvukku Sethuvukku"||Mu Metha||Arun Mozhi, SN. Surendar||02:27|
|7.||"Sikaadha Sitrondru"||Palani Bharathi||Unni Krishnan, Arun Mozhi||05:12|
|8.||"Vaarthai Thavari Vittai"||Ilaiyaraaja||Ilaiyaraaja||03:01|
|9.||"Vidiya Vidiya"||Mu Metha||Unni Krishnan||00:47|
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