Vijay Deverakonda on expanding his reach through Dear Comrade, and its similarity to Arjun Reddy

Vijay Deverakonda talks about whether stardom has seeped in him yet, given his recent spate of hit films, including Arjun Reddy, and Geetha Govindam.

Hemanth Kumar July 25, 2019 07:58:38 IST
Vijay Deverakonda on expanding his reach through Dear Comrade, and its similarity to Arjun Reddy

There is a lot going on in Vijay Deverakonda’s life these days. Apart from acting in films, he has also made his foray into film production and launched his own clothing line a year ago. Amid rumours that he is going to make his debut in Bollywood soon, two days before the release of his latest film, Dear Comrade, Karan Johar announced that he is going to remake the film in Hindi. Whether Karan Johar launches Deverakonda in Bollywood or not remains to be seen, but it is hard not to think about Vijay’s footprint both in Telugu and other film industries.

Right from his breakout film Yevade Subramanyam to his latest film Dear Comrade, his ascent to stardom has inspired hope for countless aspiring actors that fairy tales can indeed come true in the Telugu film industry. Ahead of the release of Dear Comrade, the actor spoke about his latest romantic drama, why he hasn’t changed at all as a person, and the life-changing advice he got quite early in his career. Excerpts:

Your career has changed a lot in the past couple of years, with the success of Arjun Reddy, Geetha Govindam, and Taxiwala. Have you begun feeling the burden of stardom yet?

Not at all. Now that my new film, Dear Comrade, is releasing, I feel the same way about it as I did before Pellichoopulu or Arjun Reddy. When I am satisfied with my work, I feel less nervous about what’s going to happen when the film releases. There’s no pressure as such of being perceived as a star. It’s just an image and how the world sees you, and it doesn’t mean much to me. I still have to work hard for my films. Obviously, I would want the audience to acknowledge the good work that me and my team have done. And when they love your work, it just boosts your morale. I’m only focused about what I have to do.

Vijay Deverakonda on expanding his reach through Dear Comrade and its similarity to Arjun Reddy

Vijay Deverakonda in a promotional still of Dear Comrade. Image from Twitter @moviegalleri

Post films like Arjun Reddy and Geetha Govindam, would you say that your films have become more mainstream now?

The kind of scripts that I’m looking for has changed, but if you ask me what it is, I wouldn’t have an answer. There’s no format or template to what I’m looking for, even though I’ve done about 10 films as a solo lead. If you reverse engineer my recent choice of films and look for a common thread that connects them all together, you wouldn’t find a binding factor. In the beginning stages of my career, the budgets were limited and I had to work within a certain framework. Now, those limitations have eased because of my recent hits. Now, it’s more about what would make me push the boundaries of storytelling, scale, and production quality. I have better access to more scripts, directors from various industries. Either a film has to push the boundaries or I need to feel a connect at a personal level. In that sense, Dear Comrade is not a mainstream commercial film. I don’t know if I’m making a conscious attempt to strike a balance. I’ve known Tharun Bhascker, Bharat Kamma, and Sandeep Vanga right from the days when I used to do theatre in Hyderabad, and I really liked their short films which they made back then. We bonded a lot over the stories that we wanted to tell and what we wanted to do in our lives.

It is interesting that you say there is no common factor behind how you choose your films. When you are on stage, you project a different personality of yours. You are, in a lot of ways, a rebel, if I may say so. But when I see your films, it is hard to understand what your vision is. Would you agree?

To be honest, I have no idea what I’m looking for. It’s just a gut feeling most of the times. The idea behind the story of my next film, directed by Kranthi Madhav, was stimulating and it is nowhere related to Dear Comrade. I’ve worked with newcomers, and then there’s Kranthi Madhav, who has already done a few films. When you listen to a story, you just know if you see yourself in it or not. Recently, I was pitched a story which I thought had the potential to become a blockbuster, but I knew that it wasn’t for me. I guess it’s something to do with my age and maturity over the past few years, and what’s the best story that I can pick and do at that point of time. We put in about six months into making a film, so you’ve to be content with what you choose to do. It’s as simple as that.

Vijay Deverakonda on expanding his reach through Dear Comrade and its similarity to Arjun Reddy

Vijay Deverakonda. File Image.

You said you knew Bharat Kamma, director of Dear Comrade, for a long time. When did you two decide to work together?

He pitched me the story of Dear Comrade while I was shooting for Arjun Reddy. I really like him as a person, and if not for this story, we would have definitely worked on something else. What really struck me about this story is that Bobby, the character I play in the film, is a lot like me. I believe what Bobby believes in his life. The journey of Lilly (played by Rashmika) is something which, I think, eight out of 10 girls would relate to. She faces the same issues and pressure from the society that most women face today. I connected a lot to both the characters, and I trusted the director. I’m really happy with the outcome.

It’s been almost two and a half years since Dear Comrade came to you. How much of the film has changed since then? 

Bharat didn’t change anything from the original version he had written. But the detailing in the story kept getting bigger and better. We had access to bigger actors and more money to elevate a scene’s visual grandeur or the music itself. The way I look at the film is that it’s going to be an experience. It’s all heart. It’s about what happens when Bobby, a super aggressive guy, meets Lilly and how she affects him, and also, how Bobby’s personality rubs on to Lilly. The characters are beautifully written, and full credit to Bharat for doing justice to his story. People like him, Tharun, and Sandeep are pure-hearted storytellers, and I’m glad I’m part of their journey.

When the trailer first released, I could not shake off the sense of deja vu that, in some ways, Dear Comrade is a spiritual successor to Arjun Reddy, especially in terms of your rage and anger. Besides, the trailer dropped hints that perhaps, Lilly is what Preethi might have been had the latter spoken her heart out. How do you react to this observation?

Dear Comrade will evoke a sense of deja vu if you have seen Arjun Reddy, but I feel that it’s more to do with the impact which Arjun Reddy left on people’s minds. If I could draw a comparison, the moment you see two people stretch their arms and look at the horizon, you will automatically think of the pose in Titanic because the image is etched strongly in your mind. While shooting the film, I didn’t feel that Dear Comrade was anywhere close to Arjun Reddy. Although it’s the same face and voice, the structure of the story and the emotion is totally different if you compare the two films.

Vijay Deverakonda on expanding his reach through Dear Comrade and its similarity to Arjun Reddy

Vijay Deverakonda in a still from Arjun Reddy

But there is something about the pain and anger that you project on screen that feels quite visceral. It almost looks like all that is coming from you rather than the character. But when you talk off-screen, you sound quite relaxed. I am compelled to ask you, who hurt you so much that you have so much anger in you?

Life hurt me while I was growing up. A lot of us, including me, have seen so much pain and anger to be where we are today. We had limited means and resources when we were young. Moreover, the society we live in is quite judgmental. All this put together has fuelled me to become who I am today. I choose to use all that emotion when I playing these intense roles and it does come from within.

Is it your way of saying that you are taking control of your life rather than conforming to the norms of the industry or society?

I don’t have to fit in. None of us have to. I can be who I want to be. This is the attitude that you see whenever you see me talk on stage. Right from your teachers to relatives, everyone wants to decide what you must to do in your life. And people like it when you fit in. So everything I’ve been doing in recent times might feel like I’m breaking the norms, but at the end of the day, I just want to be myself. Get used to it.

Apart from you, your co-star Rashmika too seems to have played an intense role in the film. You two have worked together in Geetha Govindam. What was the vibe like while working on Dear Comrade?

We understand each other better now. She trusts me as an actor and as a person, and Rashmika knows that I’ve her back. I love people who put in a lot more effort than what people expect from them to tell a story. For this film, she had to learn to play cricket, cut her hair among many other things, and she didn’t even think twice before doing that. The kind of conversations we have had before every scene were pretty amazing. I’ve seen her from being a chirpy person to being a quiet and mature people within no time. You’ll see two different Lilly(s) in this film. I’m really happy that she’s part of the film, and although she doesn’t like it when I say it, I hope that she goes on to win a lot of awards for her performance in Dear Comrade.

Dear Comrade is releasing in Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, and Malayalam, which is a first for you. Was it an afterthought to release the film in all these languages?

Yes. Mid-way we realised that the film has a universal appeal to it. The team had people from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka, and we felt that the story needs to be told in other languages too. Also, it gave me a new challenge because I’m so used to releasing my films in Telugu, but now I have to go to other states too. I love being under stress. It keeps me on my toes (laughs).

All images from Twitter.

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