Apna Time Aagaya! Bollywood actor Vijay Varma can state this with swag this year. He won us over as the golden-hearted drug peddler Moeen Arif in the 2019 blockbuster Gully Boy by Zoya Akhtar. Actors know they have arrived when they spend more days in the makeup van than on their bed at home.
"That's what we all die for. I am fortunate that 2021 has been that way for me," says Varma, who now qualifies to be called the 'Busy Bee of Bollywood'. While most actors were dreading the future of the pandemic-affected cinema, Varma had seven releases in 2020-21, including She, Mirzapur 2, Mira Nair's A Suitable Boy, Ok Computer opposite Radhika Apte etc. The shows garnered applause and more roles.
As Varma awaits the releases of his big-ticket projects, including Darlings with Alia Bhatt, Fallen with Sonakshi Sinha, Hurdang with Sunny Kaushal, and an untitled project in 2022, he says ab thoda chill maarleta hoon (now let me chill a bit). Something he can say after an anonymous struggle for nearly a decade before getting into the big league.
A Marwari boy from Hyderabad, Varma (35) has been star-struck from his teenage days. So, he joined the two-year acting course in 2004 at Film and Television Institute of India, Pune. Of course, his family dissuaded him from taking up acting, like every other Indian household.
He borrowed the fee amount from his friends. His initial days were engaged in staging plays for theatre groups in Hyderabad and Mumbai. One day, he got signed up for Shot, a short film in 2008 and his journey as an actor began.
Today, Varma is known for his work with the A-listers like Akhtar, Nair, and Imtiaz Ali. However, at heart, he is still the Hyderabadi gully boy, he says. Incidentally, he played Sasya, the role of a Hyderabadi drug mafia don in Ali's web series She, the story of an undercover female cop. Varma says he enjoyed channeling the Hyderabadi in him for the role that endeared him to the Nizami city fans.
"If an actor can get the dialect, syntax and the accent right, half the battle is won. For Sasya, I got rid of the Bambaiyya accent I had for Gully Boy. I called up my buddies from back home to brush up on my language. I practiced the Hyderabadi adaayen (style) of zyada bolna (praise to the skies), badi badi baatein karna (exaggerate things), ghuma phira ke bolna (beat about the bush), lambi lambi chodna (hype up things)," Verma says.
Varma is currently on a two-month break before he starts work for his next project which may require him to change his look. He is game when it comes to doing whatever it takes, without having to stick to an image or take the burden of a famous last name.
"Being a rank outsider in Bollywood gives you the audacity to make mistakes, falter and tumble with the roles. I could play an abusive youngster in the Amitabh Bachchan-starrer Pink, a ghost in Janhvi Kapoor’s 2020 anthology Ghost Stories, a good cop in OK Computer. Variety is the spice of an actor’s life," he says.
What is the one mistake he regrets doing and one winning move he is proud of, in his career? "I made the mistake of waiting till my movies were released to see how they do and then sign up for new roles. But as movies got delayed, I lost on opportunities and that was painful and detrimental. The winning move was to get trained as an actor in a film school. It gave the professional touch to me as an actor," he says.
Surprisingly, barring MCA, a 2017 Telugu movie starring Bhoomika Chawla, Varma has not worked in the Tollywood industry that churns out 250 films a year. "Perhaps that's because my Telugu is not good and learning a language needs a special kind of focus. But, I am prepared to go through the slogging if I get a larger-than-life role in Telugu cinema," he says.
However, he is sure of one thing. He is done with auditions. "I have enough body of work to showcase my various shades. I hope I will be offered a role, not auditioned for a role, at least now." While on what he wants to do and what not, he is sure about learning a new skill this new year. Singing? Dance? Yoga?
"Singing I wouldn't dare. I am too shy to dance. So Yoga it is. I am flexible, figuratively and literally," he quips. What's his take on Mumbai and Hyderabad? "Hyderabad is my janam bhoomi and Mumbai my karam bhoomi. But for now, Hyderabad is calling. So long, then," he signs off.
Envious about: Sanya Malhotra's work in projects like Ludo, Paglait and Meenakshi Sundareshwar
Current obsession: Sneakers
Looking forward to: Playing mobile video games
Perfect holiday: Simple and homely birthday parties, weddings and even mundan ceremonies organised by family and friends.