After struggling for years, actor Vijay Deverakonda arrived with a bang with Pelli Choopulu (2016), which was followed by Arjun Reddy (2017) and Geetha Govindam (2018). With his latest film, Dear Comrade, directed by newcomer Bharat Kamma, slated for release this Friday (along with its dubbed versions in Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada), the 30-year-old talks about his latest film and his unwillingness to repeat characters…
Excerpts from the interview:
After the Baahubali franchise, Dear Comrade is the first Telugu film to release simultaneously across all four South languages. Any nervousness about its reception?
We started off Dear Comrade as a Telugu film and halfway through the shoot, we thought it would be best to release it in four South Indian languages as the film’s storyline has universal appeal. It also features some cast and crew members from the South, like actor Sukanya, editor Sreejith Sarang, composer Justin Prabhakaran... To answer your question, I am both nervous and excited about whether people will like the film.
You seem to have gone an extra mile to promote the film across languages...
That’s the idea. I have been doing that from Pelli Choopulu. Dear Comrade is a two-three year journey and it’s the only film I have worked on for more than 100 days. I believe it has a fantastic story and soul-stirring music. I think this film has my best album yet, and that’s the reason I have toured Chennai, Kochi and Bengaluru for the music festivals. I think I have got every right and responsibility to promote our work, and that’s why I feel no fatigue, talking about it.
Tell us what Dear Comrade is about.
It is an emotional story set against the backdrop of a college. It is about two characters—Bobby and Lilly—and has a lot of elements that I personally like to watch in a film. The narrative flips between student politics, love, separation, reunion… and to put it simply, I’d say it is about fighting for what we love. When Bharat (Kamma) pitched the storyline, the character got me really excited. There are things in the film that stay with you long after you leave the theatre.
Did you have any rows in your college life?
No, I was never caught in such issues. It was only during my graduation that I got to know about student unions. I used to wait eagerly, so the college could be shut for a day or two and I could bunk classes. The student life in Dear Comrade is one of many aspects in it. The film doesn’t dig into contemporary analysis of communism and won’t get preachy anywhere.
Many young actors have begun emulating your look, and your attitude. Thoughts?
You can only see how I look and the way I present myself on screen, but you never know how it comes after a lot of introspection and critical thinking. You must retain purity of thought, be truthful to yourself, and have honesty in your work. Just by talking or dressing like me, you can’t become Vijay Deverakonda.
What is your understanding of your ‘image’?
I don’t believe in stardom or image. All I want is to build the image of a good actor. Considering the stories I come across now, I can’t do a film like Pelli Choopulu anymore. Although my approach to script selection has changed, my faith and liking of different cinema hold the same ground. To enjoy every bit of filmmaking, I have also decided to turn producer.
Any plans to foray into Bollywood?
I was asked to reprise my role in the Hindi remake of Arjun Reddy, and someone might approach me tomorrow for Dear Comrade’s Hindi version. However, I hold no interest in repeating my characters and will definitely refuse such proposals. We have a lot of interesting stories to tell and had I signed on the Arjun Reddy Hindi remake, I would have missed out on four good films in Telugu. I want to be a part of a film that should become the talking point in Hindi. So, let’s see when the right script comes (from Bollywood).
— Murali Krishna CH