Duniya Vijay, the accidental hero

Kannada star Duniya Vijay, who is making his Telugu debut with Veera Simha Reddy, shares his experience of playing the villain in the Balakrishna-starrer
Duniya Vijay.
Duniya Vijay.

Duniya Vijay’s frankness about admitting his insecurities is fascinating. The Kannada actor, who is busy promoting Veera Simha Reddy, his Telugu debut, reveals that the main reason he has stayed away from releasing dubbed versions of his hit Kannada films in Telugu or other languages is “fear and insecurity”. Not just from a financial point-of-view, but personally.

“I was insecure about my physical appearance and features. I still have that insecurity. I think it’s quite natural and human. Things might have been different if I had the background and support to keep me afloat but as someone who comes from an ordinary, rural background, I always had that shyness in me, and I am fine with it,” says the actor, who essays a violent character named Pratap Reddy in the Gopichand Malineni directorial.

While the idea of playing a villain in a different language while he is doing well in his home ground might come across as an unnecessary risk, Vijay doesn’t consider it one because he sees no demarcation between the hero and the villain. Once again, this understanding can be traced back to his origins.

“I never wanted to become a hero. I am someone who did numerous odd jobs during my early days when I was struggling just to be part of the industry in some capacity. There was no way I could go back. After essaying several tiny, uncredited roles, I finally got to play a character—that of a manual laborer in a stone quarry—and we named the film Duniya.

And now, there is no way I can go back. Nenu hero kadhappa ani chepthe, kaadhu nuvvu hero antaru akkada (If I say I am not a hero, people in Karnataka won’t accept),” he laughs, adding, “I wanted to become an actor to earn some money and to survive because I hail from a lower-middle-class family. I never had any lofty ambitions. As an actor, I want to explore all the dimensions and honestly, I didn’t have any hesitation playing a cold-blooded antagonist because such roles are avenues to vent out negativity within us. Yes, the audience might initially dislike the character but after coming home, they’ll praise the performer for projecting the evil on the big screen effectively.”

Recalling his rendezvous with filmmaker Gopichand Malineni and his first reaction to the story of Veera Simha Reddy, Vijay says, “Let me tell you what happened when I first met him. I am always cautious about not making directors wait; every time, I tend to reach early for meetings.

However, my meeting with Gopichand happened during the time my parents had passed away and due to the distress, I was ten minutes late. I apologised to him profusely as it was the first time I made a director wait. I immediately told him I will do the role even before listening to the story,” says Vijay. Of course, he did listen to the story eventually. “The narration and my character design invigorated me further. Some bits about my character gave me chills while listening!”

Speaking about his experience of working alongside Balakrishna, whom he had seen on the big screen as a high-school-going kid in films like Muddhula Maavayya (1989) and Bangaru Bullodu (1993), Vijay says, “My confrontations with him are going to be quite powerful and you will have a blast in the theatre. I feel we all borrowed energy from him on the sets.

From my interaction with him, I can honestly say that he is a God, on-screen and off-screen. Be it his legacy or the way he is helping the poor with his Cancer institute, he is just wonderful. He is not chasing money and popularity, all he gets from helping the poor is god’s blessings.”

Vijay himself is a director, having helmed the successful Salaga (2021). Does being a filmmaker help him as a performer? “I think directing and acting skills in me rarely collide. As a director, I extract performances from actors. Likewise, every filmmaker must have dreamt of a particular scene in a way and they know how I should perform in a scene. If you are the director, the film is your kid and you know it better so I will ask and take input from you. I will perform till I get it right. There’s no ego there.”

With Veera Simha Reddy officially introducing him to the Telugu audience, will we see more of him going forward? “I really don’t know. There’s still that fear in me,” he laughs.
“It has to happen.

I strongly believe that things will happen when they are supposed to. But yes, I need strong characters and don’t want to take up roles just for the sake of it,” he signs off.

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