If you’ve watched the latest sensational film Arjun Reddy, you would wonder where the lead actor, Vijay Deverakonda, has been hiding all this while. His is one of the most remarkable performances seen in Telugu cinema in recent times.
But 28-year-old Vijay never imagined that his work in the action-drama would see so many hats being taken off. “To be honest, my director Sandeep Vanga and I knew we were doing something special — I won’t lie about that — but how special, we never knew. For us, every emotion that my character threw was real. So yes, we expected a reaction. We knew the film would connect deeply with young people and also for people who have been wounded in love,” says the actor.
A Brave-hearted film
Apart from unabashedly using raw emotions from people’s lives, Arjun Reddy is also not afraid to cannibalise real feelings. “That’s what grabbed my attention when Sandeep came to me. When I heard what my character feels and experiences, I felt it was something that I had already experienced before. It was too close to home for comfort. Arjun Reddy’s fits of rage, his ill-tempered responses towards the girl he loves… I think we all have these dark areas in our personality,” says the young actor about his character in the film.
Interestingly, not many producers were willing to enter an unknown and mysterious territory — one where no actor or filmmaker has gone, not in Telugu cinema for sure! “Only the director’s brother believed in the script. And he agreed to produce the film. He put his money where his faith was. Only one’s family can do that,” says Vijay with a laugh.
Walking in Arjun's shoes
Describing how the emotional scars of his character have stayed on, he narrates: “Portraying a grey character was not difficult for me. There are a lot of grey areas in my personality. We all have them. I’d come home in a foul mood. My father who used to be a television producer, would understand what I was going through. He would tell my mother to leave me alone. But my mother was less sympathetic. She would wonder if I was going through some kind of an emotional meltdown. I’ve taken home some of my character’s shortcomings, including his ill temper. I had a temper problem even before I did this film. But doing Arjun Reddy has made me more impatient.”
Not only that, playing the role has made Vijay a reluctant smoker too. “I had never smoked in my life. I didn’t even know how to hold a cigarette properly. I had to inhale and retain the smoke to make it look real. I hated it. Luckily, I stopped smoking the day I finished shooting. As for playing the alcoholic, I am a social drinker. And we faked it with Coke and water for most of Arjun Reddy’s drunk scenes, except for a few critical moments where I was really drunk,” rallies the actor.
Kissing, no big deal
Vijay has been in a steady relationship for some time now. But it wasn’t easy convincing his girlfriend about the shared intimacy with actress Shalini Pandey in the film. “She was specially not okay with the kiss. She was like, ‘I am not watching this’. It isn’t her fault. It’s the way we’ve been trained to perceive intimacy on screen. We still make a big hoo-haa about kissing in our films. My point in doing it was… if it is a natural way of showing affection why should I flinch away from it? Why should the kiss be such a big deal?” questions Vijay, who is currently shooting for his next project, Mahanati.
Another much talked-about scene in the movie was the one where Vijay wets his pants in his sleep. Clearing his throat, the actor reveals, “We planned to do it authentically. I was supposed to wet my pants as per plan. But then for the retake we’d have to wait for ten minutes while I drank water, waited some more, etc. We couldn’t afford that delay. So we went with a pipe inserted in my trousers.”
One of a kind role
Vijay is aware that a role like Arjun Reddy comes once in lifetime. Concluding the conversation, the actor shares: “Of course I know I won’t get another film like this for a while, or maybe ever. But right now I am too sunk into this experience to look outside. My director, my leading lady and I are bonded as though by blood. And as far as being optimistic about the quality of roles offered to me goes, look, my previous film Pelli Choopulu was made with a budget of Rs 1 crore. It collected Rs 35 crores at the box office. We made Arjun Reddy with Rs 5-6 crores. And it seems it will make a lot more money than we had thought it would. So you see, miracles do happen! I believe in them. How else did I get to do Arjun Reddy?’