On a Career High - Vijay Devarakonda

You may know him as Arjun Reddy after his recent success. The Pelli Choopulu boy, Vijay Devarakonda, is on a career high after his recent film, Arjun Reddy, which won him great reviews. The lad, a charming, extremely talented, down-to-earth boy of 28 years, has made a mark not just in the industry but also in the hearts of many. From receiving flack about his character to being trolled about his frankness on social media, Vijay spills the beans in this tête-à-tête.

Congratulations on the success of your recent release, Arjun Reddy. How do you feel about the great reviews you’ve been getting?
It’s a really nice feeling when your peers appreciate your work. Being stalwarts in the industry, when actors and directors say that your work was mind blowing, it feels great. And generally too, when the audience likes your work, you think that all your hard work paid off. At the end of the day we make movies for people to watch and like.

After your simple chocolate boy role in Pelli Choopulu, how was it playing an angry young man in Arjun Reddy?
I took up the offer because it was an interesting story to tell and a very unique character. I haven’t seen someone like Arjun Reddy ever, so everything he said and did intrigued me. It wasn’t tough; it was actually easy because when something’s so well written, there’s a lot of scope for ideas. I spent a lot of time etching out the character and figuring out how I wanted to portray him.

Prior to the release of the film, several activists protested for a ban of the film, claiming the content was questionable. How did you react to that?
I just laughed!

Has Arjun Reddy made you a stronger person?
When you work on a film, the content and the people you’re working with always have an effect on you. It’s like, if I spend a lot of time with someone, traits of their personality tend to transfer to me, be it their philosophy, the way they deal with a situation or anything else. So it definitely has changed me, but it wasn’t just the character that changed me. From working with director Sandeep, reading the books I did while shooting for this film, and the people I met, everything changed me.

Having said that, I don’t think I’ve changed completely as a person. I’m just being myself and doing what I feel I want to. People are just equating it to other things and forming opinions.

People are also comparing you to a lot of stalwarts from the industry after seeing your great work. Do you take that as a compliment?
I take those as opinions. Comparing me to actors is as much an opinion as calling me overconfident. But when big people say it, because they’re experts in the field you feel responsible and think to yourself, ‘Is this what they expect of me?! Then I shouldn’t disappoint them.’

But the actors that people are comparing me to are much bigger. They have huge bodies of work and have proven their mettle time and again. So it’ll take me a long time to reach their level.

From theatre to cinema, how has the journey been? And how different are the two mediums?
The technical side of acting for the stage and camera is very different. This was something I had to figure out and understand. Once I understood it, it was easy. When I got into cinema, it was very difficult to get work.

My attitude at that time was that if I ever got an opportunity, I should blow people’s minds off so that I’d never have to ask for work again. So I was waiting for an opportunity which could help me prove my craft. Looking for work is an extremely uncomfortable situation, and I didn’t want to do that ever again. I was prepping for that one shot, and that shot came as Yevade Subramanyam. I had to do some minor roles before I got the film, and after that too, it took a little while to get Pelli Choopulu. But after that it’s been great.

Every movie of yours has brought you a lot of critical acclaim. Which movie would you term as the turning point?
It was all connected. If I hadn’t done Life is Beautiful I wouldn’t have got Yevade... And if I hadn’t done Yevade... I wouldn’t have got Pelli Choopulu and Arjun Reddy. So I can’t pinpoint any one film. I always wanted to do lead roles because theatre gave me the confidence to do major roles. So when I was offered Life is Beautiful, I wasn’t very keen on taking it up.

Having said that, the most satisfied I’ve been with a character was with Arjun Reddy. It gave me a lot of material to work with; it’s almost like a biopic of Arjun Reddy. I had a great director whose mindset was just like mine. He pushed me to go beyond my own capabilities. I knew even before the release that irrespective of what the response would be, this film is one that I’d cherish for the rest of my life. Luckily it looks like we all think alike, and the film has been appreciated by all.

Who’s your role model?
There’s no one person whom I admire the most. It was just pure want of recognition and money that drove me to acting. I wanted to live a life of extreme comfort for myself and my family. I didn’t want my family to have to travel by bus; I wanted them to travel in an extremely comfortable car. Hence I was motivated to be an actor and give good work.

Fame or money, which would you rather have?
If you’re famous for the right things, money will find its way to you.

Tell us about your current projects.
I’ve recently finished a film which is untitled yet, by UV Creations and Geetha Arts, directed by Rahul Sankrityan. It’s a very interesting science fiction/ thriller that should come out by the end of this year. I’ve also started working on another film, a romantic comedy for Geetha Arts called Parashuram. I will then start working on another film for a young man who’s debuting as a director, Bharat Kamma.

What do you do when you’re not working?
I try to catch up with my friends. I have an all-boy gang, we’re all school friends and we spend a lot of time together. I spend most Saturday nights and my free time with them, either playing volleyball or other games, or even chilling at my office or house.  There are also days when I like to stay home and just chill. I spend time on the Internet and watch shows on Netflix.

What’s your personal style?
I have phases, like right now I’m going through a smart casuals phase with a nice formal tucked-in shirt. There are also times when you’ll only see me in full sleeve T-shirts or shorts. So I don’t have any fixed style.       --- as told to Niharika