By Subhash K Jha
Actor Vijay Deverakonda says that working on Arjun Reddy sapped him. Here are excerpts from an interview:
Q. How do you look back on the Arjun Reddy experience?
It sapped me. Exhausted the hell out of me. I had to be constantly probing into the darkest areas of my consciousness, digging out feelings and tapping into emotions I had never touched in myself. You see, when it comes to probing and showing my feelings, I am a shirker.
Q. What do you mean?
I can't show, let alone share my emotions. In fact, I've kept it all locked up within myself all my life. Yeah, it's a problem, especially when it comes to relationships with the people close to me.
Q. I remember you telling me it was causing a problem with your girlfriend?
It's always been a problem. That's why Arjun Reddy was very hard for me. The character is constantly diving into grey and dark areas of his subconscious. Left to myself I won't even go there.
Q. Did you expect Arjun Reddy to make such an impact?
We knew we were doing something never done before, at least not in Telugu cinema. We were sure we'd make some kind of an impact. It went much further than we expected. But now I'm done with Arjun Reddy. My next film in Telugu in Taxiwala. It's a supernatural thriller, a world as far removed from the previous film as possible. I play a cabbie.
Q. And in the biopic on actress Savithri you play MGR?
You mean Mahanti in Tamil? Yes, I am doing that film. In fact, I've just started shooting for it. But I am not playing MGR. I sometimes hear I am playing MGR, sometimes NTR. I am playing neither. I am actually playing a journalist. Both Samantha Ruth Prabhu and I play journalists who set out to piece together the story of Savithri's life.
Q. Like Orson Welles in Citizen Kane?
Yeah, kind of. Do you know, I've hardly watched the classics? I spent half my life in a boarding school where we were shown only the sporadic wholesome classic like The Sound Of Music. So, I am not familiar with most of the works of the acting greats in Bollywood, Hollywood or Tamil-Telugu cinema. We were shown sanitized films where even a brush on the lips was cut.
Q. So where did all that horniness in Arjun Reddy emerge from?
(Laughs) I don't know. Probably it was suppressed inside me. All of it came bubbling to the surface in Arjun Reddy. Yeah, this guy believed in pre-marital sex and was very physically sexually active. But in my next film which I start shooting in February I play a virgin.
Q. You have to be kidding?
No, seriously. The guy I am playing in my next is a sweet wholesome lovable family man who wouldn't dream of asking his girlfriend for a kiss let alone sex. This is my homage to the archetypal angel-hero that Salman Khan plays in Sooraj Barjatya's film.
Q. Do you find it challenging to play a sweet-natured character?
It's a big challenge. I am done with sweetness and virginity with this film. The three films after this would all have me playing dark disturbed characters. Exploring the dark side of my characters' personality is my forte.
Q. Are you looking at doing a sequel to Arjun Reddy?
My director Sandeep Reddy Vanga and I discussed it even while we were filming it. There is so much to this character that remains unexplored. We will return to Arjun at some point, though not right away. For now I'm just happy with the impact this film and my character has made. I've just received my first Best Actor award from Zee Telugu. And that too from the legendary Chiranjeevi Sir.
Q. What next?
Well, now I leave for a two-week European holiday to Spain and Belgium. I think I've earned myself this break. I come back after the New Year to complete my work in Mahanati.
Q. Will the high expectations you have generated with Arjun Reddy come in the way of audiences appreciating you in your forthcoming films?
I am happy with my role in Taxiwala. It gave me a chance to do a character that was fun. I didn't have to agonize over every scene. As for Mahanati it's a relatively small role in a film that pays a homage to one of Tamil cinema's greatest actresses. Sometimes it is liberating for an actor to just be a part of film where he doesn't have to shoulder all the responsibility.