By Jyothi Venkatesh
In this free and frank interview for Cine Blitz, Deverakonda Vijay Sai, known by his screen name VIJAY DEVARAKONDA, an actor and film producer who works mainly in Telugu cinema tells Senior most Journalist JYOTHI VENKATESH that he is confident that his debut film in Hindi Liger in which he has been cast opposite Ananya Pandey is going to be the big blockbuster of the year. He is the recipient of a Filmfare Award and a SIIMA Award. Deverakonda made his Telugu debut with Nuvvila and received praise for his films like Yevade Subramanyam, Dear Comrade, Arjun Reddy, Geeta Govindam, and Pelli Choopulu.
33-year-old Vijay is not the only actor from the Deverakonda family. His sibling Anand Devarakonda is also a popular Telugu film actor. Anand Deverakonda, who debuted in the Telugu period drama Dorasani, has already acted in films like Pushpaka Vimanam, directed by first-timer Damodar and jointly produced by his star brother Vijay Deverakonda’s home production King of the Hill and Tanga Productions. Saanve Megghana who was noticed for her work in the Netflix Telugu anthology Pitta Kathalu, and Geetha Saini are the female leads in Pushpaka Vimanam. His brother Anand Devarakonda’s third film Highway was directed and written by K.V. Guhan and produced by Venkat Talari, will hit the Telugu OTT aha screens on 19th August 2022, just a week before Vijay’s Liger is released in theatres.
Excerpts from the interview at Hotel Sun N Sand.
How would you describe or explain the unprecedented love of your fans even before the release of your debut Hindi film Liger?
I can literally feel the love. Sometimes I do wonder how and why this is happening to me. But at the end of the day, I feel really blessed and grateful. And, I need to do great cinema in not only Telugu but also in other languages so that I repay the high number of people who like me so much.
Vijay, tell me about the kind of preparation that you had to do for your role in Liger.
Liger has been the most physically daunting film for me. But I said I will go all out. So, I set out to make the required physique. I resorted to watching YouTube videos, which claim we can attain the body of our desire in a year and a half, and managed to do physical training to get into the right shape. But it wasn’t that easy. Anyway, after I thought I had reached the physique that was needed for ‘Liger’, I told my director Puri Jagannadh, the director that we should start this immediately. After two days of shooting, I was going with the flow very well.
Is it true that your character does a lot of stammering? How did you do that?
Yes. I had to stammer a lot. I did not know how to but still managed to do that ultimately. It was extremely challenging to communicate and also tough to stammer through my emotions because it was not at all in my normal comfort zone as an actor.
How do you find the Mumbai media?
I really find it cute when they address me wrongly as Vijay Devar Konda, though my name is Vijay Devarakonda, I do not mind because I genuinely appreciate it and am overwhelmed by their love towards me.
In what way are your on-screen persona and off-screen persona different from one another?
On-screen, I tend to appear aggressive and am fond of action-oriented roles. However, in real life, I tend to speak very slowly and people will be induced to go to sleep through my film if I am talking in my films too like I do in real life.
What is Liger all about?
Though I cannot divulge more details about the film, all I can say is that it is a big blessing for me to be part of a film like Liger and tell a patriotic tale with Liger. I love to perform larger-than-life roles and play to the gallery. I am actually following and relishing a dream which I had nurtured right from my childhood.
How did you prepare for your part in Liger?
I had no other alternative but to transform myself physically to suit the part because I had to look like a liger, which is a cross breed between a tiger and a leopard.
In Arjun Reddy, you played a guy who turns alcoholic womanizer with vengeance. What drives you to take up negative roles?
I do not like calling them negative roles. They are all flawed characters because let’s face facts; all of us have our own flaws in our lives. I think I am a flawed person and have strength though I feel that I am vulnerable all the time.
How proud and excited are you to make your national debut with a film like Liger for producer Karan Johar?
More than feeling proud, you can say that I am excited and actually feel that I am extremely blessed, especially when I find myself alone in my house. I think all my fans- both females as well as males watched my Telugu films on YouTube and fell in love with me. My mother saw some visuals of me interacting with my fans in the North on YouTube and started crying because she just could not believe that people in far-off Bihar, Mumbai, and Gujarat could shower so much love on me even before my first film In Hindi was released.
Is it true that you have been in a lot of relationships?
Do you believe that when I was studying in college, I was very scared of girls? As such most boys are scared of girls at that age. As such, I was put in a boarding school that had only boys by my parents when I was just 6. I remember we used to get up in the morning in the ashram-like school and do our prayers. When I joined the college, I just could not bring myself to look at girls in their eyes and it took me quite a long time to get over the fear. I remember girls used to give me their phone numbers but I did not call them because I did not know what to talk to them and I was tongue-tied.
Are there butterflies in your stomach now that your first film in Hindi is all set to be released later this month?
On the contrary, I feel that the film will be a big blockbuster when it is released, or else I would not be comfortable sitting cross-legged opposite you in a pair of slippers now.