Movies

Vijay Deverakonda: ‘Dear Comrade’ is in an uncharted territory

Actor Vijay Deverakonda as Chaitanya aka Bobby in the film ‘Dear Comrade’

Actor Vijay Deverakonda as Chaitanya aka Bobby in the film ‘Dear Comrade’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

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The ‘Arjun Reddy’ and ‘Geetha Govindam’ star discusses why he likes a #woke Vijay Sethupathi, and discusses filming the single take ‘Canteen song’

Vijay Deverakonda comes across as someone who can be philosophical with his replies, if he chooses to.

But there is another Vijay who he seems fascinated by, and whom he thinks is better at proferring thought-provoking responses. “I think [Vijay] Sethupathi is next level. I’ve seen some of his interviews. I really want to meet and speak to him sometime to understand how this man functions,” he says, adding, about his admiration for the Tamil actor, “...also look at the amount of work he does. I thought I worked like a slave. But I’m doing two films a year and he is doing what... eight or nine?! Like how is this even humanly possible?”

Cynosure of all eyes

Up next for the actor is Dear Comrade, a Telugu film slated for release on July 26, and whose Kannada, Tamil and Malayalam dubbed versions will also hit screens simultaneously.

Vijay Deverakonda and Rashmika Mandanna in a still from ‘Dear Comrade’

Vijay Deverakonda and Rashmika Mandanna in a still from ‘Dear Comrade’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Directed by newcomer Bharat Kamma, Deverakonda, 30, shares screen space with Rashmika Mandanna in the film. The pair previously worked together in last year’s blockbuster, Geetha Govindam.

Though a star in his own right, Deverakonda admits to possessing a fear of rejection.

It also keeps him from soaking up the “mad reception” from fans during the film’s promotion tour in Bengaluru and Kochi.

“I still think no one will come to watch my film on the first day. I think it is because of Pelli Choopulu when I remember only 10 out of 40 rows were occupied. It is an image that is stuck in my head for life,” says Deverakonda.

But Pelli Choopulu (2016) went on to scoop two National Awards, and life was never the same again for Deverakonda, who earned national recognition after starring in the eponymous film, Arjun Reddy (2017).

A dear project
  • Dear Comrade is the longest Vijay Deverakonda has spent shooting for a film. “We shot Arjun Reddy for 86 days. But Dear Comrade... I think we shot the film for around 110 days,” he says.
  • ‘The Comrade Anthem’ track in the film is sung by three actors. In the Telugu version, it is voiced by Deverakonda himself, while for the Tamil and Malayalam versions, Vijay Sethupathi and Dulquer Salmaan have lent their voices respectively.

He holds these career-defining films in high regard, and Dear Comrade is the latest entrant in that list. “This film has a lot of things that I personally believe in... like fighting for what I love. All my life I have fought... for money, for basic survival and for respect. And now, I’m fighting to be where I’m at,” he says.

It is also one of the reasons why he isn’t too worried about the type of criticism that awaits.

“Irrespective of who says what, I know this is the kind of cinema I wanted to make... in terms of performance, dialogues, visuals and music. It is the type of film you believe in so much.”

Testing theories

A key selling point for Dear Comrade is its soundtrack.

Vijay Deverakonda and Rashmika Mandanna in a still from ‘Dear Comrade’

Vijay Deverakonda and Rashmika Mandanna in a still from ‘Dear Comrade’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The album, which Deverakonda attests is “my favourite” and the “best in my career so far”, is composed by Justin Prabhakaran.

One song has even kicked off a YouTube challenge of sorts. The ‘Canteen song’, which lasts two minutes and 50 seconds, is different because it was shot in a single take.

“The actual plan was to have normal choreography though I didn’t prefer it. We rehearsed the single take shot a couple of times but it took us 25-30 attempts to get it right. The glass tumbler in my hip, which you see in the song, would break often. That alone took 10-15 attempts,” he says.

Ideas like these happen in his films because of the actor’s preference for younger directors.

“I don’t decide the directors I want to work with. But, ideally, I like them to be aged under 40 just so we are in the same frame of mind, and look at relationships and beliefs the same way,” Deverakonda says.

Vijay Deverakonda in a still from ‘Dear Comrade’

Vijay Deverakonda in a still from ‘Dear Comrade’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

“You’re creating together, and the film becomes bigger than any one name. It is also really nice when one person doesn’t think they know best because if the director gets into this mode, then the process becomes one where we’re all trying to find the middle path. [With Dear Comrade] there was no middle path. We went all out and found sweet spots.”

Risky business

At the same time, the actor also acknowledges that a hero carries the burden of making a film perform at the box office.

When his straight Tamil feature, NOTA (2018), did not hit expectations, the actor took to Twitter to take responsibility for its failure.

In hindsight, he says that a lot of things went wrong with NOTA because of his lack of command over the Tamil language. It is also one reason why we may never get to see Deverakonda in a Tamil movie again.

NOTA exhausted me. Doing a Tamil film was trickier because I needed to get my dialogues converted to Telugu word-for-word to understand the meaning of each word, and then learn to speak it in Tamil. It took so much effort that there was no way I could read the script. I was only focussed on my part (dialogues). I completely left [unattended] what was happening beyond me, and that was the first time ever I did not sit on the script.”

Vijay Deverakonda and Rashmika Mandanna in a poster for ‘Dear Comrade’

Vijay Deverakonda and Rashmika Mandanna in a poster for ‘Dear Comrade’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

“Had the film been a massive success, it would have refuelled energy in me. When it didn’t do well, I felt like I can’t do this all over again. For me to function as an actor, and for the kind of cinema I do, I need to very much be in control of the entire process. That was not the case with NOTA,” he adds.

The failure of NOTA hasn’t put him off from experimenting because Deverakonda knows he is venturing into “uncharted territory”, as he puts it, with Dear Comrade. No Telugu film other than Baahubali has attempted the four languages risk before.

“It is complicated. I know a lot of people back home and across industries are watching to see how it works. I think this is the next step because you want to get your stories to more people, which is an edge the Hindi film industry has over us. I hope it pays off.”

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2019 1:47:51 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/vijay-deverakonda-dear-comrade-is-in-an-uncharted-territory/article28547413.ece

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