Vijay Deverakonda: I learnt words like ‘misogyny’ and ‘feminist’ only recently

Actor Vijay Deverakonda on his upcoming film ‘Kushi’ with Samantha Ruth Prabhu, if he identifies as a feminist, and why he doesn’t go for niche subjects

Updated - August 22, 2023 04:34 pm IST

Published - August 22, 2023 03:54 pm IST

Vijay Deverakonda; with Samantha in a still from ‘Kushi’

Vijay Deverakonda; with Samantha in a still from ‘Kushi’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

It’s usual, almost expected, to see celebrities take a few minutes to ease into the atmosphere in a room full of eager journalists. Not Vijay Deverakonda. His confidence while facing a room full of non-Telugu journalists, especially after a flop like Liger, is admirable. So when someone asks if he was being bullied into calling himself a feminist — referring to a dialogue in the trailer of his upcoming film Kushi, which goes, “Though people might have their own views about me, I am a feminist at heart!” — he has no qualms to speak about a topic that has attracted quite a bit of criticism, post his stint in Arjun Reddy.

“Nobody can bully me,” he replies. “At a script level, the situation demanded that from the character but director Shiva used it to play on what happened post-Arjun Reddy. I played along.”

So does he identify as a feminist? “I have learnt words like ‘misogyny’ and ‘feminist’ only in the last two years. I am just someone who thinks everyone should live and let live; we have just one life and we all should be able to live the life we want. I just like calling myself Vijay, a male human,” he answers.

Vijay Deverakonda

Vijay Deverakonda | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The unabashed self-confidence arises once again when asked why he refers to himself as “The Vijay Deverakonda.”

“I am content with people calling me by my name, and I use ‘The’ because I believe I’m the only person like me.”

The actor himself seems to allude to a mix of instinct and confidence-driven approach to how he chooses his scripts. “Every script that I have chosen at heart is terrific, and we have only ever missed it in execution or delivery. For instance, Dear Comrade, I believe, is a good film but today, I would do some things differently... like how I promote it.”

Kushi, he says, was an idea that he was so hooked on even when he was filming other projects. The relationship drama, releasing on September 1, sees him share screen space with Samantha, an actor whose performances he grew up admiring. “To now act with her, and create Kushi along with her, was amazing.”

With relationship dramas, creators either take a gamble by writing a niche conflict between two people or go for a story that everyone can relate to. But Vijay says he wouldn’t opt for anything niche and he has his reasons: “I am doing one film a year and there are so many people waiting to watch it. The number of stories I have to choose from is a lot, and there’s an opportunity cost as well. What takes the next year of my life is important and I pick what I enjoy.”

He stresses that he wouldn’t pick stories that don’t connect with him even if he believes the masses might enjoy them.

A still from ‘Kushi’

A still from ‘Kushi’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

From having been just an actor who has to fit into a character, Vijay is now in a position of stardom that comes with additional accountability, but he isn’t complaining about the workload. “The point of delivering success is to gain more power to call the shots. If you are someone who knows what you want and you have an instinct about where to guide the film, only success can give you the power to do so.” The bandwidth that film production demands, however, is a bit much for the actor, a reason why he stopped after producing Meeku Maathrame Cheptha and Pushpaka Vimanam. “Also, when I’m shooting a film, I can monitor literally everything, but I don’t think I am able to do the best job if I have to do both simultaneously.”

The pressure to deliver is obvious considering the situation he is in, but the actor says he prefers this over most other challenges he has experienced. “There’s an emotional pressure because those who believe in my cinema want me to succeed, and then there’s the pressure of business; I own a theatre and so I know how the success and failure of films affect the whole ecosystem.”

Will he do a direct Tamil film again (after 2018’s NOTA)? “One of the next two films I sign next will be with a director from Tamil cinema. But only logistics can decide if it’ll be only in Telugu or if we’ll shoot in Tamil as well.”

Kushi is releasing in theatres on September 1

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