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Vijay Varma: ‘Not an actor’s job to get attention, I find joy in ability to merge with script’

The Hyderabad-born actor's crime thriller Kaalkoot is set to arrive on July 27 on JioCinema

PTI New Delhi Published 21.07.23, 10:05 AM
Vijay Varma

Vijay Varma Instagram

He says he doesn’t believe in standing out and likes to just “disappear into the characters he plays”. And actor Vijay Varma’s career is testament to just that sentiment, whether as an abusive husband in “Darlings” or a mild-mannered teacher moonlighting as a serial-killer in “Dahaad”.

Varma's outings as men in varying shades of grey, also including "Gully Boy", season one of "She", and "Lust Stories 2", has led to his fans constantly enquiring about his next positive role.

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“I don’t believe in standing out or trying to get attention. I feel it’s not an actor’s job. I figured that I have to play him as the most regular guy. If I do anything out of the ordinary, then the characters around me will look stupid, like how could they not see that this guy is not fine?” Varma said about his much acclaimed role as the everyday man who is actually a serial killer in “Dahaad”.

"He has to be a terrific manipulator and he knows how to hide in plain sight. The performance has to serve the script and one of the joys I find is the ability to merge with the script," the actor told PTI in an interview.

That’s why he chose a chameleon as a reference for his character Anand in "Dahaad", a Prime Video show headlined by Sonakshi Sinha.

"I modelled it like that and dressed like a chameleon. If you look at his shirts, they all have vertical lines and some kind of pattern. He is always in foliage. You don’t know what kind of a person he is,” Varma said, crediting writer-creator Reema Kagti for her attention to detail.

For him, the script is the top criteria for boarding a project.

"The only criteria is the script, the role and then the director. I added one more after working a few years and that was ‘I can’t repeat myself’. I'm trying to kind of mix it up. I'm just very happy that I have a medium, an audience. As long as I have an audience, I want to keep doing good work," he added.

Likening acting to sports, the FTII graduate said cricket or football, when one sees great sportspeople, the sense is they are having fun with what they are doing. Similarly, he focuses on deriving joy from acting.

“I feel when you abandon glory, there is no real effort in proving and fighting. Then, it's just play… When (Diego) Maradona is running with the ball, you see that he is fully there and that’s the most beautiful thing. It is something that I got attracted to,” he said.

The female attention that came with his characters was surprising, said the Hyderabad-born actor.

"'She', 'Darlings' and 'Dahaad'... I think women felt like they had seen this kind of a person in their life or, I don't know if it's some 'bad boy' kind of a thing. I don’t know but I would really like to know…" Varma said he started out with nice guy roles, such as "Monsoon Shootout", but went into this territory of portraying “extremely devious men”, which viewers surprisingly lapped up.

He said the curiosity over the nature of his next on-screen outing is heartening.

“Honestly, I’m indebted to that curiosity… I feel like when an audience member says that ‘I want to see you in a romantic film, a comedy or do something nice on screen for a change’, they see potential in me. I’m very happy to know that people want to see me more rather than saying, ‘Bass karo yaar (enough is enough)’. As long as people are interested in me, I’m happy,” he said.

In fact, his next, a cop investigating an acid attack in web series “Kaal Koot”, is a positive role.

“With ‘Kaal Koot’, it is like coming home. I am on the right side of the law for a change. I have spent the last few outings running away from cops to now playing a cop who is after criminals. It feels like a full circle,” he said.

The show arrives on July 27 on JioCinema.

Growing up in a Marwari family in Hyderabad, the actor said he started out "trying to be several things" but acting is where he felt like he truly belonged. “I enjoyed stories more than anything else as a child. The entire Marwari household didn’t believe in any of it,” Varma said.

Interestingly, in his childhood he loved comic books and puzzles more than films. He started watching movies only when he got accepted at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune.

Before that, he worked at a call centre, in marketing and event management. He also tried modelling.

A chance encounter with a theatre teacher led him to the stage. Workshops introduced him to a “different kind of education”, which felt more like children’s play, Varma recalled. He applied for an acting course at FTII and did not work out the first time. He tried again and got accepted.

"Till about the time I reached FTII, I had barely seen any films. I am talking about the age of 21. I had not seen enough cinema because I was not allowed to (watch films) at home. My father would say, 'Watch a show, waste half an hour, not three'." In his initial years, Varma said he was mostly guided by the feeling of "not wanting to be like others".

While he doesn't like looking back at life, the actor is grateful for the chances he got in his career that led him to this phase.

“The other jobs didn’t feel like they belonged to me. Only this job felt like something that belonged to me. I didn’t have work for many years but I was looking for a home through this work so now that I have a place, I feel good. I feel appreciated. There is purpose and meaning to my life,” he said.

Besides "Kaal Koot", Varma's upcoming projects include "Mirzapur" season three, Homi Adajania's film "Murder Mubarak" and a film adaptation of "Devotion of Suspect X" directed by Sujoy Ghosh.

Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.

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