In this interview with Baradwaj Rangan, Dhruv Vikram talks about his favourite actor, his debut Aditya Varma, and sharing screen space alongside his father. Edited excerpts below:
Who is your favourite actor, leaving out your father?
Dhruv: Apart from my father, I really like Vijay sir from the South. In the North, I like Sharukh Khan, and Ranbir Kapoor. They are my favourites. With Sharukh, it has been like a life-long love. I have loved his films ever since the release of Kal Ho Naa Ho. I would like to learn the way he has handled his stardom and how he has gone about it. I love his performances, but I think as a public figure, he has handled it so gracefully. On David Letterman's show, he said 'I am an employee of the myth of Shahrukh Khan', I found that very interesting. Till now, I feel like he has this God-like aura. I don't think I will ever be able to possess it, it's just something I admire, love and worship from a distance.
When it comes to Vijay sir, I think he has cracked this commercial plus performance-oriented thing. I feel it is a big aspiration for young actors like me. I would always want to reach that stage of cracking both and deliver big hits. From Ranbir, I have always admired his method acting skills. He really gets into the character and understands it. He sort of lives through the character, playing authentic roles. At every point, his acting is natural and true to the craft. That's something I really want to learn from him.
Let's talk about your first film. Before you did the remake of Arjun Reddy, you got a few offers to act in films like Pasanga. Did you not want to become an actor then?
If a film offer like that comes up, any kid would have asked their parents to let them do it. I did the same. But my parents were very strict about me finishing my education and not get into the industry at such a young age.
Earlier, in Kannathil Muthamittal, there were talks that I was supposed to play the youngest brother. I would have loved to do that. But I think my parents wouldn't have thought it's such a great idea. They wanted me to complete my school, then college and then focus on my work life.
It started in my childhood with the fan worship of my dad that I wanted to become an actor—living vicariously through him in the theatres, and watching him on screen. But after a point, I found it very tough.
When I used to tell people that I wanted to become an actor, they would ask me to recreate my father's scene or cry or dance. There was a negative energy in my adolescence, where I didn't know and didn't want to tell people that I wanted to become an actor. So I shied away into wanting to do filmmaking and short films because it was easier to say that I wanted to become a photographer.
But when I was studying at New York's Lee Strasberg, which is a method acting school, I felt at that point it was easier to accept myself as an actor. It's because everyone around were actors and people were freer and open minded.
There was a news item that intrigued me and kind of reminded me of your father. It is that when you did your first film, you had watched Arjun Reddy 200 times. As opposed to reading the screenplay, imagining the character in your mind and working based on that character, watching the film is another way. How does this help your process?
I would have easily watched it 50 to 60 times. At that age, I knew no process and all. When you are doing a film like Arjun Reddy that was revolutionary, it was more of an excitement. I watched the film so many times because I was excited that I am going to do that role.
Later on, maybe when I was doing Aditya Varma, it helped me in my process where I knew the film was imbibed in me in a way. But I watched the film so many times because I was excited and I was looking forward to it. I was imagining myself in it, as a young child not knowing anything about it.
When you were acting with your father were you so much in character that you were thinking 'this person is my co-star, not my father'?
No, I would say I was so much in character I was thinking, 'this person is my father, and not my co-star' because he is my father in the film. It was the same energy and connection. We are both the same blood, we are just two different people. I channelised that thought only and I think it helped.
Between action and cut, it was very easy for me to put myself in character. It was like my dad and I were in a completely parallel dimension, playing two different roles and exploring completely new different situations which we will never be in real life. That was surreal and my biggest takeaway.
Karthik Subbaraj is so detailed with the characters. His set, costumes and everything around there will create one energy that will make you believe it is a reality.
What is Karthik's way of coaching his actors?
It's funny you ask that. The first time I met Bobby Simha before the shoot, I told his Assault Sethu performance in Jigarthanda is my most favourite character. I asked him "Will Karthik sir be strict or how will he be?" He said, "He will see things that you already have in your characteristics, and he will ask you to recreate that."
Other than that, there was a lot of homework, workshops, and rehearsals for my scenes. After that Karthik sir will let you do your scene and then he'll tweak it. He'll let you do a full monitor where you can basically do whatever you want. Then he'll say, "Do more of that, do less of this."
He is an actor's director. I will treasure the experience of working with him. Because via this film, I really found out how it is to understand what is in this person's mind; I played a figment of his imagination. It's something you need all his inputs for. But at the same time, since I am the person embodying that character, it would only be authentic if I do things that come naturally to me.