What made you choose Middle-Class Melodies?
I related to the core of the story, which offers a peek into middle-class lives, and the characters. The deciding factor was that the script is treated in a humorous way. When Vinod [director Vinod Anantoju] narrated the story, that resonated with me.
Your previous film Dorasaani was a period love story set in the 80s with a backdrop of revolt against caste barriers. How different is Raghava (MCM) from Dorasaani's Raju?
Both characters are completely different in terms of period and social strata. Raju struggled with poverty and the caste system. Raghava is educated and sufficiently manages his father's hotel. The urge to find a foothold by himself is what drives the story. Both the characters are poles apart.
How different is your method of choosing scripts from your brother Vijay Deverakonda?
I tend to choose stories that are organic and have a certain relevance to our daily lives. I prefer doing roles that explore the journey of a character, apart from playing a quintessential hero. I am still establishing myself as an actor who can convince the audience with relatable natural stories in different emotional zones.
In a hypothetical scenario, if you had been offered the script of Arjun Reddy, would you have chosen it?
Ya, why not? There is no reason to say no. If I fit into the character as well as how convincingly Vijay did, I would have picked it.
What are the similarities between you and your brother in the way you approach or view films?
We have a similar liking for cinema. During our early days, we would rent out and watch movies in languages other than Telugu, and that's how we were exposed to world cinema. This knowledge has a certain effect on how we chose our scripts, be it Pelli Choopulu, Taxiwaala and Arjun Reddy for Vijay and Dorasaani for me. We also have the same taste in content. Our favourite shows are Ozark, Breaking Bad and Paatal Lok.
With the rise of OTT platforms, do you see yourself choosing scripts specific to this domain?
I think a good film featuring an A-list star will find success through any release platform, be it OTT or the theatre. Soorarai Pottru/Aakasam Nee Haddhu Raa just recently proved that. Small films like ours that feature a new team might have limited theatrical success. Through an OTT release, we get a global audience, and that increases the visibility of the film across regions. I don't choose scripts based on platform specificity, I only look for stories that have good subjects and themes.
Censorship in OTTs is much more liberal than theatrical censorship. What is your take on this?
The relevance of this question might soon change, since there was a recent announcement about OTT platforms too coming under the purview of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. At some level, as actors, we require responsible censorship too. To quote an example, in Middle Class Melodies, there are certain words that might sound abusive, but they are the slang of a particular region. I think we should base it completely on context. As long as there is a certain context and it is not demeaning in nature, it shouldn't be censored.
A decade earlier, a large number of Telugu films catered to mainstream interests. Would you also like to do a commercial potboiler?
I don't think I would fit into that kind of role. But I would definitely explore subjects similar to Vetri Maaran's Asuran and Vada Chennai in Tamil, which had mass elements but were grounded in reality. I think it's too early for me to do a dance number or slapstick comedy.
Do you get any guidance from your brother Vijay?
Since he is more experienced in the industry, he does give advice on how to handle social media exposure, constructive criticism and interviews. He gives advice to the person I am, and not to the characters I portray.