All it has taken Vijay Deverakonda to become a legit superstar is three consecutive hits. Yet the journey that led him here was more arduous than one thinks. Growing up in a residential school in Puttaparthi, in a world away from ‘religion, caste, surnames, rich or poor’, the actor says even taking the local bus was a challenge when he first moved to Hyderabad. A lot has transpired since to make him the confident actor he has become today. Was it life in the city that opened him up or was it the time he spent as a theater artiste? An excerpt from the interview:
It’s after moving to Hyderabad that you joined a theater group. Did it play a part in making you blossom from that boy in Puttaparthi to what you ultimately became?
It has definitely contributed. It created a base for me to just act. I got to know what it was like to learn lines and perform in front of an audience. I remember reading (Konstantin) Stanislavski when very little made sense. But once I started doing theater, I went back to it again and I started understanding it better. It made even more sense after I started acting in films. I think if you have an aptitude for it, then you pick up a lot of stuff. It’s after doing theater that I realised my love for acting.
Didn’t you want to become an actor before that?
I think I just wanted to become an actor like how anyone would want to become a cricketer. Everyone grows up wanting to become either of the two, but we end up doing what we must to pay our rents, bills and earn a decent living.
It was a confrontation with my dad that changed things for me. It was a time when means were hard to come by and I was just wasting my time. My dad got pissed off one day because I was sitting around watching movies. He said, ‘Why are you wasting my money? At least do something you like or start contributing to the house. Be useful.’ He has this way of saying things in a rude and hurtful manner. I got really hurt and said, ‘I want to become an actor. Why don’t you get me an admission into FTII,’ knowing very well we couldn’t afford it.
My dad then took a week’s time and he found a theater place in Hyderabad. That’s how I ended up on stage. At first, I started liking the attention. Then it was just the feeling of being on stage and the rehearsals. Somewhere along the line, I started enjoying acting itself, to the point where it was like I found my life’s desire.
One thing we keep hearing about the Telugu industry is how tough it is for a male actor from a non-star lineage to break into the top. What’s the situation like?
Unfortunately, when money is involved everything becomes a business. A producer is more willing to invest money when it’s a star’s son. Not only does such an actor already pique the viewer’s interest but he also comes with the support of his family and their established business networks. That’s why it’s uncommon for a non-film actor to enter.
I remember my dad explaining the odds to me. He said, ‘Vijay, it is easier to become an IAS officer than an actor. Every year, around 400 IAS positions are guaranteed. So if you work hard you certainly have a chance. But every year, there in just one actor that comes up and of those, only one remains after five years. The competition is in lakhs.’
But I was in this reckless state of mind and I would keep saying ‘who will stop me?’. I believed there will always be room for talent. Honestly, I don’t know how I ended up here or why this has happened. Sometimes, I think it’s all my doing. At other times, I feel it must have some higher purpose.