Last year’s courtroom drama ‘Pink’ which was one of the most hard-hitting Hindi films in recent years made stars out of lot of actors who were doing good work till then but had not come under the spotlight. One of them was Vijay Varma, an acting graduate from Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune whose menacing turn as one of the antagonists in the movie sent chills down many spines. Varma has also worked in films like ‘Chittagong’, ‘Rangrezz’ and ‘Monsoon Shootout’ where he was pitted against Nawazuddin Siddiqui. He came to Guwahati recently to promote his upcoming movie ‘Raag Desh’, and joined Eclectic Northeast for an exclusive conversation.
What inspired you to join the acting course in FTII?
I wanted to go to FTII as I wanted to learn more about cinema but the main reason was that it gave me a chance to get away from my home.
Is there any particular kind of cinema you were inspired from or wanted to do?
There was nothing like that. The sensibilities regarding what kind of movie you want to do grows while working. When you are young, you like everything you see. So, in that sense, I was inspired from Jackie Chan and Jet Li’s movies, Indiana Jones and Shah Rukh and Sanjay Dutt’s movies also. When I watched those movies, I wanted to be like them.
You grew up in Hyderabad. So did Telugu cinema influence you in any manner?
Telugu cinema didn’t have any influence on me because I grew up in a Hindi speaking locality. You can live in Hyderabad without knowing Telugu. It is a very cosmopolitan place. But if you go to the interiors of Andhra and now Telengana, you will need to know Telugu. I studied Telugu till the 4th standard.
What was your first project in movies?
My first film was Bedabrata Pain’s historical ‘Chittagong’ which also starred Manoj Bajpayee, Nawazuddin Siddqui and Rajkummar Rao. The film was based on the Chittagong armoury raid of 1930. I played the adult version of the boy Jhunku through whose eyes the story gets told.
Tell us something about your role in Raag Desh.
In Raag Desh, I am playing a character called Jamal Kidwai, who is a representative of the press of that time. The British government had imposed censorship for several years on the press in India. So, Indian public didn’t know initially about the sacrifices made by the Indian National Army (INA). However, my character Kidwai who is actually a fictional character brought the achievement of INA to light.
Suddenly the role of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and INA in India’s independence has become a favourite topic for filmmakers in Mumbai. How do you see this trend?
This is a positive trend for sure. I think in Rangoon and Detective Byomkesh Bakshy before that, there were references of World War II and INA. I think Rajkummar Rao is also doing a web series on Netaji. We definitely need to make films of these real life heroes who fought for our freedom.
What are your upcoming movies?
After Raag Desh, I will be seen in another Tigmanshu Dhulia film called Yaara where I will be seen alongside Vidyut Jammwal, Amit Sadh and Kenny Basumatary. I am also doing a Telugu film and another independent film where I play the lead. Meetings are going on for few other projects as well but nothing has been finalised regarding those.
What about your movie Monsoon Shootout? We have been hearing about the movie since long.
This is the tragedy which has happened with the film. Despite going to a major festival like Cannes, it is finding difficulty in getting a release in India. I think they are looking for a way to release the film so that it can reach maximum number of people.
How do you assess the present scenario of the film industry?
I think this is a wonderful time to work in movies. There is an opportunity for everyone. Maybe, you will not get the attention that a film of a big star gets, but there is an opportunity. There was a time, when films like Lipstick Under my Burkha or Pink were not made. Now, the fact that these films are working well at the box office augurs very well for the industry.
Please name some of your favourite filmmakers and actors.
In India, I am a big admirer of Vishal Bhardwaj and Tigmanshu Dhulia’s work. Among actors, my favourites are Naseeruddin Shah and Irrfan Khan.
Told to Nabarun Guha