‘Getting this role was like a dream come true’ ~ Vijay Varma
A leading man in the making, Vijay Varma grabbed a lot of attention for his performance in ‘Pink’. The actor kicked-started his career with Raj Nidimour and Krishna DK’s short film ‘Shor’. The movie was highly acclaimed in various festivals and went on to win the Best Short Film at MIAAC festival, New York that year. He was later seen in several films like ‘Chittagong’, ‘Gang of Ghosts’ and ‘Rangrezz’, but it was his work in Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury’s ‘Pink’ that brought him into the limelight.
Now, he is all set for his latest release which is Amit Kumar’s ‘Monsoon Shootout’. The movie will be released after a wait of four years. Along with Vijay Varma, the movie stars Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Tannishtha Chatterjee and other talented actors. The Hindi noir thriller will see the actor play a rookie cop whose morality is being tested. To know more about the film, we caught-up with Vijay Varma for a conversation, where he candidly shares the impact the long wait had on him, his character Adi and much more.
The movie has taken four years to release, how has this long wait effected you?
It took away a lot of time for sure and I had to go through a variety of emotions. There were different phases and mindsets, which I had to fight. When I did this film, I did something that was substantial for me and would help me start a career. To be a lead actor in an independent film, which was supported by probably the best people was huge for me. Getting this role was like a dream come true. When it didn’t release I had to go through my own struggles of being frustrated, sad and dejected. After waiting for a lot of time, I found out that I had to start all over again. I went through the grind of going to auditions and I picked up whatever role I thought was suitable at that time. I had to let go of the dream of this guy who could’ve had this chance to play a major role and instead settled for supporting cast. It was quite a ride and it wasn’t easy.
But over the time, all the cast members of ‘Monsoon Shootout’ have gained recognition and appreciation for different projects, do you think that will help the movie, is this a better time for the movie to release?
I can’t say that for sure because all my planning has gone for a toss. I have no idea what would have been a better time. I saw a lot of young actors whose films came out after I did ‘Monsoon Shootout’, they have achieved so much in life while I was waiting in the wings for my career to take off. I still cannot shake off that feeling, but at the same time I feel if now is the time, then so be it. I am totally excited about it.
Let’s talk about the movie a bit, can you shed some light on your character Adi?
Adi is a young police officer who has just finished his academy. He was at the top of his batch and he chooses to join crime branch. When we come out of university and colleges, we have very high hopes from the world similarly, he had high hopes as well. He had a very idealistic view of the world, but his world collides with the world of the senior officers who are more experienced. The crime branch works on the policy of ‘shoot first and ask later’. The whole struggle is going between him and his seniors. In the middle of that Adi comes face to face with a suspect. They don’t know who the suspect is, and they have no idea if this guy is the right one. But Adi has a gun pointed at him and he is still thinking if it is right to shoot him or no. This all comes from the fact that he is relying only on the information that he has and not by any experience because clearly, he had no experience of killing.
What were your dynamics with the director, Amit Kumar like? What brief did you receive, was there something specific that he wanted you to concentrate on?
When I was reading the script, it looked like a biographical role, this was something that we discussed as well. Since it appeared to biographical in nature, I had to replicate the director’s vision. Amit Kumar is a very empathetic person. He cares for another person a lot, be it another team member or just another human being. For the movie, he used a very existential technique, the drama is enhanced when you put life and death situation. Moreover, the true sense of the character comes out when you bring an intense situation of choosing, in a sense where your actions are going to lead to someone’s life or death.
His brief to me was to stick to the truth of that moment. He likes a form of acting which I would call very believable. Here you are not acting to communicate anything, you are just being there in the scenario, within the scene, and within character and feel what the character is feeling at that time. He is a very thorough director when it comes to his research. He is like a method director, I think he found some connection between me as a person and Adi as a character.
Actors like us are been benefited because more unconventional films are written and for that, they are looking for an unconventional cast.
Yet, was there an aspect of Adi that you couldn’t relate to or had difficulty understanding?
One of the aspects was getting the physicality of the character right. He is a police officer, he has a certain decorum. He needs to know the correct way to salute, the basic knowledge of how a police officer would behave. I had to go to police academy and enroll myself there. I had to go through the drill of learning etiquettes and the basic dos and don’ts. Plus, I needed to understand how a gun functions because we have seen it in the movies, but when you hold the gun you realize that this has the power to kill someone. Getting the physicality right was one part of it.
The second part was that this character has a certain amount of conscious which he listens to much more than a regular person would. I had to work on that aspect. I had to be able to admit that I’ve done a mistake and not ignore that or dust in under the carpet. I had to admit my mistakes and look directly into it to find redemption there because that is how Adi was. To get the sincerity and the ethical integrity of this character was a little difficult, but extremely exciting.
The movie has been to numerous international festivals where it has been widely appreciated, does that boost your confidence as the movie is all to set to release in India?
When it was traveling to different festivals, it was different. Here you were suddenly being escorted around in France and people wanted to talk to you and people were appreciating. That was a great ego-booster. I got a lot of attention from the ladies there, which does give your ego a boost. But the reality hit me hard when I came back to Mumbai where the film had not released yet. Despite the film not releasing before, doing this film and playing this part had given me enough confidence to think that I can be a leading man. Even though nobody had seen it here, some part of me acknowledged that I could do this and I still have that confidence.
Today content-driven films do achieve commercial success, your film ‘Pink’ is a great example, so how does that impact you as an actor?
When an unconventional and content-driven film works well, a lot of filmmakers follow that example. Suddenly, they wake-up to the fact that this can work as well that means you want more content to be created. This creates more opportunities for people who are exploring that kind of content, so that way it is great, we are all benefiting from it. Actors like us are been benefited because more unconventional films are written and for that, they are looking for an unconventional cast.