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Meet Gully Boy's Moeen

February 28, 2019 10:58 IST

'Which is your favourite scene in the film?'
'The scene where I get beaten up by the police in the lock-up and my friend Murad (Ranveer Singh) comes to meet me.'
'It was an emotional scene and showed a tough guy like Moeen in a vulnerable state.'
'Also, you witness a deep friendship in that scene.'
'I know the value of friends and I know that a friend can unconditionally help another.'
'It's very reflective of my own life.'

IMAGE: Vijay Varma in Gully Boy.

Vijay Varma's Moeen has become a household name after being Ranveer Singh's best friend in Gully Boy.

But it took him 10 years to step into the limelight.

The Hyderabad-raised actor came to Mumbai in 2008 to make a career in the movies and went on to work in films like Chittagong and Monsoon Shootout.

2016's PINK changed the game for him, but it's his latest release, Zoya Akhtar's Gully Boy, that has made his phone ring nonstop.

Vijay's father runs a handicraft business in Hyderabad while his mother is a housewife.

He's the first person in his family to become a graduate.

Now, he sharing screen space with one of India's youngest superstars Ranveer Singh in Gully Boy.

"Ranveer and I looked like genuine friends, like we were very comfortable with each other, that we had exposed our vulnerable sides to each other, and we cared for each other..." Vijay tells Patcy N/Rediff.com

How did you get interested in acting?

I grew up watching Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee movies.

But when I saw Judwa, I was blown by it!

Vaastav completely changed me.

My friend and I started imitating Sanjay Dutt, and that's when I became fascinated with acting.

So what did you do?

After graduation, I applied at FTII and went through four rounds of auditions. I was rejected in the final round, but I enjoyed those acting workshops.

I returned to Hyderabad and joined a Hindi theatre group for a year-and-a-half.

I applied to FTII again and this time, I passed.

Photograph: Shivaji Storm Sen

How did your parents react when you told them about your career choice?

There was a huge argument at home and it took a lot of convincing.

My mom and my siblings were supportive, but my father was tough.

I did not wait for his approval.

When he went on a business tour, I left for Pune.

The (FTII) course fees for the first year was Rs 120,000, and a friend paid it.

You came to Mumbai after the course. How did you manage your expenses?

I came to Mumbai in 2008.

I did not have money, but this time, my father helped me.

I shared an apartment with a friend. The rent was Rs 14,000 and we split it.

I started doing theatre in Mumbai because I did not like the rejections when I auditioned for films.

Stage does not pay enough. For some shows, I would be paid Rs 1,000 and for outdoor shows, I would get Rs 5,000.

IMAGE: Vijay Varma, second from right, with the cast and crew of Monsoon Shootout at Cannes. Photograph: Kind courtesy Vijay Varma/Instagram

When did things start looking up for you?

By the next year, I did a couple of ads, which paid well. I got Rs 180,000 for the Minto Fresh ad.

I stopped taking money from my parents in 2011.

I fell sick and got hospitalised in 2010. This city had taken a toll on me; I was probably not eating well. I got malaria and dengue.

Whatever I earned, I spent it in the hospital.

On my last day in hospital, I got a phone call to meet the director of Chittagong Bedabrata Pain.

I signed the film in 2010, but it did not release until 2012.

I was paid Rs 75,000, but the film did not do well.

In 2010, I met the director of Monsoon Shootout and he promised me a lead role.

We shot the film in 2011, but it did not release until 2017.

But the film got selected for Cannes in 2013, and I walked the red carpet there.

In 2012, I didn't get much work.

I got noticed in Priyadarshan's film, Rangrezz.

After reading the reviews, my parents were very happy and felt assured that I had a future here.

I resolved my issues with my father and he said he was proud of me.

I did Tigmanshu Dhulia's Yaara in 2015, but it still hasn't released.

I was doing good work, but that work would not release and reach the audience. So it was disappointing.

Finally, PINK changed everything for me.

 

IMAGE: Vijay Varma, Amitabh Bachchan, Kirti Kulhari and Taapsee Pannu on the sets of PINK. Photograph: Kind courtesy Vijay Varma/Instagram

How did you get Gully Boy?

In 2017, (casting director) Nandini Shrikent and her assistant Karan Mally got in touch with me to audition for Zoya Akhtar's film.

A couple of weeks later, I got a call that Zoya ma'am wanted to meet me.

I gave another test, and then was locked for the film.

You're not from Mumbai. How did you get the Bambaiya language right?

The dialogues were written the same way in which we had to say them.

I prepared with the locals as well.

(Producers) Excel (Entertainment) had assigned certain people to the actors for them to get hang of the language and mannerisms.

I did not face any major challenges while playing the role; it came easily to me.

I had to learn to drive, as I played a carjacker.

What was your contribution to the script?

My character Moeen was supposed to be a tough guy, but he had a sense of humour.

Some of the humour was written (in the script), but I added some, like making fun of the music Ranveer (Singh) likes.

I wanted to make the character humane and relatable.

IMAGE: Vijay with Gully Boy Director Zoya Akhtar. Photograph: Kind courtesy Vijay Varma/Instagram

How much did Zoya help?

Working with Zoya was fun. She gives you space and time to build the character.

She doesn't give you too much information because she feels actors do their homework before they start shooting.

Most of your scenes are with Ranveer Singh.

It was a truly magical experience!

Ranveer and I looked like genuine friends, like we were very comfortable with each other, that we had exposed our vulnerable sides to each other, and we cared for each other...

People can see that friendship on screen and that can only happen when two actors work in tandem.

Ranveer is extremely committed.

He is so good with his craft that the other actor can fully benefit from it and I benefited a lot.

We were good friends off set as well.

Both of us are cinema lovers, so we would connect on movies and music.

IMAGE: Vijay and Ranveer in Gully Boy.

Which is your favourite scene in the film?

The scene where I get beaten up by the police in the lock-up and my friend Murad (Ranveer Singh) comes to meet me.

It was an emotional scene and showed a tough guy like Moeen in a vulnerable state.

Also, you witness a deep friendship in that scene.

I know the value of friends and I know that a friend can unconditionally help another. It's very reflective of my own life.

Were you aware of the hip hop and rap scene in India?

I wasn't aware of the Indian rap scene before I signed the film.

But I was aware of international hip hop artists like Eminem, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, Black Eyed Peas, Beyonce, Rihanna...

IMAGE: Vijay, Executive Producer Stuti Ramachandra, Ranveer and Siddhant Chaturvedi celebrate Women's Day on the sets of Gully Boy. Photograph: Kind courtesy Vijay Varma/Instagram

Any memories on set?

We had a great time on Women's Day, when the male members of the cast and crew were told to wear either an accessory or outfit that women wear.

So all the men were either wearing ghagras or sleeveless tops or heels... it was fun and colourful!

How was it shooting in Dharavi, India's largest slum?

Everybody had assumed that it will be tough to shoot there, but with Excel's planning and execution, it went smoothly.

The people of Dharavi are large-hearted; they are welcoming and inclusive.

They don't have physical space, but their heart has a lot of space.

They love cinema and Bollywood.

They were happy to accommodate us.

IMAGE: Vijay with his idol Amitabh Bachchan. Photograph: Kind courtesy Vijay Varma/Instagram

What kind of reaction did you get from your family and friends?

There was a lot of discussion on my family's Whatsapp group!

In the industry, I am getting a lot of recognition.

I am receiving a lot of phone calls.

I messaged Mr Amitabh Bachchan, as I had worked with him in PINK.

I told him about my film. He replied and said people were telling him that I had done a brilliant job in the film, and that he was waiting to watch it!

What are you working on next?

I am doing Bamfaad, produced by Anurag Kashyap, starring Paresh Rawal's son Aditya.

I am also doing a Web series that will be produced by Imtiaz Ali.

Patcy N / Rediff.com
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