'Liger has been the hardest film for me physically, and mentally.'
'Performance-wise, it has been the most challenging film for me.'
Vijay Deverakonda will make Bollywood take notice of his talent and acting prowess in Liger, co-starring Ananya Panday, which releases next week.
But it took a lot of struggle for Vijay to reach where he did. He tells Rediff.com Contributor Mohnish Singh, "To find a platform where your voice is heard and you can be seen as an actor is a really hard thing."
Seeing the terrific response that you are getting from your city-to-city promotions, do you feel like a star outside Andhra Pradesh as well?
When we were starting the promotions, the plan was to go to these cities and introduce myself.
I was very intimidated whenever I saw people speaking in Hindi.
Whenever we go to a new city, the city looks so big. It is very intimidating.
I was like, 'I don't know all these new cities, new people. I will introduce myself and tell them that I am Vijay Deverakonda. I know that I have made a terrific film. I will talk about the film and hopefully, ask them to watch it.'
Then I came to Bombay and I entered a mall as a part of the promotions.
People were screaming 'Vijay! Vijay!'
When I went to Patna, the same thing happened.
In Ahmedabad, the same thing happened.
So suddenly my whole plan of promotions was confusing.
I was like, 'Now what do I talk about? They already know me, so what should I say now? I have to come up with something else.'
I decided that since they know me and love me, I should just chill with them, talk to them, and have fun with them.
I decided to stop it from looking like a promotional activity and just enjoy the affection and love coming my way.
When I go to bed at night, I still don't know why this is happening. I have not grasped it fully yet.
But I feel the love and I feel I need to give them great cinema in return.
What made you say yes to Liger?
When I heard the script, I was super excited and moved everything aside because I realised that this was the film I want to do next.
I knew that I had to look a particular way; I wanted to transform myself physically.
I wanted to grow my hair.
But I didn't know how I would pull off the stammer. And the stammer is the most interesting part of the film.
I felt I had to do it by hook or by crook. We figured it out along the way.
How difficult was it to transform your physique to play Liger?
It took a lot of effort, hard work and discipline.
Your social life becomes non-existent because you can't go out or eat.
Drinking was cut down.
For two years, I did not touch alcohol.
You have to work out with dedication.
This has been the hardest film for me physically, and mentally.
Performance-wise, it has been the most challenging film for me.
What sort of struggles did you have to go through to break through in the South because there are a lot of actors who come from film families and you were an outsider?
It is not easy.
It is probably the hardest thing that has happened to me in life -- to find a platform where your voice is heard and you can be seen as an actor is a really hard thing.
Earlier, I used to think it was all my doing.
I am spiritual but I never believed in luck.
I was like, 'This is my life. Whatever I do, I put in work and I get rewarded for it.'
But recently, I have begun to feel like there is a bigger hand making things happen.
I feel it cannot be one person's doing.
I did theatre first. When I did plays, I would do one play and then I would have three theatre groups waiting for me, saying, 'Do our play, do our play.'
So when I finished theatre, I thought that I would just announce that I want to become an actor and all the producers would line up.
But suddenly I realised that you can't get anybody's attention.
I realised that there was nowhere to go, nobody was looking.
There are these film Web sites back home where you get audition calls whenever somebody is looking to launch newcomers.
I think every struggling actor checks these Web sites every single morning.
They refresh the page to see whether they received a casting call and then they send their photos, and then go to their office.
Before going to bed, I used to check this Web site three times.
Then in one of my plays, somebody spotted me.
I did a small role and then got a casting call for one of the biggest directors, Shekar Kammula.
I went to his office, auditioned and played a supporting role.
Then again, it was one year of no work.
But the assistant director of that film went on to become a director. He had bonded really well with me, so he wanted me in his film.
That gave me my second role. I was like the second lead, but it was a decent role.
What happened next?
That film became a hit.
I thought that I had arrived because that film got rave reviews and everybody loved it.
I thought producers would line up with scripts in their hands.
Sadly, again, there was nothing.
People wanted me for supporting roles, but I didn't want to do them.
So I waited.
Then my friends and I made a film called Pelli Choopulu.
We made it in Rs 60 lakh.
None of us took any money.
We raised some money from two investors.
It was a struggle to release it.
We went around to every production house, asking people to help us release it.
One particular producer saw it and liked it. He decided to help us release it.
That film opened small, but went on to make like Rs 25 crore-Rs 30 crore.
It got a National award and that launched me.
Suddenly, everybody knew me.
That was my first film as a solo lead, and it released in 2016.
In 2017, Arjun Reddy released and I have been never out of work since.
Don't Miss Part 2 on Monday!