A menacing villain: Vijay Varma

Vijay Varma was shooting in Goa for an upcoming web series, but took the first flight out on a Monday to Mumbai to celebrate with TeamPink. “It’s one day together, after which we will all go on our own individual journeys,” he says.

the rebel:Unlike his character, Vijay Varma has had to resist living up to patriarchy’s expectations.— Photo: Arunangsu Roy Chowdhury

His own voyage, from a traditional Marwari family in Hyderabad to the struggles of Yari Road, has been an arduous one. Varma has been the quintessential rebel in an orthodox bastion; poles apart from the feudal, masculine entitlement of his bad boy turn as Ankit Malhotra. Rather than being patriarchal himself, Varma has had to resist living up to patriarchy’s expectations.

Varma looks back at things clinically: how his business family gave little importance to education, how he was brought up to join the family business. He wanted to study and was the first to graduate college in seven generations of his family. “I was considered bright when I would only score 50 per cent. Coming from a business family, a B.Com was the only course I knew and opted for, and a chartered accountant was all that I could aim to become,” he recollects. Much of the time in his college years went in playing video games and snooker, but he managed to clear his exams with tuitions and his intrinsic talent for numbers and accounting.

The initial pull towards cinema was for the glamour of it all. He tried his hand at modelling, but was instantly disillusioned. Theatre was where he found his peace and grew into a force in Hyderabad in just 18 months of taking to the stage. It soon led to the acting course in Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune, a place where he found himself. “No one would bother me. It was a comforting, nurturing nursery.

I had my own space,” he says. That is, in a physical as well as metaphorical sense. There were teachers like Naseeruddin Shah, Tom Alter, Benjamin Gilani, Raza Murad, Irrfan Khan and the late Nirmal Pandey, and batchmates and friends who have gained ground as good actors in their own right: Pitobash, Rajkummar Rao and Jaideep Ahlawat.

But FTII also meant riding through tough, turbulent times with his father. Varma had left home for Pune when his dad was not around, and he hasn’t been on talking terms with him for years since. “I broke the happy family ideal for him, in which no one goes out of the fold but sits in the shop or runs the business,” he says. That rift continued through his first and second films,ChittagongandMonsoon Shootout. Things got better when his father watched Varma’s third film,Rangrezz, and called up to tell him that he was very good in it. Pink has broken the barrier further, though a wee bit of discomfort is still evident.

The personal relations aside, the professional struggles haven’t quite ended either. According to Varma, being an actor means facing up to a lot of failures. “One has to be patient, keep one’s mind alert and keep working and improving,” he says. He is also fascinated by how fates can turn overnight.

Varma didn’t pickPinkfor how it could change his destiny, but for the four scenes featuring his character, Ankit, which felt meaty. He was apprehensive as well as repulsed at the thought of doing the crucial molestation scene (canned on his birthday incidentally), but played it out more as a power trip than a sexual one. “He is a bully who wants to terrorise the girl, make a mess of her brain, wants to pull her down so badly that she can’t rise up again.

He even dismisses her as someone he doesn’t desire sexually. It’s all about how dare she.” For Varma, the portrayal of machismo and entitlement emerged from watching reality shows like Roadies. “It’s a fabulous feeding ground to observe the passive-aggressive chauvinists,” he says.

Though good work had been flowing his way, Pink has got him recognition. There is no fear of getting typecast as the villain. The roles before and after Pink are all very different. There is Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Yaara, about the journey of four friends from their 20s to mid-50s coming up early next year. He also has a cameo appearance as a journalist in Dhulia’s Raag Desh, about the Indian National Army trials of 1945. He is also hoping for the eventual release of his second film,Monsoon Shootout, one which took him to the Cannes film festival and gave him confidence. It’s a film that has him playing just the opposite of Ankit: a guy with a heart.

Posted by on September 21, 2016. Filed under State. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.