A still from 'Gully Boy' featuring Vijay Varma. Photograph:( WION Web Team )
Actor Vijay Varma talks about working Zoya Akhtar, his breakout role as Moeen in 'Gully Boy' and why he is selective about the films he works on.
The 'Gully Boy' fever is here to stay. Helmed by Zoya Akhtar, the film may be centered around Ranveer Singh's character Murad but Akhtar and co-writer Reema Kagti have weaved into the story several other memorable characters- each leaving a lasting impression. Be it Murad's parents played by Vijay Raaz and Amruta Subhash or Murad's mentor MC Sher played by debutant Siddhant Chaturvedi or Murad's friend Moeen played by Vijay Varma- all the actors have delivered top performances.
While Varma is not new to cinema, his moment under the sun has only come now. He made heads turn as the vile Ankit in 'Pink' a few years back which opened doors(read film offers) for him but it is the portrayal as the tough nut Moeen in Akhtar's film that has truly made people sit up and take note of his talent. Read the film's review here.
Varma states it took him time to understand his character. " It took a lot of introspection to understand who Moeen is, to be honest," said Varma during a chat with WION. "He is a car mechanic who is also a peddler but there is a lot going on there. He is part of a lot of enterprises but nobody knows exactly what he does. He is very deceptive."
Varma who had to audition for his role said that it was Zoya and Ranveer Singh who helped him to get in the character. "Zoya have me the brief of the character well. She said 'Moeen is a survivor, a rat, can even survive a volcano. He makes things happen for himself but he doesn’t have any place to go to.' That information was very crucial for me."
Varma recalls how Ranveer, with whom he had all his scenes, helped him to improvise in certain scenes. "While rehearsing the scene where the boys are at the Benetton store, my lines were simple. '10 lakh ke liye toh Moeen bhai rap karenga, tum log sab baaju waaju hatt jao’. Ranveer said, 'Moeen should break into a gig- which I thought was a great suggestion. So I went back home, prepared something in my head and came for the shoot- now Moeen doesn’t know a word of English, he doesn’t understand a word of what these guys do but understand the rhythm. I am personally a fan of Snoop Dogg, so I decided to mix his style and deliver the lines with some sound effects like 'Waao waao' and everyone had a good laugh over it- which was eventually captured in the scene" recalls the actor. He says that while dialogue writer Vijay Maurya wrote the perfect lines for a story like that, Zoya gave the actors a lot of room for improvisation. Also read: Ranveer Singh's ‘Gully Boy’ earns Rs 72.45 crore within four days of its release
All of Varma's scenes were with Singh in the film. Varma says Singh had gone into that zone of his character while shooting for 'Gully Boy'. "I met Murad on the sets every day while we were shooting and not Ranveer Singh. I am not exaggerating about this. I saw the energetic Ranveer only at the wrap party. He was inquisitive, underplayed his role and between the shots remained in character- shy and reserved."
The ensemble cast had several noteworthy actors playing key roles. Wasn't he apprehensive of getting overshadowed? "I knew that there were serious actors here who could steal scenes anyway – such incredible cast! But I get charged every time I am placed with such a star cast."
Varma also credits Akhtar for her writing which made each of the characters stand out. "Almost all her films have multiple characters and they are all very well written. You remember every part in all her films. When I read the script of 'Gully Boy', I understood why Moeen is there. I couldn’t have asked for a better film with Zoya really." said Varma in retrospect.
The actor who has featured in critically acclaimed films like 'Monsoon Shootout' and 'Raagdesh' in the past, admits that he is selective when it comes to choosing roles. "I have certain filmmakers in mind with whom I want to work, certain stories that they narrate I want to be a part of. Also, I am not very conventional in the way I appear or the way I think, so I ensure I'm with those people who think on the same level. Rather than going into a genre where people don’t trust me with, want to roles where people have faith in me and my abilities."
The actor though admits that lines between art house and commercial cinema are blurring. "Glad it is happening now, while I am in my primes. I can only be happier. I have grown up on a staple diet of some great cinema from across the world and witnessed some great performances so I’d like to do that. I am playing for the long run. I am here for that. Want to play a really long inning which is why I want to work with the best."
Varma will be seen next in 'Bumbaaz' which is being presented by Anurag Kashyap and a web series which is being written and produced by Imtiaz Ali.
Terming 'Gully Boy' as his favourite Zoya Akhtar film, he says there is something in the story that everyone can relate to. "It's wholesome that way, you know. There is so much relatable content. There's Murad, who is holding on to a tiny thread and wanting to climb on it- and how with perseverance he is able to turn his fortune and live his dream- it's is an incredibly inspiring story'.
Varma says that the biggest takeaway for him from 'Gully Boy' is that to never stop dreaming. "Dream big and be relentless, face rejections but still continue to dream. Because when you dream you become a Murad when you don’t you become a Moeen."