Vijay Varma has carved a niche for himself in the industry. Just when we were getting over his convincing portrayal in Darlings, he comes back with a role like Anand in Dahaad as a serial killer and leaves you stumped by his versatility. Having just returned from Cannes, his outlook towards various genres of films has only gotten more refined. In an exclusive chat with Filmfare, he reveals how loves to push the envelope, his newfound fondness for fashion and more. Excerpts…
You play a serial killer in Dahaad. For references, which other onscreen serial killers did you look at?
Reema shared a bunch of names for me to have a look at. I was completely caught off-guard. How do you play a role like this? She said she has been watching a bunch of documentaries and would send them across. So I started watching them, and after two days I gave up because it was too scary and disturbing to watch. I was like, “This is a fascinating world. I loved the story on paper. I didn’t understand the person I was going to play.” Then, when I tried to understand, I was like, “There’s no way you can because you are a sane person. There’s no way you will understand what happens inside a psychotic mind. So you should attempt to understand as much as you can.” I went to a psychologist to kind of get a breakdown of why people do what they do and what the chemical reactions involved are. I got all these technical details, and I understood how these people behave. But the script had all the answers because he is not somebody you can see and tell. He behaves and talks like an ordinary person. He doesn’t behave in any way that alarms you. It’s just what goes on in his mind and what he does in hiding, that’s all.
You’ve played a couple of negative characters, what is the key to relating to the character, like not having to justify but at the same time having a connection?
Every character has been a different story for me. But if I talk in the context of Dahaad, the front is what I went for. Just a normal guy, who teaches in a school, has a wife, is very progressive, is kind of a philanthropist, and has certain noble ideals. I enjoyed playing the lead because it gets scary when you know he’s so normal. Anand is the kind of person who doesn’t indulge in violence directly. So I did not have to do anything. I just had to find a certain kind of discomfort in the emotions. I understood that there was a lack of emotional understanding. You just have to act like a normal person in normal situations.
You recently were a part of the Indian delegation at Cannes, where Anurag Kashyap got felicitated in a big way…
Anurag has been going to Cannes since 2010. He has been going to film festivals since his first film, he’s a festival child. We have always had filmmakers who are respected globally on art film platforms and then filmmakers who are respected commercially. And there is a place for all, and I encourage both. They can be separate. They need not merge. There should be a cinema for all kinds of people. There should be a cinema for art curators too, who do not like faff.
What are the kinds of movies that shaped your understanding of cinema?
I connected with a lot of stories. I remember watching Raja Hindustani when I was growing up. I enjoyed watching films like Masoom and Sparsh when I was studying acting. Andaz Apna Apna with friends So I enjoyed watching all kinds of cinema. I love all kinds of cinema. Give me the most abstract piece of art cinema and I will relish it; give me the most nonsensical no-brainer cinema and I will relish that too.
You’ve been in the news for your style statements of late; did you expect the kind of reaction you have been receiving?
Yeah, I saw a surge in that conversation around the time Darlings was released. I think after the lockdown So for two years, I was promoting my films sitting on a couch, in my t-shirt and shorts, so clearly there was no fashion there. Finally, when we got a chance to go out there and promote Darlings, I think I had a good time with my team. I was just having fun, and then the fashion community took a liking to me. I got more style awards than acting awards in the last year.
What is your take on fashion?
I wear something that makes me feel comfortable, and I also like outfits that suit my body type. I am tall, lean, and slender. At the same time, I like wearing colours now. I was a black-grey, black-brown, and black-blue outfit kind of person. But over the years, I have realised why I need to limit myself. It started with sneakers. I got into sneakers, and that’s when colours got introduced to me. And that’s when I realised it was a lot of fun. I was always into accessorising.
You’ve got quite the lineup to look forward to, which character would you say is the closest to the real you?
There’s a show I’ve done, I don’t know when it’s going to come out. I think it was Kaalkut. I think that character is, in a way, as empathetic, sensitive, and vulnerable as me.
Seeing Sonakshi Sinha as an inspector makes us envision a Lady Dabangg for obvious reasons. Tell us about your experience working with her.
She’s someone you can hang with. After a long day at the shoot, there are instances when I call her up and ask if we can hang out, and she will be the first one to respond in the group, saying that she’s coming. I think we spent more time off-camera than on-camera because we rarely had scenes together. If I ever want to chat or hang out, she’s so accessible and willing to share her life. She’s a cool person.
Is there any character you think will challenge you on some level?
I think the ones I thought would be done are the ones I have already done. I wasn’t ready to play a serial killer, but I managed to do a decent job, I guess. But there have been parts that are going to come out. Which made me not sleep at times and made me work harder than before. I think I have been pushing myself out of my comfort zone for a long time. Because it’s not fun otherwise. I am at the peak of my career. I am flowing with creative juices. I do not want to short-sell myself. And I know if the role is getting me excited, then it will be the same for others too.
Are we getting a sequel to Dahaad?
I don’t know about Dahaad, but we are getting Mirzapur 3. No matter how much you want to debate, Mirzapur is a family show. If I travel the length and breadth of the country, that is one show that sticks with people. People love that show.