Playing a devoted lover is easy when an actor follows the tropes and road signs. But the fabulous Vijay Deverakonda, who for my money is today on a par if not better than Bollywood’s Ranbir, Ranveer and Varun, plays the loverboy on his own terms in the Telugu gem Dear Comrade, and nails it. Here are the 5 sequences where he absolutely nails it.
- Chaitanya, a.k.a Bobby follows the love of his life everywhere with a hangdog expression. This man is completely in love with Lily (Rashmika Mandanna) and would go to the end of the world to pluck her favourite flower. Or beat the hell out of her harasser. During a family wedding, Bobby finally holds Lily’s hand (yes this is old-fashioned romance), musters the courage to tell Lilly he loves her. Her flippant dismissive sneering absolutely stuns him. Vijay Deverakonda (VD)’s expression of hurt is so palpable it almost felt like he has been slapped. This is an actor who knows how to feel and how to express his feelings coherently to the camera.
- My other favourite VD sequence in Dear Comrade is towards the end of the film when in a rousing dramatic committee-hearing Lily fearfully, refuses to admit she has been sexually harassed. Deverakonda is heartbroken when he says, ‘I don’t know this person’. This is a man who is willing to stand by the woman he loves. But what does he do when she refuses to take a stand for herself? It’s a classic moment of soul-searching. And VD hits all the right notes.
- Speaking of pitch perfection, VD doesn’t lose that quality of restraint even when all hell is let loose. Take the sequence where a rival students gang descends on Bobby and his friends at their hangout place. A fight erupts on the dingy staircase. Watch how Deverakonda uses the narrow awkward space to express exploding anger. This is the closest I’ve come to seeing Amitabh Bachchan’s implosive anger erupting on an unjust society in Zanjeer.
- Bobby’s quietly wise grandfather played by Kamal Haasan’s elder brother Charuhasan is the fulcrum of Bobby’s commitment, political and emotional, in life. The way Deverakonda looks at his screen-grandfather tells us so much about where he comes from, and where he’s going.
- Rounding up the tour de force performance is the absolutely chilling sequence where Bobby tries desperately to call Lily from a public phone booth. When he can’t get through, he smashes the receiver on the booth glass wrenches the phone out of its socket and has a conversation (on a dead phone ) with Lily.
Watch Deverakonda negotiate the perilous pitfalls of star-crossed love. This is no ordinary actor. Vijay Deverekonda is here to slay. And I do mean slay. Stay tuned in.