Vijay Deverakonda’s kid-brother Anand is all set to make his debut as an actor in the bucolic Telugu romance Doraasani. Here he speaks to Subhash K Jha about his debut and his star-brother’s influence on his life and career decision.
What brings you to the cinema, Anand?
I think it's a combination of opportunity that came to me and interest in cinema/acting. My dad wanted to be an actor; because of various factors he became a director of TV serials and shows. Nonetheless, Vijay and me grew up in a household where there was movie talk happening around us all the time.
Did you two watch a lot of films together?
We grew up with an interest in watching good cinema. In our summer holidays, as young kids, we would rent DVDs every day and watch world cinema. If we were out of money, we would hold on to some CDs/DVDs for a few days more and re-watch the same movies until we were bored. I realise now, that these small things definitely contributed into nurturing an innate sense of love for cinema and telling stories.
Did you nurture an childhood interest in acting?
I used to act in school plays and dramas in my boarding school in Puttaparthi. When I moved to Hyderabad, I acted in a couple of plays with a theatre group called Ingenium Dramatics which Vijay was already a part of. Nevertheless, I never thought of acting as a serious career option. It wasn't something I thought of at all, even if I did, it seemed like a crazy dream to me. Just like how every Indian kid wants to make it to the Indian cricket team.
Did Vijay influence you?
I think Vijay's first reaction was of shock when I told him I was going to give acting a shot. He did warn me of how tough the job was. My dad even compares it to IAS jobs, saying it's harder to crack a successful acting career than an IAS exam. As kids, we went to the same boarding school, and grew up to be best friends. We have similar tastes in movies and share interests in sports. Although I still regularly play a lot of football and cricket. He doesn't get to play or watch as much because of his busy schedules. He's also a protective brother when it comes to that; I think it's instinctive and he understands exactly when to talk to me and what to say. We've a common bunch of friends and we're making it a point to travel abroad atleast once every year. We visited Thailand early last year and recently were in France.
I believe Vijay was adamant that you make it on your own?
Yes, Vijay definitely wanted me to have is my own journey in this career. He wants me to figure things out on my own. Specifically, he didn't want any part in listening to my scripts or to watch rushes from my movie to give feedback. I think his intention is for me to grow on my own just like he did. What I want for him and my parents is when they watch my first movie, Dorasaani, I want to see pride and joy.
What made you pick the film that you did as your debut?
I'd say the film picked me. Dorasaani was the opportunity that knocked on my door. I had just moved back to India from the US. I was still figuring out next steps in my life when I heard that a passionate director called KVR Mahendra was looking for fresh faces. He was already doing his pre -production work at Suresh Productions. I told myself why not listen to the story? And KVR Mahendra's narration removed all doubts of taking up an acting career, doubts that I had previously. He has immense clarity and knowledge on cinema. I told myself if I'm giving this career a shot, I'd want to start off by working with Mahendra. Mahendra thought I'd be suitable to play the role after an audition/screen test. It's been an amazing learning experience working with him.
Tell me about the experience of shooting it?
Personally, I feel shooting Dorasaani has added years of wisdom and experience in less than 6months of shooting. It was the first time I was on a movie set, and I realized how complex and intense movie making is. But it's also beautiful in a way - film sets are so chaotic; but what matters is between "Action" and "Cut" every craft comes together to work seamlessly. Dorasaani is special because we've gotten technical novelty to the Telugu industry. We shot with anamorphic and wide lenses for a vintage feel, shot only in real locations, new actors and live sound recording. All of these contributed in making the look and feel of the movie authentic and real. Dorasaani is a love story set in a Telangana village in the 1980s around the culture of Zamindars (Dorathanam in Telugu).
What has the response to you and the teaser been so far?
I've gotten hundreds of messages appreciating the teaser and the first song that's released. It's immense when you see the kind of attention the name Deverakonda garners. It's the kind of influence that Vijay has created with his work. On the other hand, there has been criticism because of the nepotism angle. But I'm taking neither the appreciation nor criticism too seriously. I'm going to wait for release day to see the audience response. My confidence is in the fact that we've made an honest movie and put our heart in to it.
Tell me a bit about your role in the film.
Dorasaani is a love story set in the 1980s. I believe the look, innocence of the characters and freshness is completely brought by the fresh faces and new cast. I play the protagonist's role called Raju, a 19-year-old boy from a village. He's pure at heart and he's not conflicted, even though he is from a poor background. He falls in love with Dorasaani (in contrast is a rich girl, Zamindar's daughter, played by Shivatmika Rajeshekar) - he makes his choice to do things only for the girl he loves. How they deal with the people, the culture, and the consequences makes the rest of the movie.