The unique selling proposition of the Telugu film industry, apart from the uber-stylish entries and unconventional content — is flying cars, one-man-army-ish protagonist, great style, humongous budgets, larger than life stories and dynasty-actors. It is an arduous task for any new actor to enter, emerge, and excel in the industry in a short window of time. One exception being, Vijay Deverakonda who’s not only strived but thrived. A superstar’s career is about risks, several misses, a few mass hits, controversy, some chances, a lot of hard work, and mainly acting. From auctioning off his first best actor trophy, to fluently speaking a three-page dialogue in a single take; in a language, he knew zilch of. This young and dynamic actor has surprised everyone with his bold choices, an ode to perfection, devil-may-care attitude, good looks sprinkled with an unmissable X-factor. Here’s Vijay Deverakonda for you.
VD, as he is extensively known down south, was born on May 9, 1989 to Telugu television personality, Deverakonda Govardhan Rao and Deverakonda Madhavi in Achampet, Nagarkurnool district of Telangana (formerly Andhra Pradesh). As many would wrongly perceive, it was not an obvious decision for Deverakonda to step into films, and neither was his journey to stardom.
Growing up in a residential school in Puttaparthi — a small town in Andhra Pradesh, and then heading to Hyderabad for higher studies was a ‘culture shock’ to him. Even taking a bus to college was a challenge when he first moved to Hyderabad. The polite boy who enjoyed his smooth sailing life, had to unlearn a few things and sometimes learn to change his ways to ‘get things done’. Having studied in an English-medium boarding school, he knew very little Telugu. To avoid getting ragged at the college for the same, he presented himself as a Tulu speaking Mangalorean; a lie he came about only after confirming there were no Tulu-speaking students in the campus. It took him almost two years to adapt to the vibe of Hyderabad. But it was this city that introduced him to the theatre and brought him the stardom he has today.
It was during a father-son confrontation over the latter’s future one day, that changed his stars. Deverakonda expressed his desire of being an actor, just to have an upper hand at the argument. While he was not really serious about it, his father took his words by heart and made him join a theatre place in Hyderabad. It was in the theatre that he realised his love for acting. Initially, he liked the attention that theatre brought to him. Gradually, he started to enjoy the feeling of being on stage and being part of rehearsals.
Just as, studying science cannot guarantee you a place in NASA, his stint with theatre didn’t assure him the much-needed ladder to the films. It was not easy for him to foray into the movies as there were days where he excelled in the auditions and awaited calls from production houses. But, no one called. Then, there were the days when a production house of repute would offer him a role but, in lieu wanted Deverakonda to sponsor his own debut. A determined Deverakonda neither succumbed to the atypical requests nor did he quit working hard for his auditions.
He made his debut in 2011 with a small role in a Telugu romcom movie, ‘Nuvvila’ starring actress Yami Gautam in the lead, followed by ‘Life is Beautiful’ in 2012. Both the films lend him much-needed platform but could not do wonders to his career. He started shooting for his first film as the lead, ‘Ye Mantram Vesave’ in 2013, whose release was delayed, adding to his dismay. Two years later, it was his supporting
role as Rishi in ‘Yevade Subramanyam’ that caught the eyes of many, including his future director with whom he was to work in one of the biggest blockbusters of his career, till date. His first movie as a lead was a romantic-comedy ‘Pelli Choopulu’ (2016) in Telugu that revolved around a lazy guy and an ambitious girl who meet each other during a matchmaking process that changes their lives. The film received positive reviews from critics and became a commercial success. It also won the National Film Award in two categories – Best Telugu Film and Best Screenplay (dialogues); two Filmfare Awards South, and was remade in Bollywood as ‘Mitron’.
The year 2017 saw two of his releases – ‘Dwaraka’ and ‘Arjun Reddy’. While the former tanked at the Box Office, the latter — a Telugu romantic-drama changed the game in the Telugu film industry for him. Deverakonda played the titular role of a bold, outspoken, high-functioning alcoholic surgeon Arjun with anger management issues. His exceptional performance won the hearts of critics and audiences alike and earned him a huge fan base overnight. His portrayal of a chain-smoker made everyone wrongly assume, that he smokes in real life too. The movie made a huge collection overseas, catapulting him into the league of A-listers of Telugu cinema. It was the immense success of this film, that other film industries began noticing the immense potential Deverakonda held as an actor. His methodical acting skills won him his first best actor trophy at Filmfare Awards South. To celebrate his success differently, he auctioned off his first Filmfare trophy for Telangana CM Relief Fund — a decision that shocked many. But Deverakonda clarified that the trophy had a higher purpose to serve than just resting on his shelf, as a memento ends the celebration and memories of the hard work. “He’s a smart actor. He understands the character and gives what is required. He will soon be one of the superstars in India,” once said ‘Arjun Reddy’ director Sandeep Vanga, praising the actor. The director then announced a Hindi remake of the same film as ‘Kabir Singh’ starring Shahid Kapoor as the lead which was released recently.
A blockbuster movie, ‘Mahanati’, a biographical period film around the life of yesteryear actress Savitri, starred many established actors in the business. Deverakonda was able to shine through the powerful ensemble cast of the South Indian Film industry. He earned rave reviews for his role of a charismatic and easy-going photographer in the movie. The same year gave Deverakonda another hugely successful film ‘Geetha Govindam’, a romantic-comedy released underthe banner of Geetha Arts wherein he portrayed the role of a nervous and innocent college professor. Deverakonda garnered only praises for his subtle, boy-next-door character after an aggressive role in ‘Arjun Reddy’. Surprisingly, it was a movie that he was not keen on doing. The script came his way while he was filming ‘Taxiwala’ under the same banner. He declined the offer at first, but the production house insisted by explaining the economics of cinema to him. Deverakonda eventually agreed to do the film that was ‘for everyone’, which went on to become one of the biggest film post-Bahubali in Tamil Nadu. In an interview, he said, “I am glad about all the positive reactions. I am glad that they (Geetha Arts) spoke to me (about the movie)”. Another huge hit in his kitty was ‘NOTA’, a Tamil film, dubbed in Telugu, released the same year. The entire cast and crew went gaga
over him for performing a three-page dialogue in a language alien to him, in a single take.
Sheer determination and powerful performances accrued him a staunch, gargantuan fan base, with whom he connects regularly through social media and addresses them as rowdies. His much anticipated ‘Dear Comrade’ that released this July, opened to a great response worldwide.
An actor, who once went emotional seeing himself on a film poster, has earned a space in the industry where he doesn’t hesitate to speak his rightful mind. As far as his ‘sudden superstardom’ is concerned, someone once asked him — what if things are not this sunny someday? “I know failure is just around the corner. I know when it happens it will shake me up for a few days. But I know I will rise from it,” the talented actor replied.