Vijay Deverakonda On ‘NOTA’, Tamil Nadu Politics and Thirukkural

Though he’s done just 4 Telugu films, Vijay Deverakonda is currently a rage down south of India. He’s been climbing the popularity charts with each film from Pelli Choopulu to Arjun Reddy, Mahanati and Geetha Govindam, and he’s already won a National Award, a Filmfare trophy besides several accolades. There’s now excitement about Deverakonda’s debut in Tamil films with NOTA.

NOTA is a political thriller directed by Anand Shankar, made in both Tamil and Telugu.

We caught up with Vijay Deverakonda to ask him about his impressions of Tamil cinema, on how NOTA is different from the others, the state of Tamil Nadu politics and what motivates Vijay Deverakonda, the actor.

You can hear Vijay Deverakonda’s answers below or scroll down to read:

Vijay Deverakonda On His Tamil Debut

Before we could even throw a question at him, Vijay Deverakonda started off by talking about why he chose to make his entry into Tamil cinema with NOTA.

"“I have heard that my films were running in Madurai, Thanjavur, Coimbatore. I was getting so much love on social media. I needed to do something to show I am appreciating this acknowledgement of love. The only way I could do this, was by doing a film in their language.”" - Vijay Deverakonda, Actor

For Vijay, the biggest challenge was that he didn’t know Tamil and felt he could do justice only if he knew what he was working with. So, a personal tutor was hired to help Vijay learn the nuances of the Tamil language. The director of NOTA, Anand Shankar, was all praise for Vijay, “While watching the film, it would be impossible to find any flaw in the lip sync of Vijay,” he declares.

"“This is a huge step out of my comfort zone. I now feel much more confident that I can pull off something not only in my own language but in another language as well.”" - Vijay Deverakonda, Actor

And what won Vijay brownie points was that he opened his speech at the press conference with a Thirukkural.

(Thirukkural, written by Thriuvalluvar is a classic Tamil text consisting of 1,330 couplets dealing with everyday virtues of an individual - truth, non violence, peace, love, friendship, success.)

"“Can you get more Tamil than a Thirukkural? I decided that’s how I will speak every time I am here.”" - Vijay Deverakonda, ActorSlamming Tamil Nadu Politics like a Boss

Political thrillers have been a favourite in South India - they are powerful, have strong political undertones and can capitalise on the patriotic/ Tamil spirit - be it Vijay’s Mersal, Mahesh Babu’s Bharat Ane Nenu, Rana Daggubati’s Nene Raju Nene Mantri, Dhanush’s Kodi, Dileep’s Ramleela or Danish Sait’s Humble Politician Nograj.

But what makes NOTA different ?

Vijay Deverakonda says NOTA had a lot of resonance to political events that have happened in the state and there couldn’t be better time to release such a film.

He unapologetically slams the present political scenario in Tamil Nadu, saying how Tamil Nadu politics has always been alien to the rest of the country.

“I had no clue what was happening in Tamil Nadu except that Amma was the chief minister and then it was DMK and then AIADMK. Then when we heard about Amma’s death, we started learning more - and that's only because it (the reality) was like a thriller!”

No one could object, he was right. Tamil Nadu politics has been a joke. But anyway, back to the story.

Vijay went on to tell us how while shooting for NOTA, he heard about the Sterlite incident and was enraged as to how could a government let something like that happen. And also, with all the drama, development had gone for a toss.

"“I came to Chennai 6-7 years back. I feel the roads, skyline hasn’t changed since!”" - Vijay Deverakonda, Actor

“Whereas in Hyderabad, every 5 years you don't recognise it as it changes so much! I feel Bangalore and Hyderabad are far outgrown today,” the actor says.

He adds, “NOTA was one way to vent my angst against the political system and I think everyone who has abused politicians will experience this film in a relatable way.”

When asked if he is afraid of any threats because NOTA is a political movie, he laughs it off saying, “I don’t care. My producer needs to be worried.”

The Actor vs the Character

In Arjun Reddy it was drug abuse and in NOTA it’s the abuse of power, so does Vijay do films that give out a powerful message?

He quickly retorts, “I see movies as entertainment, but I do understand that movies have a massive influence.” But he also agrees that most often there are underlying strong messages.

In almost all his earlier films, Vijay’s characters radiated a toxic masculinity that was criticised by many. When asked how he picks his roles, he clarifies by saying:

"“Why is Arjun Reddy lifting a woman or slapping a woman? He behaves that way - who am I to question him?  The other character touches a woman in the bus. I would never do that, but he is doing it and then he gets slapped for it and he deserves that.”" - Vijay Deverakonda, Actor

“If they are all pro-women, then I’ll be doing propaganda more than playing a character. And dude, I can’t do anything about my characters, talk to my writers,” he grins.

A happy Vijay Deverakonda and a happier bunch of journalists.

Post the interview, as I waded my way out through the mob of Vijay Deverakonda’s admirers, I had a big fat smile on my face. Boy, I am definitely going to watch the first show of NOTA on 5 October, 2018, aren’t you?

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