I feel extremely responsible towards my fans: 'Liger' star Vijay Deverakonda

Telugu actor Vijay Deverakonda speaks to Shama Bhagat about his Bollywood debut Liger, his association with Mumbai, and being the nation’s new heartthrob
Telugu actor Vijay Deverakonda. (File Photo)
Telugu actor Vijay Deverakonda. (File Photo)

Telugu actor Vijay Deverakonda speaks to Shama Bhagat about his Bollywood debut Liger, his association with Mumbai, and being the nation’s new heartthrob.

You play an MMA fighter and boxer in Liger. What was training for the character like?

It was one of my toughest performances, both physically and mentally. When the script was narrated to me, I told the producer and director that I needed time to transform myself for the role. Initially reluctant, they gave me two months and I trained hard at the gym, but it did not get me the desired results. I shot a few scenes, where I didn’t need to show my body. Then the lockdown happened, and I got time to work on myself. I used to sneak inside the gym and work out without any lights with my trainer. It took me one and half years to transform my body.

Tell us about your association with Mumbai.

I first came to Mumbai years ago in a sleeper bus for visa work. I didn’t like the city then; it was hot, humid and overcrowded. Now that I have shot for Liger here, I am enjoying my visit. I know a lot of people from the industry, but I still have to get used to the city.

After delivering Telugu hits such as Arjun Reddy and Dear Comrade, do you feel any pressure with Liger?

I have worked very hard on this project and am sure the audience will see that. Right now, my only concern is that I belong to Hyderabad and this is a film for audiences across the country, and not region-specific. I want more and more people to watch my film.

How are you enjoying the stardom of being a pan-India star with fans all over the country?

I am still not used to the fan following. We visited a mall in Navi Mumbai for Liger promotion and I didn’t expect such a huge turnout.

I had never been to Bihar before, but the moment I reached there, people were yelling out my name. It was overwhelming. The feeling has not sunk in yet. I feel extremely responsible towards my fans, and understand that I have to give them incredible movies.

You have quite a female fan following. How do you deal with that?

I don’t know how it happened; perhaps it began with Arjun Reddy and Geetha Govindam. Having studied in a boys’ school, I have always been afraid of girls. During my college years in Hyderabad too, I didn’t have the courage to interact with them. It took me some time to overcome my shyness.

What does fame and popularity mean to you now?

It’s a fickle industry, where fame does not last forever, so I do not let it go to my head. My fans love me a lot today, but there may come a day when they won’t. I have no idea how to sustain it, but I will keep working harder to rise up to their expectations. I am young and have the energy to perform amazing roles.

Is there anyone you look up to for artistic inspiration?

I have never followed anyone in life. My main goal was to earn enough money to be secure in life. I wanted to be recognised for my work. Like any middle-class family, I have seen my parents struggle, and I wanted to give them a better life. I remember how my parents were sidelined at family gatherings because my mother couldn’t wear the kind of jewellery others did. She started giving excuses for not attending them. Their pain made me want to give them all the luxuries in life. I am glad that I can do that now.

Karan Johar has co-produced Liger. You also appeared on the latest season of Koffee with Karan. How has your association with the director-producer been?

After Arjun Reddy, Karan had offered me a movie, but I was not ready at that time. When we decided to make Liger, I met him again. He read the script and immediately agreed to back the film. I hope I do not let him down.  

Have you signed any other Bollywood projects?

No, as I am in no hurry. Till now, I was concentrating on Liger, and I already have two projects in hand—Puri Jaggandh’s Jana Gana Mana and Shiva Nirvana’s Kushi.

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