I meet Dhruv Vikram in a star hotel. He was winding up for the day, after a bunch of interviews. I was told by the actor’s manager not to ask questions about Varmaa—Bala’s version of Arjun Reddy—which was dropped. Nodding my head, I enter the room. “I am relieved I can speak in English finally,” Dhruv says and greets me with a warm smile. The 24-year-old speaks in English quite fast, but his Tamil reveals he is a quintessential Chennai boy.
Dhruv Vikram talks about life after Adithya Varma and being a star kid, among other things. The actor brings in a lot of promise with his good looks and easy confidence. He is raring to go.
Excerpts from the conversation:
Considering the kind of reviews both Arjun Reddy and Kabir Singh garnered, why did you pick a remake as your debut venture? Wasn’t that a risk?
Arjun Reddy happened to Telugu cinema and brought about a change in the way characters are written. Shouldering a remake can be tricky, yes, but the role is all that matters. Of course, I was told, ‘be careful’. But there was a lot of acting potential. First of all, the producers approached me with this script, and I feel blessed with whatever I have done. I saw Adithya Varma through my father’s eyes. The challenge was to make everyone realise that I am no Vijay Deverakonda, but Adithya Varma.
I am sure you would have watched Arjun Reddy. Do you think it wasn’t problematic?
Who am I to categorise what’s right and wrong? If someone is doing a villain role, would you still ask the same question? It’s the character, right? I understand the protagonist has anger management issues. Arjun Reddy had a lot of heart and went on to become a rage because of its rawness and originality. I think we should see films as films, and not read much into how a character behaves. We wanted to remain loyal to the essence of Arjun Reddy. The environment on the sets of Adithya Varma was always friendly and creative where the actors worked to make each other’s performance better. Adithya is impulsive. He stands up for what he thinks is right, even if the whole world is against him. I would have watched Arjun Reddy at least 200 times, but no two actors approach things the same way. I kept revisiting select scenes every night. Subconsciously, it helped and that’s the only way I knew to internalise the protagonist. I made sure I did it my way. My intention was never to imitate Vijay Deverakonda.
How did you enjoy the process?
I was trying to understand the beats of the film without replicating the original. I watched Arjun Reddy those many times to find my way to execute things in a different style. I must understand what was the character going through. The first time I saw Arjun Reddy, I didn’t have the Adithya Varma script in hand. But I had a vague idea about what I was going to do. For certain scenes, I placed myself in a given situation and reacted to it. I made a rough sketch in mind because there are multiple ways to approach a character. Since Adithya Varma was my debut film, I had to put myself into the character’s shoes. Adithya doesn’t shy away in expressing all his emotions and vulnerabilities. He’s this real alpha male character.
Why did you think Arjun Reddy worked?
Maybe, people saw bits of themselves in the character. (Sighs)
What are your thoughts on the Adithya Varma-Meera relationship?
I don’t want to make any statement, but there are minor changes made here and there. Hey, if Meera didn’t want any of those things, she could have clearly said a ‘no’. Having said this, I want to credit Banita Sandhu for the amount of hard work she put and nuances she brought to the role. Her energy levels helped me play the character with focus.
Your father has been involved in Adithya Varma from scratch. What’s his feedback?
I love to talk and I get excited when someone asks questions about Adithya Varma. But dad insists that I say appropriate things to journalists. I am learning, after all. Also, he tells me not to talk about things that I don’t know. I understand I am in a responsible space. Every day, he used to brief me about the dos and don’ts. Otherwise, dad is a prankster. He loves pulling my leg on the stage. Sometimes, I do get annoyed when he keeps saying the same thing. But, I understand where it comes from. He loves me so much and wants me to give the best. I am sure he would have done a terrific job if he were Adithya Varma. He’s not only a method actor but transforms himself into any role effortlessly. I can never be as good as him.
Who is cooler—you or your dad?
I am a huge fan of his. Right now, I think my dad is cooler because I am stressed out. (Laughs) As an admirer of his work, I am happy that he has impacted the lives of many. My dad is extremely humble and doesn’t often take credit for the work he does. He’s an amazing person. I developed a passion for cinema only after seeing his films—Anniyan, Pithamagan, Ravanan, Dhool, Gemini. I have no qualms in admitting that whatever I am today is because of him. He was the one to put me in The Lee Strasberg Institute in New York. I had a wonderful exposure there studying filmmaking, and it changed my perception towards acting. I became more confident as a person, sans camera fear. He is happy to see me where I am.
Your dad takes reviews seriously. How about you?
Sometimes, critics can say demotivating stuff, but I am up for constructive criticism. (Laughs)
Is the pressure too much to handle?
Being a star kid, you mean? Instead of the pressure, I see overwhelming support and love. I wish my dad had someone like the way he’s there for me today.
All eyes are on you. So, what’s next?
No matter who you are, you have to prove yourself every time. I want to be remembered eventually for who I am. It’s going to be challenging. Further, I want to do films I can relate to.