Gully Boy's Vijay Varma makes Netflix crime thriller 'She' worth a watch

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Vijay Varma plays a key role in the Imtiaz Ali created Netflix crime drama series which is currently available on the streaming service

By Michael Gomes

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Published: Sun 29 Mar 2020, 8:48 PM

Last updated: Mon 30 Mar 2020, 1:45 PM

The lockdown in India has brought work in Bollywood to a standstill, but there's plenty to do at home, says Vijay Varma, who plays a key role in the Imtiaz Ali created Netflix crime drama series, She, which is currently screening on the streaming service.

"The lockdown due to COVID-19 has greatly affected us. Shooting has been completely stopped. We're (the fraternity) all isolating ourselves and maintaining a safe distance from each other. But there's so much to do at home, like cleaning, cooking etc., and that leaves us little time to indulge in anything else. However, it's a great time for people to slow down and get to do things they didn't have time for. The good thing is everyone is using this self-isolation time to reflect and spread positivity," said the actor to City Times.

Varma got his first big break as Ranveer Singh's crony and the bad guy Moeen in Gully Boy. Now, he's reinforcing his position as a baddie in She. The role is winning him much appreciation from critics and fans. "I guess I am being stereotyped (into the bad guy). But I don't mind it at all. Actually, there aren't many bad guys around (in Bollywood), so I'm only happy to own the territory," he says.

In She, Varma plays Sasya, a narcotics dealer who is also a pervert. He embarks on a complex relationship with Aaditi Pohankar's character, Bhumika Pardesi, a timid undercover female cop. Though people loved him as Sasya, Varma feels conflicted about the reception.
"Honestly I'm quite surprised how people overlooked the fact that I'm a bad guy in the series. I fail to understand how a character, so diabolic in nature, is getting so much love from the audience. But I guess, the world has people like Sasya, therefore I don't look out of place. I'm happy with the response, it's been amazing particularly because She has been trending at the number one spot in India, especially during these difficult times. I hope people in the UAE are also liking it."

She is a woman-centric show and Pohankar, who plays the lead, is a very powerful actor, but Varma was not perturbed by the fact that he is playing second fiddle. "I was well aware about the story, I knew it would revolve around Aaditi and that I would be playing a catalyst. This was explained to me and I was up for it. Nevertheless, Aaditi and I shared an incredible relationship on set. We attended workshops together and were prepared for our parts. We also spent more time together to get to know each other well, therefore, we shared a certain level of comfort, and we had a lot of respect and appreciation for each other."
Varma has several intimate scenes in She, so how did he tackle them? "Aaditi and I were very comfortable with our roles. Imtiaz (Ali) conducted workshops with us before the filming. We shot the sensitive portions, without any inhibitions. Both of us used to hype each other up and then go all out to give our best on set. We made peace with the fact that we had to do such (sensitive) scenes. The emotional impact of doing such scenes hit you, but you kind of manage to shake it off. It can be very humiliating at times as you have to enact the scenes in front of 4-5 people, but we were working in a closed set. Generally, Sasya is a person who doesn't much care about anyone's feelings. But me as Vijay, I did care, so I had to get over that and then get into the skin of my character. I tried to be Sasya all the time on set, but sometimes it would get too much. During such times, I would take a break, and then return to my character."
Imtiaz gave Varma ample freedom with his role. "He would tell me to understand the character properly, only then could I do justice to the role. I would do my homework by studying Sasya's body language, understand his dominant sexual nature and many other character aspects. What you see on screen is a manifestation of what we had worked out during our workshops (with Imtiaz). So when we shot the scenes, we were well prepared. In fact, I was ready to shoot much before the shooting commenced."
Varma is a product of the prestigious The Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune, but getting a break in the industry wasn't easy. "I've always nurtured a dream to become an actor, but hid it from everybody. I came to Mumbai, after completing my studies in FTII. I did many odd jobs before getting a break in the industry. Getting into movies was a difficult and a painful process. I didn't have any godfathers in the industry, but I had learnt acting at FTII, and education was my godfather. It took time to get known in movie circles, but in my case, somehow word got around the casting community that I'd given some good auditions, so one thing led to another and then I got a break in Chittagong, but even after working in a few films, I was still and unknown face until Gully Boy happened. Actually, I had two releases in 2017, including one in Telugu, but I didn't want to venture South, so I decided to do Gully Boy. Even though I had everything to the film, I was cynical. I wasn't sure about my fate in the film. But as luck would have it, everything worked in my favour," the actor said.

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