'Adithya Varma will not get as much backlash as Kabir Singh did'
Tamil superstar Vikram's son, Dhruv Vikram, talks about his debut film, Adithya Varma, alongside Banita Sandhu and Priya Anand
"Don't let success go to your head; Don't let failure go to your heart," this is the advice Tamil superstar Vikram imparted to his son Dhruv who is all set to make his debut in the Tamil film industry with Adithya Varma, the remake of the well known Telugu film Arjun Reddy.
Bollywood recently saw its own version of the original with Shahid Kapoor and Kiara Advani in Kabir Singh.
Dhruv Vikram and Banita Sandhu who play the protagonists in the Tamil remake were joined by Priya Anand, who plays an "extended cameo" in the film as they stopped by the Khaleej Times office to have a fun and refreshing chat with the City Times team about Adithya Varma releasing in UAE theatres on November 21.
While the plot remains the same as its previous counterparts which looks at a successful young medical surgeon who sets out on a path of self-destruction after the love of his life is forced to marry another man, Dhruv says Adithya Varma focuses less on the main character, and more on the people around him. "The focus is a little bit off Adithya Varma in this film and (it's about) everyone around him and what his actions are doing to his relationships and the people in his life."
October actress Banita, starring opposite Dhruv in the lead, says what truly stands out in their take on the original is the chemistry she shares with her co-star. "I think one thing that makes it different is our pairing, I think our chemistry is very different from the original. We have a younger energy because we are actually the age of college students so I guess that just brings a different vibe to the film."
Priya seconds this by saying, "I think there's a lot of freshness in this movie and it's a very realistic and almost voyeuristic version of the movie."
Love is love is love
Adithya Varma is a love story at its core. But one that is hard to digest at times thanks to the toxic masculinity, anger issues, substance abuse and other vices director Sandeep Vanga showcased in the original Arjun Reddy of 2017. Dhruv admits that remakes are always risky. "... because there's always comparison. When you watch someone perform a role, it's always a little hard to go into the theatre with an open mind and watch someone else do it. Before I went into the film, it was scary. It's very intimidating when you have to do a remake especially of a film that's a cult and is a huge hit with Shahid Kapoor in it. That was challenging but otherwise it was a very exciting process and it was lovely to be a part of the film."
Soon after Kabir Singh released people were quick to pick up on the controversial nature of the lead pair's relationship. Will Adithya Varma face such criticism? "In terms of the criticism Kabir Singh has received, I don't think we'll face that much backlash because you will see that our relationship in this film is a little different. Not in a very obvious way but it's a subconscious thing."
Banita adds that the changes they worked on makes their film slightly different from Arjun Reddy. She explains how she tried to make her character more nuanced than the subdued Preeti we see in the original. "I'd watched it (Arjun Reddy) a couple of times and there were some things that as a woman I had issues with but I feel very fortunate that I was working with a team who not only listened to me but took on board what I had to say. Vikram sir and I sat down and said that we wanted to give Meera, my character, more autonomy and more agency within the film. And we did that through nuanced ways, we didn't want to deviate too far from the original cult quality of Arjun Reddy. We wanted to maintain that passion and that sincerity but also make it more relatable so women feel more comfortable when they watch this film. That was very important to me."
Dhruv's rise to stardom
He grew up dreaming about one day entering the film industry and becoming a big shot like his dad. While studying at The Lee Strasberg Institute in New York Dhruv got a call from his famous father that changed the course of his life. Vikram pitched the idea of Adithya Varma to Dhruv and the rest, like they say, is history.
"My dad really loved the concept of Arjun Reddy and thought it was a great launchpad, so he gave me that opportunity."
What kind of roles is he looking for now? "I don't want to do anything that's like me. I don't want to do anything that's typecast. My dream has always been to play a character like the Joker! That's always been something that I want to do, not necessarily that... but something along those lines. Something that is different from who I am and with a lot of layers."
Glorifying the bad?
Speaking of Joker, critics have argued that the movie glorifies bad deeds and romanticises the idea of a brooding young fellow, setting a bad example for the youth.
Banita agrees that there's always that fear of glorifying deviant behaviour. "Cinema is a means of storytelling and there's a difference between narrating something and telling a story, and romantisicing and glorifying it. And there's a very fine line between the two and we only have so much control as actors with our performance and we just hope that the direction team and editors have managed not to cross that line and make it unhealthy and toxic."
Dhruv adds to the conversation about the unhealthy relationship portrayed in the film by admitting, "It definitely is a relationship that at some point in the film seems like it's not a good idea for both of them, he should have moved on instead of having to deal with a situation like that or she should have maybe realised that this was going too far. There are so many different things but they are in love at the end of the day. So they are willing to go to any extent which is why at some points you feel like, 'why are these two people even together?' but only THEY would understand. So it's a different narrative, it's two different characters. It's not a regular love story. So that's what made it interesting. That made it different and challenging, authentic and organic."
For those who have seen Arjun Reddy or Kabir Singh, the cast assures that they're bringing a younger vibe to the screen due to the chemistry between Banita and Dhruv. As the movie's producer Mukesh Mehta put it to us, what makes Adithya Varma stand apart from the other two movies is "the presence of Dhruv Vikram!"
Whether that would be enough to draw in the audience to the theatres this weekend to watch superstar Vikram's son's debut, remains to be seen. But judging from our delightful conversation with the star son, we are on board!