Vijay Varma on being a part of A Suitable Boy: Actors flourish on a Mira Nair set
After wrapping up the shoot of BBC's show A Suitable Boy, Vijay Varma on the experience of collaborating with Mira Nair.
One would imagine him to be euphoric after earning a place among the cast of A Suitable Boy, an official adaptation of Vikram Seth's bestselling novel and easily among the most ambitious projects of the year. Especially so since it is helmed by one of the finest talents the country has witnessed, Mira Nair. But Vijay Varma voices the apprehension that every actor probably feels before reporting to a set, when he says, "Initially, I was so scared of doing A Suitable Boy.
Two months of a marathon shoot in Lucknow later, the actor — who plays Rasheed in the six-part BBC series — looks back at it as the "most poignant experience of my career so far". "When one walks onto a Mira Nair set, you are expected to flourish. She is a task master who expects everyone to bring on their A-game."
In an earlier interview, Varma had revealed that he had to learn Urdu for the show. Broach the subject, and he explains that there was a lot more to do than merely prepare for the character. "This set was a master class; the expectation was to excel and not just exist. We went for yoga classes, workshops, dialect coaching and meditation. A lot of actors had dance classes too. There was no scope for slacking. She taught me the value of preparing for a day's work, instead of solely relying on my expertise and experience. I was juggling between Baaghi 3 and this project, and you can imagine how diametrically opposite these worlds are."
Varma grabbed the spotlight with his role in Gully Boy helmed by Zoya Akhtar, who is, interestingly, a protégé of Nair. The actor shares, "Very few directors have so much clarity of thought. On that count, Zo and Mira are uncannily similar. After every good shot, Zo does another take, saying, 'This one is for love'. Mira does the same. When she did it the first time, I told her that Zoya does it too. She wickedly laughed and said, 'Yeah, she learnt that from me.'"
In the period piece that also features Tabu and Tanya Maniktala, he plays an aide and confidante to Ishaan Khatter's Maan Kapoor, as they explore the religious differences and dynamics of '50s India. He is all praise for his young co-star, "Ishaan reached out to me post Gully Boy and we met socially thereafter. He is a curious, enthusiastic young actor who keenly observes the craft of filmmaking."
Over the past month, Varma — along with the team of A Suitable Boy — had been rallying for the release of co-star Sadaf Jafar, who was arrested from the anti-CAA protests in Lucknow. She was let out on bail last week. "We were in touch with Sadaf's family to get updates. We were concerned about her, [especially since she suffered] internal bleeding [in jail]. Mira spoke to important people, the press and we were told that there were major roadblocks in her release. Her bail has come as a sigh of relief for us. She is finally home with her kids!"
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