Obsessed with thrillers, Vijay Varma discusses drawing a line between playing and sympathising with his serial killer character in his latest release
He loves the genre of thrillers and was eager to play the part of serial killer-teacher Anand Swarnakar in Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti’s Dahaad. But little did Vijay Varma know that getting into the psyche of the character, who killed 29 women with the promise of marriage, would be so tough. “I was scared of the part,” he says, adding, “I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Halfway through [the script], I realised it was going well. So, I finished reading it and got on a call with Reema. She said, ‘If you are interested, let’s cook this together.’ And I was onboard.”
The cast and crew started shooting for the Amazon Prime Video series, directed by Kagti and Ruchika Oberoi, in 2020. Due to the nationwide lockdown, the shoot was stalled for 10 months thereafter. “Even to go back and access this character all over again was a bit of torture, but it was something we all wanted to do. Apart from playing this character, the bond that I had formed with the team and fellow cast members was so special. It was a double-edged experience for me.” While perfecting the look of the character came easy, Varma confesses that he needed help to understand Anand’s mind. “I knew that on the outside he is a simpleton, well-cultured, well-behaved, and leaning towards being an ideal man. [I felt] the commonality of this character could be far more dangerous than making him overtly [dramatic]. When you look at him, you feel there is something off about him, although you can never put a finger on it. I didn’t understand this person. Why would anyone do this? Reema said that he gets a kick out of it. As much as I understood the terminology, I still needed to understand what went on in his mind. What is this kick? I spoke to a psychologist, explained the character and what he was doing. She then gave me clarity on psychopathic tendencies that drive him.”
While some actors are unable to shake the characters off after shooting, others form an alliance and try to look at the character through his eyes. Varma claimed that he drew a clear line, so much so that he “detested Anand Swarnakar”. “I completely judged him and every single action that he took, but I was able to imitate him because that’s what we do as actors. The external factors were relatable, but what was happening in the character’s mind was completely [beyond me]. Therefore, it was dangerous for me to sympathise with my character. I detested the person,” says the actor, crediting the writing team for coming up with what he calls a brilliant script.