Constantly being on the move seems to be at the heart of this Bollywood star. Born in Hyderabad, graduated from Pune, but shot to fame thanks to Mumbai’s gully,Vijay Varma tells us about his travelling tales. By Bayar Jain
You’ve lived in Hyderabad, Mumbai, and Pune. Which is your favourite city and why?
I can’t choose only one because they were all so instrumental in shaping me. Hyderabad is my janmabhoomi (birthplace), Mumbai is karmabhoomi (workplace), and Pune gave me education (shiksha). However, I loved the old-world charm and laid-back attitude of Hyderabad, the incredible humour of the people and their peculiar dialect. It’s also a great place for food. It has the perfect mix of Mughlai food and South Indian cuisine. Pune is where my family is. The city has been irreplaceable for me, and will always remain my home.
While you were studying at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune, what were some of the city’s gems you discovered?
Oh, there were several! First of all, the campus of FTII. It is a must-visit old studio and film school. Apart from that, there is Hanuman Tekri and Sinhagad fort. While in college, there was an area called Deccan where we used to hang out a lot. I even loved the lanes and bylanes of Koregaon Park. There is even midnight poha and chai at the Nul bus stop near the FTII campus. It’s the best poha in the world!
You’re constantly on the move for various shoots. Any international city that you love revisiting every chance you get?
I haven’t revisited any yet, but I’ve been wanting to go back to Florence again for a long time. It is the most beautiful old town I’ve ever been to. I also can’t wait to go visit New York City again.
Any city which you think has inspired your work?
Mumbai. It has been my biggest inspiration and has also given some of the biggest hardships. I learnt a great deal about the movie-making business here and even gathered enough experience to paint lots of shades of varying emotions. It’s a city which never sleeps and never lets you sleep either.
You starred in the series titled Cheers – Friends. Reunion. Goa, which revolved around four friends uniting in the beach city. What are some of your fondest Goa memories?
The best memories of Goa come from 2006 to 2008, when I would visit the city as a film student with the entire FTII batch. There, we would take over INOX theatre and watch movies all day, and then party all night. We would rent bikes and paint the town red.
You were closely involved with the streets – or gullys – of Mumbai while shooting for Gully Boy. Any lessons you took away with you from your time there?
Lots! It’s a common notion that, while shooting for Gully Boy in Dharavi, it must have been very difficult. In reality, it was a smooth ride! The people of Dharavi are least interested in you and your shooting; they already have lots to do in their own life. A very hardworking, respectful and dignified bunch of people live there. I learnt that if Dharavi stops working for one day, Mumbai will face a shortage of many daily needs and supplies. Shooting there taught me dignity in labour.
Beach or mountains – your preferred holiday destination and why?
Always mountains! I feel there’s a lot of mystique and adventure whenever I look at the mountains. They’ve stood here for centuries and carry incredible healing energies. I love trees and greens, and they can be found in abundance in the mountains. I enjoy losing myself on the pagdandiyaan (small mountain trails or paths) and discovering new trails.
If you were stranded on an island, who is that one person you would take with you (dead, or alive)?
Madhubala. She is the epitome of beauty and grace. And that voice! Would love to hear her stories.
Your dream destination?
Iceland. I should be visiting it soon.
Five things you carry with you for each of your vacations?
Phone with a great camera and music; good coffee; hats, scarfs and boots; credit cards; and an extra bag.