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Interview: Meet Vijay Varma, the chauvinistic Ankit from Pink

The unheralded actor revealed how shows like Splitsvilla and Roadies helped him get into the skin of his character in Pink.

Mayur Lookhar

A 'Pink' revolution has begun in the country. Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury’s hard-hitting socio-courtroom drama Pink has earned praises from all quarters, some describing it as the feminist film that Indian cinema needed. Amitabh Bachchan and the leading ladies of Pink — Taapsee Pannu, Kirti Kulhari and Andrea Tariang — have walked away with all the laurels, but let’s not forget the efforts of the antagonist. After all, there can be no hero without a villain.

While there was no dearth of antagonists in the film, one character who drew the wrath of the audiences was Ankit Malhotra. Ankit, the chauvinistic, hot-headed aide of Rajveer (Angad Bedi), threatens the girls and their landlord. This dark character is played by unheralded actor Vijay Varma.

In a chat with Cinestaan.com, Varma seemed quite upbeat about his character.

“I just think it is a fabulous time to be an actor. Earlier, you could spend a lifetime playing stereotypical characters. Today people have easy access to a camera, where they can display the various facets to them. Even Dubsmash has become an easy tool to express yourself.”

Dark characters evoke anger and hatred, but also command respect from the audiences.

“Known or unknown, most people have said that they’ve hated me, but added that I’ve done a good job in Pink. Just instigating and provoking such hatred in the audiences' minds was a sign that this guy was doing something interesting,” Varma said cheekily.

Ironically, Varma was born and raised in Hyderabad, before shifting to Pune and finally Mumbai. For a Rajasthani raised in the southern city of Hyderabad, Varma has done a remarkable job of mastering the Delhi accent.

Elaborating on the preparations for this role as Ankit, the actor said, "I sat down with a Punjabi friend from Film & Television Institute of India (FTII). Besides, the key to preparations was to understand the terminology used by the people of Delhi, and the emphasis they put on certain words. Besides, I’d seen Dibakar Banerjee films like Khosla Ka Ghosla, Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!. Then there was Shoojit Sircar’s Vicky Donor. Tigmanshu Dhulia had once told me that today’s actors are born by watching, learning films, but don’t learn from life. So, I cut down on my intake of films. However, I did watch typical shady, chauvinistic characters in shows like Splitsvilla and Roadies. I’d seen the Delhi, Chandigarh auditions of these shows. I watched Splitsvilla to understand how these boys treated women badly.”

Interestingly, Varma thought he hadn't given his best shot at the auditions, but was pleasantly surprised to know he had cleared it.

“I might have only given 30-40 per cent of my effort during the auditions. I was shocked to be selected and was left with no option but to go for it. My closest friends, especially women, could not believe that I could play a chauvinist. But you see, this chauvinism exists in our subconscious mind. Male supremacy comes naturally to us. There’s always a devil lurking in the subconscious,” Varma opined.

Pink is hailed by some as the feminist film that Hindi cinema needed, but perhaps, it would be unfair to label Pink a feminist film.  

“The word (feminism) has been really abused. Feminism is a fight for equality. However, aren’t we we equal already? We are sharing the same planet. I have come from the womb of a woman, and tomorrow I will eventually need a woman to create another life. The whole fight for equality is itself defeating for women... Our parenting hasn’t been great where we haven’t treated our women well. Chauvinism isn’t limited to men alone, as seen from the film, it also exposes women chauvinism — like the character of Sarla Premchand,” Varma added.

While Pink is a fine film, the legal eagles would perhaps mock at lawyer Deepak Sehgal (Amitabh Bachchan) defending the three girls on moralistic grounds, which may be far from reality. Varma agrees partly. “Well, the limited evidence available coupled with the various biased beliefs, prejudices make it an evidence. Perhaps, that was ridiculous. However, the director has very tactfully tried this case in a sessions court. While the guilty are convicted, we don’t disclose their sentences. They’ve left room for the guilty to apply in a higher court.”

Speaking about unconventional actors being confined to playing character roles, Varma said, “I feel more than looks, it is nepotism. If I was a star kid, then perhaps, I would have been packaged and positioned in a certain away, where people would start believing that I can play certain parts. But we can’t choose our parents. I’ve seen models who ended no where in films. I believe I have an interesting presence on the screen. I’m only keen on doing good work. You won’t find me doing television. After watching Piku, I’d wished to work with Shoojit Sircar someday. Similarly, I longed to work with Tigmanshu Dhulia after watching Paan Singh Tomar. Be it in any capacity, these wishes are coming true. I’m happy to share my life with these directors during the course of my films,” said Varma.