Actor Anand Deverakonda discusses his new Telugu comedy ‘Pushpaka Vimanam’, and opens up on dealing with trolling in the initial phase of his career
Actor Anand Deverakonda is a tad nervous ahead of the theatrical release of his new Telugu comedy thriller, Pushpaka Vimanam, on November 12. His previous film, Middle Class Melodies, was a roaring hit, going by the warm response it received after its direct digital release during the pandemic. But a theatrical release is a different beast altogether.
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While returning to Hyderabad after promotions in Guntur and Vizag, Anand found himself asking the director (debutant Damodar) and others if the film would work at the box office: “Having worked so closely with the project, I find it tough to be objective and gauge how people will receive it,” he says.
Pushpaka Vimanam was offered to him soon after his debut film Dorasani (2019). Anand was enthused by the journey of the protagonist, a school teacher at a government school, who holds romantic notions about marriage, and is shattered when his wife elopes: “He believes that marriage is a beautiful institution. To deal with nosy colleagues and society, he puts up a charade to make people believe that he is indeed leading a happy married life.”
The title harks back to director Singeetam Srinivasa Rao’s 1987 silent dark comedy Pushpaka Vimana, starring Kamal Haasan and Amala Akkineni. “Damodar approached Singeetam sir to inform him about the title. In that film, the title was a metaphor for Kamal Haasan’s dream of a life of luxury. The tangible reference came from a hotel named Pushpak. In our film, the title is a metaphor for my character’s journey in marriage. Incidentally, a travel agency is named Pushpak in the film.”
Anand Deverakonda and Geeth Saini in ‘Pushpaka Vimanam’
The fictional story came up after the director chanced upon several news clippings of marriages falling apart. He wrote a comedy and narrated it to someone, only to learn that some of the incidents in the story had occurred in the life of the listener. The comedy progresses into a thriller, unravelling the mystery of the missing wife. “My character, Sundar, is going through a depressing situation but his predicament leads to comedy,” says Anand, adding, “He is an introvert and is always neatly groomed and believes that teachers should command respect in society.”
When Anand was first offered the part, he went through a look test to see if he would fit the part. Taken in by the story, his brother and actor Vijay Deverakonda’s production house, King of the Hill Entertainment, decided to produce. “My dad (Govardhan Rao) and the executive producer took a chunk of the production responsibilities and I had ample time to focus on my work. Only much later I got involved in the marketing aspects,” adds Anand.
All three of Anand’s films so far have been directed by newcomers and he says candidly that experienced directors did not approach him thus far. However, his next few films are to be directed by established filmmakers — Sai Rajesh and K V Guhan, among others.
Middle Class Melodies was a confidence booster for Anand, who was disappointed with the dismal box office reception to his debut film Dorasani. There were times when he wondered if he had made the right decision by giving up a corporate career only to get trolled on social media during his launch: “Vijay had warned me early on that a career in cinema will be challenging and I shouldn’t think of going back to corporate life. It slowly dawned on me that when established personalities aren’t spared of trolling, it is bound to happen to me. During the pre-production workshop for Middle Class Melodies, there was a phase when I was sceptical. I then decided to go ahead and enjoy my opportunity to become a better actor.”
Anand trained in theatre with the Sutradhar group led by Vinay Verma and shared space with him in Dorasani. Varma’s encouraging words spurred him to continue his acting journey: “I was proactive in extra curricular activities in school. That and theatre helped me become an actor. I have tried doing my best in Pushpaka Vimanam and I hope the audience also relates to the emotions we showcase on screen,” he says.
Like in Middle Class Melodies, Anand states that Pushpaka Vimanam will also benefit from an able supporting cast: “Recently in Guntur, when college students cheered at the very mention of Middle Class Melodies, I was touched by how a simple and non-massy film endeared to everyone. I hope we can pull it off this time as well.”