A conversation with Allu Arjun ahead of the release of Duvvada Jagannatham
Earlier this month, I wondered at the sort of clientele that stay inside the swanky Shangri La Hotel in Bengaluru. I hadn’t actually been inside, more content to dream about what lay within its ivy covered walls and discreet sheen of exclusivity.
Yesterday, I found out, people like Allu Arjun stay at Shangri La. They fly in from Hyderabad, in their designer athleisure, and on trend tote bags, leaving a ‘small’ personal team of six to take care of the luggage. Then, they make the arduous journey into Bangalore. Or what I like to call, the urban jungle.
— SKN – Blockbuster DJ (@SKNonline) June 22, 2017
Arjun was no different from the rest of us common folk, though. It took him quite a long time to get to the press meet venue. Which made him seem almost human. Almost.
But that feeling was promptly laid to rest after a brief glance at Twitter.
This Allu Arjun, no? He does everything right.
He opens doors for his colleague, Pooja Hegde. He takes his little brother, Allu Sirish, along for a trip to Bangalore.
He thanks the US Consulate for giving him a visa.
He opens his car window to wave at fans. Never mind the rain.
A reporter waiting for the Arjun press meet to begin, said:
“If he was really smart, he’d have come here by train, got off at Cantonment and taken a Rs 30 auto to Shangri La.”
Ok, not so perfect.
But all that didn’t matter to the considerable number of female fans waiting outside to catch a glimse of Arjun. You’d think Justin Bieber had crashed the party, from the amount of squealing they did as soon as they saw Arjun’s car.
— SKN – Blockbuster DJ (@SKNonline) June 22, 2017
Again, an hour or so later, in a sleek suit, Arjun was ready to meet the press.
He started off by being the Hogwarts prefect everyone knew he was.
“Let’s all stand a minute of silence for Shri Rajkumar and his family.”
What followed though, was half an hour worth of platitudes and things everybody already knew about his then upcoming release, Duvvada Jagannatham.
But thanks to the PR gods, Allu Arjun was available for a short conversation.
“What I am most excited about is for my fans to see DJ. He is very relevant to today’s times,” Arjun says, as he settles down for our brief interview.
His suit is neatly pressed, his hair combed in the sort of style millennials seem to favour these days. He’s the stylish star to his legions of fans, known for his acting skills and lean mean action machine stunts.
It must be a tough balancing act.
“Not really,” Allu Arjun says.
“I’m sure I didn’t always look like this. Even now, I don’t always look like this. I started out in shirts too big for me, and suits that were ill fitting. Now though, I make a conscious effort to be the best I can be. I choose to be a canvas, a perfect canvas for my fans. I wear clothes that reflect my attitude towards life. It’s never a tough thing to do, when you choose to be the best version of yourself.”
“Sometimes, it does get tiring to live up to a certain standard that you have set. I don’t believe in an image per se, because whoever I am, I reflect onscreen as well. All my roles are just variations of my character, so there’s usually no need to go above and beyond. But, there are times when I feel down, that I need to make an effort to be better. Otherwise, I am always me.”
Sometimes, Arjun sounds like a youth camp counsellor. Sane, steady and ever ready with a platitude to soothe away your existential life crises.
“Life has taught me many things. Even though my dad is a successful producer, that didn’t necessarily guarantee my success in films. What I am now I owe to my fans. They are nameless, they are numberless. But, they have brought me to the position I am now. I take nothing for granted. You shouldn’t too.”
“I just think, that in today’s time and age, young people need to be getting more involved in the society. We should all collectively turn off our smartphones and engage with each other. That way, we can solve a lot of problems. A lot of us get tired registering our disapproval and defiance on social media. But that’s not going to do anything. We need to be proactive on the ground level,” Arjun says.
But, isn’t being a vigilante pushing things a little? “Social work is necessary. Social engagement is necessary. Each person needs to choose their own path. Some are social media warriors. Others are social warriors. To each their own.”
Arjun is used to sidestepping such intricate questions. Which explains the ease with which he launches into a practiced speech about his film.
I ask him instead about the many issues surrounding the depiction of the Brahmin community in the film.
“We have been very sensitive about depictions in this film. We have walked a tightrope, I think. But, that’s all for a good cause. Filmmakers and artists need to be able to experiment with thoughts and ideas. A Brahmin filmmaker need not necessarily do only films related to his community. Is there a law that says so?”
“But, I have to say, We’ve been very accommodating about our content. We have reviewed any and all things that could prove offensive to the Brahmin community. There’s satire and there’s real offense. I’ve been careful to tread the former line, and not the latter, that much I’m sure of.”
What about misrepresentations?
“Granted, yes, a person might feel more comfortable talking about the life experiences and lessons he/she learnt growing up. But, such is not always the case. Everyone is empowered to create their own version of reality, and things as they see it. That right should not be snatched away from them, is my opinion.”
Arjun, and many of his Telugu film industry colleagues, have been accused of side-lining their female costars in films. “I’m sure this is true of every commercial film and not just Telugu cinema. It is not that actresses are side-lined. We only do what the script demands, and nothing else. Everybody has their own part to play.”
And with that, Arjun signals an end to our brief chat. His car arrives. He opens the door for his co-star, and with his little brother by his side, zooms off to the airport.
The Allu Arjun interview is a Silverscreen exclusive.