India’s Vijay Varma Talks Berlinale Series Show ‘Dahaad’: ‘There’s a Shroud of Mystery Around My Character’ (EXCLUSIVE)
Acclaimed actor Vijay Varma is one of the leads in “Dahaad” (“Roar”), the first Indian series to compete in the Berlinale Series competition.
Produced by Excel Entertainment and Tiger Baby and directed by Reema Kagti (Amazon’s Prime Video series “Made in Heaven”) and Ruchika Oberoi (Venice winner “Island City”), the series’ other leads are Sonakshi Sinha, Gulshan Devaiah and Sohum Shah.
More from Variety
Disney+ Original 'The Good Mothers' Scoops Berlinale Series Award
Chile's Quijote Films Reteams with El Viaje and Gema Films (EXCLUSIVE)
Argentina's Mil Monos Teams with Pablo Agüero, Nicolás Britos for Dystopian Thriller 'Decibel'
“‘Dahaad’ is about the investigation of a series of crimes conducted by a small town, rookie police officer at a small police station in Rajasthan [western India]. There are these disappearing girls and somehow the young police officer finds a certain similarity between these these disappearances,” Varma told Variety, talking from Berlin. “It’s a slow burn, investigative drama and it’s also very atmospheric and moody and noir-ish.”
About his own character Varma said: “I play a literature professor in a girl’s college, seemingly having a normal, good life. There’s a shroud of mystery around my character, which is something that I would like to maintain right now before the release, but it’s more than what meets the eye and an extremely challenging part for me.”
“Dahaad” marks Varma’s first visit to the Berlin Festival: He couldn’t make it for “Gully Boy.” He is no stranger to playing complex characters that have resonated internationally. He was the lead in Amit Kumar’s 2013 Cannes selection “Monsoon Shootout,” portraying a troubled cop; a Fagin-like drug peddler in 2019 Berlinale selection “Gully Boy”; an Urdu-language teacher in Mira Nair’s BBC and Netflix series “A Suitable Boy” that premiered at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival; and the lead role of a cyber crime detective in Disney+ Hotstar sci-fi comedy series “OK Computer,” which premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam in 2021.
In 2022, Varma starred alongside Alia Bhatt, playing an abusive husband, in Netflix original film “Darlings,” which was one of the most watched non-English language films on the service.
The actor is thankful for the existence of the streamers during the pandemic. “Had the streamers not been there, I don’t know if there would have been any more new creation for two years,” Varma said. “I’ve tasted a bit of the celebration that comes with a theatrical release. And I’ve also experienced the very nuanced, almost deeply personal audience response to a show that comes on their mobile phones and home screen and living rooms. I enjoy both equally. And maybe like a whistle or a clap in a movie hall is reflected as a story or a tweet in the streaming universe. So you get to hear what people are thinking as much as there is a response from the audience. And that is what we work for.”
Varma has completed work on Sujoy Ghosh’s “The Devotion of Suspect X,” Netflix’s Indian adaptation of Japanese author Higashino Keigo’s bestselling 2005 novel, alongside top Bollywood star Kareena Kapoor Khan and Jaideep Ahlawat (Prime Video series “Paatal Lok”)
“It was an interesting casting coup and an opportunity to collaborate with two of the brightest performers on screen with Jaideep Ahlawat and Kareena Kapoor Khan,” Varma said. The film was shot across Darjeeling and Kalimpong, hill towns in northeastern India and Varma describes the film as “very moody.”
Varma is next working with filmmakers Anubhav Sinha and Homi Adajania.
“Dahaad” had its first Berlinale Series screening on Feb. 22 and the next screening is on Feb. 25. While a streamer for the series has not been revealed yet, Excel has a long-standing existing relationship with Prime Video and a multi-year partnership with Netflix. Excel is also exploring a partnership with the Russo Brothers.
Coming up from Tiger Baby and Graphic India is Zoya Akhtar’s Netflix film “The Archies,” co-written by Kagti.
Best of Variety
Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.