Moeen's dignity was a part of the Gully Boy script: Vijay Varma
We catch up with the actor post the release of the Zoya Akhtar-directorial, where he plays the much-admired character of Moeen
Snoop Dogg turns up twice in Gully Boy. First on the back of rapper Tony Sebastian’s t-shirt; and second, in a tribute, Vijay Varma pays to the American legend when he breaks into a hilarious singsong: urging the world to visit Mr. Green "every day." Varma plays Moeen in the film, a close friend of Ranveer Singh’s Murad. A mechanic by day and a carjacker at night, Moeen embodies the spirit of hustling and marginalised existence so essential to life in Dharavi, one of Asia's largest slums and the now epicentre of India’s exploding hip-hop scene.
Excerpts from a conversation with the actor:
I cannot get over the scene where you start rapping in the film.
(Laughs) That scene was not written like that. During rehearsals, it was Ranveer who suggested I should break into a rap. He said, “Mere ko lagta hain Moeen bhai ko idhaar chhott jana chahiye... (I think Moeen bhai should just let go right here)"
It was a conscious choice to keep the rap funny and nonsensical, since Moeen is uneducated and only understands the sound of it. I snuck in the Snoop Dogg tribute in the end. Personally, I am a big hip-hop fan: I have been listening to Eminem since The Real Slim Shady broke out in 2000.
The entire ensemble of Gully Boy, from Siddhant Chaturvedi to the Vijay Raaz, is being praised. How does that make you feel?
If you’ve followed Zoya Akhtar’s filmography, you would remember even the smallest characters from her movies. She doesn’t treat cinema like a one-hero thing. Gully Boy opens with my character walking down the street, not Ranveer’s. It was on paper. She really wanted these characters and this world to come alive. I think such an approach should be the norm.
There’s a muted dignity and self-respect to the character of Moeen, despite the terrible things he does...
The dignity of the character was in the script. The nature of his business, from stealing cars to dealing drugs, is related to the circumstances of his life. It’s just a matter of survival. He too is a hard-working man: he spends all day greased up in the garage. He knows everything about cars and how to unlock them. He wants to hang around these rich college kids, but the only way he can do that is by peddling drugs to them.
There’s a frightening moment when you shout at one of the kids in the garage, who is unwilling to leave. It snaps a sudden life back into the film.
That was improvised. I needed to establish a certain relationship between Moeen and the kids who work for him. I felt it was missing in the story. So before the shoot, I walked up the child actor and told him not to leave at once. Nobody knew I was going to do it. When it happened, Ranveer and Zoya were floored.
You were brilliant in Pink and Monsoon Shootout. Gully Boy has been hailed as your best performance so far. What’s next for you?
I am doing a web series written and produced by Imtiaz Ali. I can speak more about it once the announcement is made. Then there’s Anurag Kashyap’s upcoming production, Bamfaad, directed by his long-time assistant Ranjan Chandel. I have a killer role in that one too.