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Anand Deverakonda: ‘I haven’t done anything heroic so far’

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Discussing his new Telugu film ‘Middle Class Melodies’, actor Anand Deverakonda talks about selecting the guy next door roles as opposed to the heroic ones

A striking aspect of actor Anand Deverakonda is his candidness. He is confident about his work and also acutely aware that he is yet to make a name for himself. After debuting in the Telugu period drama Dorasani (2019), he’s looking forward to his second film Middle Class Melodies (MCM), directed by Vinod Anantoju, which will stream on Amazon Prime Video on November 20.

Reading List

  • Anand is an avid reader and here are a few of his recent picks:
  • Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom; Conversations with Mani Ratnam by Baradwaj Rangan; Shoe Dog: A memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight and The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons learned from 15 years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company by Robert Iger

In MCM, he plays Raghava who hails from Kolakaluru near Tenali in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh, and dreams of opening a tiffin centre of his own in Guntur. His USP — the ability to whip up delicious ‘Bambai chutney’. “We filmed in Kolakaluru and nearby areas. The director Vinod and writer Janardhan Pasumarthi are from this region. Vinod told me that during his college days, he used to frequent a tiffin centre that was known for its ‘Bambai chutney’,” says Anand.

The story developed from Vinod’s observations of a family that ran a tiffin centre; neighbours could often overhear the father chiding the son. The trailer of MCM reflects this tug of war. Talking about the film’s story about middle class aspirations, struggles and familial bonds, Anand says, “We have been getting amazing reactions for the trailer and I can promise that the film will be a lot more fun and endearing.”

Anand heard the story while he was filming Dorasani and took it up, knowing the universal appeal of an underdog story. However, he vouches that MCM is much more than his character’s journey and success as an entrepreneur: “Varsha Bollamma’s character and the supporting cast have a lot of prominence. There’s the character of a friend who staunchly believes in jatakalu (horoscopes) for his romance. Such scripts and directors don’t come along often. Vinod is fond of Jandhyala and Bapu movies. MCM is also reminiscent of movies done by Rajendra Prasad in the 80s and 90s. We haven’t had such films about the middle class, with humour and wit, of late.”

Anand, like his brother Vijay Deverakonda, speaks the Hyderabadi Telangana dialect fluently and learnt the Guntur dialect for MCM. He picked up the nuances conversing with Vinod, Janardhan and supporting actors who hail from the region, he explains: “The Guntur dialect is more neutral, unlike say the Kakinada or Srikakulam dialects. There are a few colloquial slurs and phrases that one has to pay attention to.”

Anand Deverakonda in the film

The shooting was completed in December 2019 and the post production nearly wound up in March. The pandemic necessitated a digital release and Anand is waiting to see how the film will be received by both Telugu speaking and non-Telugu speaking viewers: “If it works, it will help more people know that there’s an actor called Anand and he can do good work; the same goes for Vinod, Varsha and everyone in the team. That exposure will help us in our next projects.”

In his next Telugu film tentatively titled Pushpaka Vimanam, Anand plays a bespectacled government school teacher: “I’ve been selecting films where I haven’t had to do anything heroic, so far,” he says.

The comparisons with his brother will always be there, more so given the similarity in their voices: “If I make a telephonic call to one of my cousins and introduce myself as Vijay, they believe it. We sound that similar; I can’t change my voice but I can work on my diction to sound different.”

Anand did his masters in technology management from Urbana-Champaign, University of Illinois, and worked with a multinational firm in Chicago, USA. Given that their father Govardhan Rao Deverakonda had worked in the television industry, the brothers were familiar with the entertainment world: “Vijay was more outgoing and keen to make it as an actor; I wasn’t sure if I could do it. Like many Telugu kids, I went to the US to study and work to stabilise the family financially,” shares Anand.

When he returned to India after Vijay had established himself, Anand had a few options: “I could work for our family’s production house King of the Hills, Vijay’s clothing start-up Rowdy Wear, pursue theatre which I had done before, and of course, I could approach a producer or director and ask for opportunities in cinema.” His LinkedIn profile is still intact and he laughs, “It feels like I am pursuing an alternative career with cinema.”

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