Perks of being an actor have made life easier for Vijay Deverakonda, who says he treats acting as a job that he will do till the time there is excitement in it.
The Hyderabad-born actor debuted with the 2011 Telugu film "Nuvvila" and shot to nationwide fame with the 2017 blockbuster "Arjun Reddy".
From Maharashtra, Bihar, Gujarat, Kerala to his home state Telangana, massive crowds turned out to catch a glimpse of Deverakonda during the multi-city tour promotions for his upcoming feature "Liger".
He is pegged as a rising pan-India star, but the 33-year-old is not delusional about his fame.
"I know acting is not going to be forever, I treat it as a job. I love my job and I am mad about acting but I will do it till the time I am excited about it. Having friends and family and a life beyond work is important to me. I keep that very close to me.
"I enjoy the perks of being an actor. I am grateful as it makes life easy. Today if anybody is sick in my family, I can get the best doctor because I am Vijay Deverakonda. This is the best thing that has happened. I am grateful that my career has given me so much," Deverakonda told PTI in an interview here.
The actor said he is yet to wrap his head around the outpour of love and attention from fans across India. Recently, his fan meets in Mumbai and Patna were called off midway due to an uncontrollable crowd.
"I wonder what this fan following is for as I haven't done anything here, I am coming here (in Hindi speaking belt) for the first time and I am not part of this industry.
"It doesn't fully make sense to me. I am not able to grasp it at all. I don't take it to my head. It is good to see so many people and I just hope they come to watch our film," he added.
Written and directed by Puri Jagannadh, "Liger" is a sports action movie that stars Deverakonda in the role of an MMA fighter.
He doesn't take the love of the fans for granted, said the actor.
"They connect to me because I am one of them, I have seen that life and they (fans) have seen my journey... I work hard for them and I'm grateful. The love of the audience gave me motivation to do this film ('Liger'). I want to do great cinema, go all out in my performances, this is the way I can return their love. I don’t take it for granted."
Describing the Telugu-Hindi film as a "masala entertainer", the actor said working on "Liger" reminded him of his old days.
"'Liger' is about a boy with big dreams. He has a fire inside him to prove himself and to the world, he wants respect and wants to be loved. This happens to almost everyone, including me," he added.
The upcoming feature marks his foray into Hindi cinema and Deverakonda said the aim with "Liger" was to reach out to a wider market.
"When I started doing cinema, I would always tell my directors that I want to do it big, like whatever is the biggest or grandest and get most people to watch it. Hindi is a widely spoken language, so it made sense to go big."
Growing up, the actor said he would watch many Hindi films starring Shah Rukh Khan and Akshay Kumar.
While film stars in the south are akin to demigods, Deverakonda said he is yet to witness fan frenzy outside Mannat, Khan's sea facing Bandra home here.
"I haven't seen anything like that happen back home, that level of people coming outside Mannat. That's one surreal level of stardom. There is so much love that people travel from different places and stand outside his house and wait for them to come and wave. It is a beautiful thing," he noted.
He heaped praise on Ranbir Kapoor, calling him "my favourite actor". The actor further said he is looking forward to watching Alia Bhatt-starrer "Gangubai Kathiawadi", directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali.
"I haven't watched 'Gangubai Kathiawadi' yet but I saw the trailer and it is mind blowing. I am looking forward to watching the film. Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Zoya Akhtar are terrific. I like these guys," added Deverakonda.
Post "Arjun Reddy" success, the actor said he had heard many Bollywood scripts but nothing excited him to take the leap.
"Initially, I felt I was not ready (for Bollywood), like immediately after 'Arjun Reddy’. I didn't feel I was ready to do a national cinema. I needed my own journey to get to this point and take on the responsibility of national cinema.
"'Liger' was the first film I was ready as a person, actor and as a script it felt perfectly right to take it to India," he added.
Ananya Panday, Ramya Krishnan, Ronit Roy, and Makarand Deshpande also round out the cast of "Liger", with boxing legend Mike Tyson starring in an extended cameo. It is slated to be released on Thursday.
The film is jointly produced by Jagannadh and Charmme Kaur via Puri Connects and Karan Johar, Apoorva Mehta and Hiroo Yash Johar under Dharma Productions.