From a ‘Badrinath Ki Dulhania’ and a ‘Judwaa 2’ to a ‘Sui Dhaga’ and an ‘October’; Varun Dhawan has been not only making the right equilibrium, but is on a spree to reinvent himself as a performer too. He sat down for a candid conversation with the press, and gave away pretty much!
‘October’ is quite different than your previous films…
It is! But when you work with Shoojit Sircar, you know you’re with a great captain.
We heard you had to work on yourself quite a lot. Has it been a challenging experience?
With Shoojit da, you really have to forget that you’re a star. Otherwise, he gives you hell lot of love! Not just me, but to everyone, right from the cameraman to the staff. He’d always greet you with a smile and his voice would never raise.
The first thing he did to me was to lower my voice. He’d be like, ‘Kyun Itna Chilla Raha Hai?’ Usne Mujhe Itna Calm kar Diya Tha, Ke Main Sirf Kaam Hi Karta Rehta Tha. (Laughs)
The film claims to NOT be a love story. Did you relate to the story on a personal altitude, while filming?
Too many real-life moments. I believe such moments belong not just to me, but you must have experienced them too. There are tiny moments that you don’t pay attention to, but they form you as a human being. But more than that, the film is also about time. How much time do we devote to each other, these days? Everyone got a phone. You just drop a text or a WhatsApp message. Do you make the effort to go, meet someone? Would you spare some time to sir beside your ailing grandmother? Dan (Varun’s character in the film), throughout the film, doesn’t use a mobile phone. His friends can’t get through him. He is away from it. And I say this while I endorse a mobile brand!
But I will also be brave enough to say that what Dan does is right.
You just did ‘Judwaa 2’, and now you’re doing ‘October’. Shoojit says this has been a brave step from your end. Can we call it an actor’s requirement to establish his own versatility?
This is totally an actor’s requirement. It is rather an actor’s hunger. I am not proving anything to anyone else. Creative satisfaction is of utmost important to a performer. I am not on a 9-6 job wherein I come to the factory, work and earn money. If I was that much money-minded, I’d have rather become a producer. But that’s not me.
I did a ‘Badrinath Ki Dulhania’, I did a ‘Judwaa 2’. Then, I couldn’t smile yaar. Camera Laga Ke Moi Mujhe Bol Raha Tha Smile Karo, Joke Crack Karo. Ho Nahi Raha Tha.
You’re also doing ‘Sui Dhaga’. Among your contemporary ones, you’re the only one who’s balancing so correctly between both the forms of cinema…
The time when I was not an actor, I wanted to own a TV channel. I wanted to own my TV channel wherein I’d be interviewing directors. Kind of a late night show, like Jay Leno used to host. Then I asked myself why I wanted to do that. Then I figured, what interested me was to meet different characters. A comedian, a villain, a serious man. Actually, I wanted to become all of them! Cinema is so vivid these days. There are thousand variations to comedy itself. David Dhawan’s comedy isn’t similar to that of Shashank Khaitan. I never thought Shoojit Sircar would instill humour in the film. But when people watched the film, they laughed at some points!
I try to think like a studio. If I am a studio and if I am coming up with 7 films, What kind of films would I choose?
Shoojit also said he was looking for a new face to introduce. Was he aware you were going to meet him for this?
No! But I went up as a newcomer only. I had just woken up. He said, Aa Jao. Main Nikal Jaunga. I was wearing a pair of torn jeans, my hair wasn’t combed. I saw him like that only. I think that was worse that how a newcomes appears!
He hasn’t watched my films. He didn’t sit and check out ‘Main Tera Hero’ aur ‘Judwaa 2’ aur ‘Badrinath Ki Dulhania’. Hence, he doesn’t have an image of me.
It seems quite unlikely of a star to go and approach a director for work. Are you trying to change the usual perception?
I was doing this since my second film. I was always approaching directors. And it’s not just me. A lot actors who message directors, asking for work. When my father was making films, he’d receive messages from actors and he’d feel good about the fact that an actor believes in him, and his likes of cinema. I understand the psychology of a director. I know I have to look for work the right way. And throwing attitude at a director is definitely not the right way.
You ‘unlearned’ quite a lot while you filmed for ‘October’. But box office success is something you’ve already tasted…
Box office doesn’t matter to me. That’s the reason I am not promoting this film like I promote my other films. It is a very new thing for me, and I don’t thinl anyone else (apart from Shoojit Sircar) functions like that.
I told him, ‘Dada, Kuch Promotions Kar Leta Hoon! Should I go to colleges and all’? He said, ‘No, let the film’s integrity remain as it is. The less you promote it, the better. I was wondering why! Ronnie (Producer Ronnie Lahiri) was also present. I asked him, ‘you guys aren’t even tensed’? Film should open to a good number right?’ He answered, ‘you haven’t invested any money. Why are you so worried?’ I was like, yes, true that I haven’t invested, but still’! Then, Dada told me one amazing. He said, ‘See Varun, you’re an actor, you’ve acted. I am a director, I directed. Together, we’ve created a film. But we won’t sell the film. People shouldn’t drop in at theatres because you’re begging them to. They should genuinely want to. Let the art speak for itself. Otherwise, where’s your belief on what you’re doing?’
For the next 5 days, I diidn’t call him only!
Dan works at a hotel, does cleaning, and what not? How similar his life is, to Varun Dhawan?
(Laughs) When I was a kid, I would try to do things at home. I used to try to make the bed, and create a mess out of it. I’d tell my mom, see, I’ve done it. She’s look at tme, and do it all over again! But I’d not say I was born with a silver spoon. I’ve spend first 15 years of my life in a 2BHK at Carter Road. My father’s career had taken off, but he hadn’t started making that much money yet. I’ve witnessed his growth. I’d take an auto to school. I remember I loved it as we passed by the sea at Juhu. The fare would 8.5 rs but I always felt bad for the rickshaw driver and would give him 10 rs full. I enjoyed those days the most.
That innocence was gone. An actor leads such a protected life!
For the first time in Hindi cinema, a writer’s name is going to appear just after the director…
I am so glad! For the first time, I’ve done a film where the relationship between a director and a writer is this intense. Juhi (writer Juhi Chaturvedi) was there during every shot, every day. She’s been there throughout the film. She has not only witten the film beautifully but has helped me understand my own character a lot. Dan is from Delhi. So are Dada,and Juhi. But I honestly feel I needed a woman to make me understand the sensitivity. So many times, I didn’t understand things. When I was done asking Dada, I’d start asking Juhi.
Do you somehow see glimpses of Hrishikesh Mukherjee in Shoojit?
My dad always this. ‘Anand’ is his favourite, and mine too.He’d get really shy if I say this, but Shoojit Sircar is one of the best minds and best hearts that we have right now. I haven’t known Hrishikesh Mukherjee first-hand. But this guy, is special. He needs to be given more power.
You always wnated to work with Shoojit. Is the hunger satisfied?
No, it’s not! I’ve just worked with one side of him. But he has also made a ‘PINK’, a ‘Madras Cafe’ and a ‘Vicky Donor’. I am yet to see all his shades, and I am yet to show all my shades too! I hope we can come together again, soon…
You’re a youth icon. But will ‘October’ appeal to the youth?
This film is just for the youngsters. After ‘Student Of The Year’ I am playing this young a character for the first time. Hardly 20-21 years old.
I went into a special diet. I stopped working out, and every morning, I’d drink a glass of sugacane juice. I wasn’t consuming sugar in any other form, but sugarcane juice was a regular. That gives you immense energy and a beautiful glow on your face.
Why is the film titled ‘October’?
I can’t reveal the reason. But I call tell you, that I was offered the film in the month of October. We’ve shot it in the month of October. Shiuli (Banita Sandhu’s name in the film) is a flower that gorws in October. You’ll be able to find 3-4 more reasons yourself…
Stardom comes with a price. What price have you paid?
I think, time. Waqt Kam Pad Jati Hai Pure Din Mein, Saare Insaan Ke Liye. I mean, my parents. I come home, my mom calls me, and I am like, mom, one minute! I can’t spend any time with my mother. My brother is okay, my bhabi is okay, even my father is understanding. He has lived this life. But I think my mom is having a hard time. For the first two or three years, it was okay. I still had time. But now, I almost see her not liking it.
You come from a family that understands cinema. What kind of cinema do you discuss among yourselves?
Regarding this film, they’ve been discussing a lot. I don’t know after how many years, my uncle (Anil Dhawan) is excited about a film! He keeps saying, ‘I want to watch this film’! Rumi uncle (actor Rumi Jaffery), who is very close to my family, is also very excited. They have these discusisons about my film. My dad already spoke to Shoojit Sircar. Dada wants him to watch the fiished film.
What motivates you to keep going?
The people. Yesterday, I performed at the IPL opening ceremony. I haven’t danced in ‘october’; neither in ‘Sui Dhaga’. But when I was dancing with Prabhu sir (Prabhudheva) at Wangkhede stadium before live audience, it was electric! You get them excited, you get them expecting something.
‘October’ is a very different school of cinema for you. What lessons do you take back?
Faith on the content, faith on the director, faith on the audience.
Is it it difficult fitting into different forms of cinema at the same time?
It is. Coming from a ‘Judwaa 2’ and doing an ‘october’ has been a big jump for me, I can’t tell you how big. But hopefully you figure out. To try and reinvent yourself, repush yoursself, re assmelbe can only happen when you work with new directors.
Actors have their own niches. Like Tiger Shroff says he wants to be known as an action hero. What’s your niche?
An actor. An Aamir Khan do one ‘Dangal’ and one ‘Ghajini’ both. An Irrfan has done a Hindi Medium’, a ‘Pan Singh Tomar’, and a ‘Jurrasic Park’. If I am a good actor, I should be able to do a comedy, an action, and what not? As an actor, you play characters. You become your characters. My forte should be that I do everything well.
Something about Banita? (Debutance Banita Sandhu, his co-star in October)
It’s her first film, but she is extremely composed, calm and sweet. She is actually a Shoojit Sircar heroine. I am not, on paper. But she is. I hope she does more films.