Varun Dhawan on why he needs to work every single day
It’s 11 am and Varun Dhawan is seated in his parlour answering my 80,000 questions. Before he strolls in, his dad David Dhawan and I talk about his latest film. The proud papa cannot hide his excitement over his son’s soon-to-be `100 crore film. His mom Lali peers in after a few minutes to see her laadla, currently on a high with five hits in a row. Here, Varun talks about film, friends, and his father. Read on…
Five consecutive hits is a pretty impressive record. You’ve already joined the elite league. Feeling elated?
Honestly, I am feeling the same as no one is treating me any different. It’s not like my mom treats me differently… (as if on cue, she pops her head in the glass door to check on him) Look, there she is! (Smiles). Everyone who is close to me is the same with me so I don’t know how to feel. I do know obviously that these five have done well and it’s something that doesn’t happen to everyone and I feel elated about that obviously. It feels extremely good, extremely amazing , but the way people are telling me about ABCD2 is very different. Aisa hota hai ki people say ‘Arre yaar congratulations, your film has this much business and your film is too good.’ The reactions I am getting is that “Arre yaar, teri picture chal gayi.” I think people themselves are shocked. So I am getting the shock wala congratulations right now.
No one expected it to open and no one expected it to sustain, so I guess it, it’s a good shock. See I want everyone’s films to run, I want all good films to run. I was so happy when Tanu Weds Manu Returns and Piku ran. We should want films to do well, that’s the way we can go ahead. I guess with ABCD2, the audience has made this film, they have supported it from the beginning.
The trade believes your huge popularity with kids is a major reason behind the response to the film. Do you agree?
I would have said kids like a year back but I think it’s families now.
I think it is your crazy female fan following.
It can’t be only women. I want to believe it’s families which like a film like Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania. And a film like Badlapur, men saw that film. I don’t know… I think it’s a mixed bag because I have done a mixed bag of films. But I know for sure that ABCD2 has run because of families. I am very clear. I did ABCD2 for children. Consciously, it had to come after Badlapur because children couldn’t see a film like Badlapur, so I was like ‘No, I have to do a film for them because they have given me so much love and they have supported me.’
Wooing families, is that your dad’s influence, does he tell you what films you should do?
Dad has made family films throughout his career but he doesn’t tell me what films to do. No one tells me what films to do. Out of the five films that I have done right now, three have been his kind of films. Obviously, I have Karan (Johar) as well who I discuss my films with and my brother Rohit. I actually discuss what film to do with everyone including my driver. I will ask him also ke ‘kya lagta tere ko’. I’ll tell him the whole story and then he will tell me his view. I ask everyone. It’s just that my dad will obviously like certain type of films because at the end of the day I am his son, so he will be protective. But as an actor, if I have to pick different films, I have to understand the psyche of all different types of people also.
Which film of yours is his favourite?
He loves Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania.
There will be pressure to deliver a hit now, right?
More than a hit, delivering a good film. For me, that’s most important. I think, with ABCD 2 also, what happened is that nobody expected it to turn out like that. Nobody expected Badlapur to work, for example. So, I guess, I’ve been part of films that people didn’t expect to do as well as they have.
Badlapur could have a limited audience. Why do you say that about ABCD2?
There was rain on the first day, it was also releasing in the Ramzan period, there were lot of, like people kept saying ‘Yeh nahi accha hai, woh nahi accha hai.’ And even our marketing was different because budgets were limited.
I think if a film has to work, it will work irrespective.
Exactly. According to me honestly, your first trailer, if it connects with people, more than half your job is done. And that’s what’s it’s all about today.
But how do you gauge if a trailer does well or not given that likes and views on social media can be bought?
People tell you whether they liked it or not. For example, the Badlapur teaser that’s the best reaction I have ever got for any of my films. More reaction to me, I guess the whole trailer…. It was cut very creatively, the whole murder thing, the hammer shot in it, then the shots of Nawaz and all the characters, it was a very interestingly cut teaser and I think on that very day, when that teaser came out, everyone told me that this film will run.
Are you in celebratory mode?
No, I am leaving for Bulgaria tonight. I don’t have time to think to be very honest, that’s it. There is no time to enjoy. Yesterday, I was rehearsing for the song I am doing for Rohit Shetty’s film, I mean that’s fun for me as well, I enjoy that. I had two days off and I was like tearing my hair out. I can’t explain to you, it was like a downer. I got bored sitting, I just couldn’t sit doing nothing. I needed to do some work and I am actually excited that I am going to Bulgaria today. I just couldn’t. It was very scary and dangerous but I was getting very agitated. I don’t know maybe because I’ve not sat at home since such a long time, I couldn’t handle it.
Even the industry is shocked with the staggering response to ABCD2. It’s expected to reach the `100-crore mark soon. Did you anticipate this?
I mean there were talks. People would joke about it. But dance films haven’t really done well in India. Especially in the north, they don’t do well. This one did very well in Delhi and lot of other places like UP and CP. A lot of people who saw the film and say that this will happen (the film reaching `100 crore. Siddharth Roy Kapur was one of them, Karan Johar saw the film alone in a hall and he said that this film is going to be big. I think Remo, and I were on the fence, we didn’t know what to expect.
ABCD (Part 1) was a success, but not really a big franchise. What made you pick the sequel?
Because I saw something in the first one. I saw a lot of honesty and a lot of heart in it, and also it was something different. Also, with Badlapur, I felt that the film was part of a change and I said I want to be part of this. (Laughs) I don’t want to give all the reasons because I don’t want the other people to read and then start using them and doing these kind of films. No, but seriously, I feel honestly the mindset of the audience at large is changing and by that I don’t mean they don’t want to see a typical Hindi film, they obviously want to see that but there is a certain evolution that needs to happen in cinema which they want to see slowly. Badlapur was totally like almost tearing the envelope, not even pushing it. But they accepted it which was a big shock to everyone. Then we saw a Haider running with a crazy theme in that. So time and again you get these films which run, that just shows that there is a section of the audience who wants to see films like that. You see a Queen, you see a Piku and I feel women are leading this change actually. Women are totally leading this change and they are the ones who are inspiring me to pick up films like that.
Same reason for Badlapur?
Badlapur was based on a true life incident of a man. It was totally true about this man whose family was taken away from him and how he could not get over it and I totally in a strange way identified with that man. If someone did this to my family. I think anyone who has kids… I don’t but I have so many brothers, I have so many friends who have small children and if anything happens to their child suddenly from that meek family man, I see them turning into this crazy man. I have seen that in small incidents. The idea was to play it in a more realistic sense.
But it was taking a huge risk….
It was a risk, 100 per cent it was a risk. But every film is a risk.
Not all, your next film Dilwale is a monster hit on paper, even before the first day of shooting.
I hope so, I pray so. But everything is a risk. I know Badlapur, a lot of people will say that was not the right film to take on. But I feel you can’t only attach money to art. It’s a very wrong thing to do. I think Sriram is one of the most brilliant heads we have in our industry. Anil Mehta was shooting the film. Nawazuddin Siddiqui was acting in the film. Look at the cast, there were only national winners, I was the only one who has not won an award. I had only to gain from that film and plus it was made at a decent budget.
There were people who told you ‘don’t do this film’.
Everyone told me don’t do the film. Not one person said do the film. I just believed in the story. I think Dinu had a big hand in that as well. Badlapur is an experience I will never give up for anything in the world. I am looking for something to push, to do something new, to tell a story which people think should not be told.
Do you read film reviews?
I feel you need to know different views, and I do read the reviews. There are some very funny ones of ABCD2 also some, great ones. Then I read that one and half minute review which was very cool. Then there were couple of, very bad ones also, which were very fun to read. I think you should read because sometimes I feel a certain way about my performance and then a critic points it out and then I am like ‘I am not the only one who is feeling this that I did this wrong, that person also felt it.’
A lot of ABCD2 reviews said you had very little to do in terms of acting.
Lots of reviews were like that. But that’s fine, see at the end of the day, I said this film is to entertain people. It’s about a journey of dancers and Prabhudheva even says this dialogue in the film that ‘Should I tell him or should I show him” so basically it’s about showing people. It’s a full dance genre which is alien. But I think for a film like ABCD2, to do the numbers it’s done, it’s even because of the emotional connect. In some way, the heart of the film has connected, the emotion has connected with people and full credit to Remo because he kept at it, he never let me step out of character. I would tell him ‘Sir let me do a little bit of comedy here, should I do this and he said, ‘No Varun, you have to be like this only.’ I would get insecure but Remo full credit to him said no then I would listen to him obviously and then we went at it and the emotional connect eventually at the end of the film, that payoff is the biggest thing for me in the film.
Most of your films have been commercials films. Comment
(Smiles), No one pointed and told me you are doing commercial cinema as in it’s a bad thing. I want to say this because I got many messages. From Shahid (Kapoor), Ranbir (Kapoor), Aayushmann (Khurrana), Arjun (Kapoor), Hrithik (Roshan), Abhishek (Bachchan), Salman bhai, Shah Rukh sir, and they all supported this film. Just imagine such a diverse variety of people, they have all sent messages of congratulations, and encouragement. To me, that’s a great thing, so I guess the industry is not as divided as people think they are.
People find it easy to approach you for commercial films is what I meant.
Which is really…I guess if you show keenness in something, it’s going to come to you. From the beginning I was keen on doing comedy and dancing, so these roles came to me. I guess other actors attract different genres and they probably want to do those kind of roles. So, I am not really thinking of taking other people’s roles, I am not really thinking of being one up on any one of them. It’s not even in my head to be very honest with you. It’s a whole media generated thing because when a person has to go on Friday to see the film, he won’t be thinking ‘yeh is se baada star hai, to iski film hi dekhne wala hoon.’ They will think this picture is good so I will go and see the picture.
But your fan base is building based on the kind of films you are doing…
You do? (power goes off) Look the lights have gone off. Nobody else will believe in this, just look at the timing. Lights went off the minute you said this. God has told me now don’t get carried away with this. This is a sign from God that please don’t believe any of this hype and remain the way you are.
What’s the advice your dad has given you?
Oh, he said ki ‘You have to understand now, that you have become successful, you have to be conscious. The audience is expecting good stuff from you now, you can’t cheat them, you have to be at it. You have to be like this and that.’ I understand what he is saying. I guess it’s a platform of entertainment and the audience wants entertainment. They want to watch good stuff and now I have got the pressure of delivering that because since the last five films have done well. But he has seen this in his career. Obviously it’s a different high for him. I think dad is one person I can actually talk to about giving back to back hits. He went through a period where he has got some crazy amount of success and it’s not changed him as a man.
Before Main Tera Hero, David wasn’t really going through a great phase professionally. There was a time when not many heroes wanted to work with him. Now, he has a hero at home bigger than most of them. How do you look back at that time?
This is not what I say but this everyone says about him. He is one director you can never count out. He has probably the highest success rate as a director in this industry. Even before Main Tera Hero, he had given Chashme Badoor which was a hit film only and David Dhawan and box office are things that you can’t keep apart almost. So he is actually the safest bet as a director and if I had to work with a director and the safest director if I had to choose, it would only be him. I am not saying this because he is my father. I will be working with him for sure. It should be next year hopefully.