We’re at Sunny Super Sound studio in the ’burbs where Varun Dhawan is dubbing for his forthcoming Judwaa 2. As usual, a few fan types have gathered around to catch a glimpse of him. The hero doesn’t disappoint anyone. He makes everyone feel special, joking with one, asking a pertinent question to another, clicking pictures with a child…
They say an actor must have the ability to connect with his audience. That’s when the numbers come in. Considering he’s had a cent per cent record at the box-office, Varun surely has it in spades. His ability to cut across ages is something special. He talks to the audience in their lingo. And that’s why he’s here to stay. In the most mind-bending of films, you can’t help but chuckle at his capers. Student Of The Year, his debut, gave you a pretty clear idea of his range. He followed up that promise with the grey Badlapur and the fun Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania. The more recent Badrinath Ki Dulhania has him serving up an ace too.
His latest outing, Judwaa 2, directed by dad David Dhawan, promises to be a mad cap caper, Varun reprises the role that Salman Khan did 20 years ago. If the few snatches, he showed us is anything to go by, Judwaa 2 is high on adrenaline. Yes, retro is uber cool when it’s done the Varun Dhawan way. He’s trying to hop out of the hackneyed slowly. And yet is realistic to know that you have to draw the audiences in. So right now, he’s concentrating on the numbers. Knowing his track record, that should be the least of his worries. But the dismal movie scene this year has the IT boy worried. Reason enough to quiz him then:
2017 has been the worst year as far as movies are concerned. Few films have made a mark. How do you view this?
It’s scary. When Baahubali 2 released and became such a huge hit, everyone felt a shift in the way cinema was viewed. I felt it as well. After that what has happened is scary. Everyone is wondering why people are not coming into the theatres. What is missing? Where are we going wrong? But at the same time, some good films have worked. Hindi Medium has gone on to score some excellent figures. It’s amazing that an actor like Irrfan Khan, his films are being celebrated so much. Lipstick Under My Burkha and Bareilly Ki Barfi have done well too. So there are a couple of bright spots. Shubh Mangal Saavdhan has done well. The worrying part is that films are not taking a start. Fridaymorning used to be big, students would bunk colleges to go watch a film. I have friends who would be like, ‘Arey yaar yeh film dekhni hai toh dekhni hi hai’ (we have to see this film). They just wanted to go to the theatres to experience the film. That excitement is gone.
Where did the industry fail?
What’s happened is that the way movies are being consumed has changed. People are still watching movies. But they are watching them at their convenience on TV on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar, Eros Now, Torrentz. There are so many other ways of watching movies now. Sitting here I can easily watch a movie on my phone. So many times, I’ve come home at night and I’ve seen my mom watching movies online. Having said that, the industry also has to pull up its socks. We have to make more relatable, content-driven movies.
You’re right. The Baahubali series is proof that we can up our scale.
Yes 100 per cent. We have such a rich mythology. We have such rich history through which we can touch people’s emotions. I’ve told you right from the first interview I gave you that I am here to entertain people. My aim since the beginning has been to bring back children and youth to the cinema halls. Five years back, I was feeling that something is off. Why are kids
wnot excited to go to the movies like I was when I was one? So I’ve been constantly working towards getting kids, families and teenagers back to the theatres. That is the fun of entertainment.
You think 28 per cent GST is also killing the industry?
I’ve had this conversation. I keep telling Sajid Nadiadwala and Karan Johar that GST is troubling films and they keep saying no. So GST is not such a big problem. In Maharashtra, the tax rate has actually come down. Overall, it has evened itself out. But I’m not the right person to speak about this. The theatre owners would know more about this. But I know theatre goers feel the pinch, even the cost of food and beverages is pretty high.
Also, do you believe, the audience has become wiser now? Three-four years back they would watch anything. Now you can’t fool them.
Not three-four years back, I guess five-six years back, they’d come to see anything. Today, they wait for word of mouth. But the problem with social media is that it can easily be manipulated. Probably, there’s a section that enjoys masala films and another section that likes different kinds of films. Now these sections are fighting so much that they are runningâÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ down each other. And this is also affecting us. A lot of them are paid and it’s horrible. The fraternity has to come together. We are one eventually. Even the critics should be careful. Everyone’s homes are running because of the industry. We are here because of one another.
What if it’s a really bad film, critics should praise it even then?
No. If it’s a really bad film it won’t run. The audience will reject it outright. I’m not saying praise bad films, not at all. Everyone has a right to criticise bad cinema. What I’m talking about is giving a film a chance. We are knocking the film down even before its release.
Are you scared that people are not coming to the theatres?
Very… Not just me. I can say this on record. Every actor is scared. But we should not be paranoid. We should spread positivity and support each other’s films and make good films. Making good films is number one priority. I think there’s a big need for good writers, good directors and creative people.
It’s time we give importance to the writers…
Yes. For so long, we’ve been having discussions about actors. But it’s the material that is so important. We have to concentrate on content. I saw this film called Ram Singh Charlie. It’s the most amazing film I’ve seen. It’s directed by Nitin Kakkar who made Filmistaan and it stars Kumud Mishra. What a film it is! They had some difficulty in releasing it. I saw it because someone who’s part of it told me dekhlo achchi hai. I liked it.
You do realise there’ll be a lot of comparison to Salman Khan. Are you prepared for that?
I know. In fact, Salman Khan himself told me this before I started the film. He said I would have to deal with it. It’s part and parcel of doing this film. I should have thought about it before signing it but I didn’t. The fact of the matter is that Judwaa 2 is coming 20 years after the original film. So many kids out there haven’t seen the original Judwaa. To them this is a new film. Even the other audiences will see a newness in the film. Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania was pretty much Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. But people accepted it because it was a new take with added freshness. Judwaa 2 is different from the first one.
Do you ever doubt your talent?
Ya, always. After doing a scene, I always feel, zyada ho gaya ya kam ho gaya pata nahi. I keep thinking. And I’m extremely
self critical. One night before Badrinath I couldn’t sleep.
Badrinath was your film, you owned it…
(Smiles) That’s probably the reason why I couldn’t sleep. If Alia (Bhatt) had a much bigger role, I’d have been more like yeh toh achchi actor hai. Sab sambhaal legi yeh (she’s a good actor, she’ll take care). Shashank (Khaitan) is an amazing director, he was sure about the film. Alia was also sure.
The movie still got trolled…
Today everything gets trolled and everyone gets trolled. I feel somewhere the world, not just India, has lost its sense of humour.
They had a problem with that one scene where you kidnap Alia.
But I’m not playing myself in the film. I’m not playing someone, who has been educated in the city. I’m playing someone from a village and that’s how he reacts. If you’re saying that crimes don’t happen in places like that then you’re wrong. They do. We are trying to show reality and the reality is ugly. I don’t think Shashank wanted to say Badri is the hero. He’s a normal guy who has a lot of flaws. In fact, the idea was that you should dislike Badri when he’s doing all these things because he’s wrong. You know, this kidnapping thing was a real-life incident. That’s why Shashank put it in. The girl ran away from the mandap and this guy went and picked her up and got her back. But he didn’t harm the girl. He let her go because he realised he was wrong. This news piece triggered the movie. I’m okay with people not wanting to make certain characters into heroes. I don’t wanna play a hero in every film. I want to be a villain sometimes because I have that right as an actor to play different roles. And if you don’t like him, then don’t like him. If I just keep on playing characters that are likeable, it will get boring. I want you to dislike my character sometimes. I will do wrong things on screen because that’s what humans do, they make mistakes. And it’s high time that we start showing that in our cinema. As long as there’s redemption for that character later on. Nobody’s saying it’s okay. It’s totally wrong but that’s what life is na?
You’ve signed Shoojit Sircar’s October, tell us about it.
(Grins) I can’t talk about it. All I’ll say is it’s based on an article that he read. It’s based on somewhat a true story. And there’s a new girl, Banita Sandhu.
What attracted you to the script?
(Chuckles) Shoojit Sircar. The idea is something that’s fascinated me. It’s something that I’ve been feeling for a while now.
You’re also doing Sui Dhaaga with Anushka Sharma? That was a surprise no one knew about.
Yeah. It’s amazing. I believe everyone’s on board because of the script that Sharat Katariya has written. He’s a cool guy. It’s going to be a challenge because it’s exciting material.
Do you see yourself evolving as an actor?
That’s part of life. Sometimes, I feel l need to take a break and live somewhere for one year and come back. I’ve lived a certain amount of life before I became an actor. Since then, I’ve not taken a single break. It’s been five years. Whenever I get some time I just want to take a break and travel. I need to take a break. My parents too think I do. When I take a break, it’ll be for my evolution as an actor, not for any other reason.
What is your long term goal?
I’ve stopped thinking about long term. I’m thinking of the now because things around are changing by the minute. It’s so important as an actor to observe what’s happening in the world. There are so many changes happening like demonetization, GST, the India-China stand off, India-Pakistan border issues, floods all over the country… life is happening everyday. It’s so important as an actor to observe and understand and be in sync with what people are feeling.
As an actor, it’s so easy to be cut off from reality. What do you do to remain connected?
I know this much that social media is not the answer to connect with and to know people. Social media represents just a certain section of society, putting out a certain part of their lives not what they really are. To really know people you have to travel, talk to people, spend time with them. You have to bond with real people.
Okay. Who would you see as competition?
I won’t say competition. But the actor, who really inspires me and whose talent I’m almost jealous of, is Rajkummar Rao. He is so immensly talented. He did Trapped, Bose, Bareilly Ki Barfi and now Newton. He’s brilliant. The other day my father told me he wants to do a movie with him. And I hope he does. Rajkummar Rao is someone I’ve been noticing. I’ve been closely watching his work. He’s probably the best talent we have right now.