Awaiting the release of his next, Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhaniya, Varun Dhawan talks about his struggle to become an actor and how each of his films so far have been distinct
Sidharth Malhotra and you made a debut together, he went on to choose films across genres whereas you stuck to the masala variety. Is that the cinema you like?
I love acting, but I don’t over analyse. I’m emotional about the films I do. In the year after I finished shooting for Student of the Year, I signed four films — Main Tera Hero, Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhaniya, Anybody Can Dance 2 (ABCD2) and Sriram Raghavan’s Badlapur. That’s a lot of films for a newcomer. I didn’t want to sit and wait to get film offers across genres. These filmmakers trusted me as a solo hero when I was barely a film old. But ABCD is a dance film and Badlapur, a gritty drama. These are far different from anything I’ve done to date, especially Sriram’s film.
So tell us about your latest avatar, Humpty Sharma.
When Karan (Johar, producer) introduced me to my character, he said I have to play a lovable a******. Humpty belongs to a comic book, he is goofy but also a wannabe and a tad lazy. His father owns a bookstore and Humpty likes to believe he’s the son of a big businessman, and lives his life like a prince. He has two friends, Poplu and Shonty, with whom he idles away his time. Alia Bhatt’s character Kavya Pratap Singh shakes up his world.
Playing Humpty was fun. We shot most parts in Chandigarh. The actors who play my friends are boys from Delhi University. Between the shots they’d talk in Delhi slang, mouthing phrases such as ‘Chaped maaranga’ and ‘Main teri maa nu maasi maanna haan’. What I heard off camera I tried to bring on screen.
What were your growing up years like? Your father, David Dhawan, is a Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) alumni. Did he introduce you to a variety of cinema?
His strong base built at FTII is what helped him invent a unique language of Hindi cinema in the ’90s, which others later borrowed. Mom ensured that I have a regular childhood, so I’d travel by auto, go to Juhu beach to watch the fights between a squirrel and a lizard, and eat dosa at Shiv Sagar. That has kept me grounded. I wasn’t friendly with any industry kids, except Shraddha Kapoor to an extent. I used to find them pakau; they only spoke about films and I really wasn’t interested.
How did you end up choosing acting as a profession?
I always knew I wanted to be an actor. My brother Rohit was always passionate about filmmaking and it’s with him that I used to talk films, because he never spoke of the glamorous aspect of cinema. When the time was right, I decided to pursue the career of my choice.
Do you believe you had to struggle for it?
Everyone has to, but I don’t complain about it because I’m in a fortunate place today. It’s been hard proving to people always that I have potential. Few know that I auditioned for many films and ad films, including Life of Pi and Dhobi Ghat, before I bagged my first. I took up acting workshops, acted in several shorts, and had to work on my looks and body — I wasn’t born looking glamorous. But every aspiring actor goes through this process, so it’s no big deal. Now it’s important that I take criticism in the right spirit and improve my skills to prove to be a versatile actor.