In 2015 film, Piku, director Shoojit Sircar made sure the audience got to see the actor in Deepika Padukone and not the star, deriving perhaps her most nuanced performance till date, as a single woman in her late 20s trying to mother his cranky father.
Shoojit is now ready to present an unfiltered, raw version of Bollywood’s most viable young star, Varun Dhawan, in his upcoming film, October. The film’s trailer has Varun doing nothing that he has repeatedly done before in his pot-boilers and full credit goes to Shoojit for ensuring that.
But isn’t it difficult to remove the robe of stardom from these actors and reduce them to his characters? The director doesn’t believe so, rather he says that it is the filmmakers, who perceive that these stars aren’t ready to surrender themselves to characters.
“They are not difficult people. They also want to do this but people don’t go to them with those kinds of films. If I hadn’t called up Deepika and gone to her…for her to say yes to a film about a constipated father is brave. Or Mr Bachchan! If I had gone to someone else with that character they would have said no, they would have asked me to go away!
“But he did it. I think people need to go to them with confidence. They have the willingness to do it. So, I think if you go to these actors with integrity, they respond to that,” Shoojit said in a group interaction ahead of the release of October.
Probably it was Varun’s desperation to be a part of Shoojit’s cinema that made the director sign him, despite his initial scepticism about the actor’s ability to fit in his world.
What also worked in Varun’s favour was his boyish charm that Shoojit felt hadn’t been tapped until then.
“I’ve already said sorry to Varun because I’ve not seen a single film of his. So I don’t know who he was. I knew that he was jumping around the place, singing, dancing, full of energy. I actually didn’t have any clue who he was. Our planets don’t match at all. He is from Mars. I am from earth. The entire 2016 he was calling me to meet. He was accidentally cast. We were looking for fresh faces. When he came over, I saw a different side of his. I had a complete pre-conceived notion about him, the commercial world he was living in, the stardom and all. But I saw innocence in his eyes. There was something boyish about him, something pure.
“He was very clumsy when I saw him. I needed an actor like that. When I clicked his picture and sent it to Juhi (Chaturvedi, film’s writer), she said, ‘I never thought you’d be even thinking of casting Varun.’ It was in her mind too but she said she didn’t have the guts to tell me that!” he said.
The biggest task at hand for Shoojit was to make Varun unlearn everything that he had learnt enough his career. The director said the process became easy because of Varun’s unflinching commitment.
“My botheration was how to make him unlearn what he has learnt. I didn’t want that Varun in this film. I wanted my Dan (Varun’s character in the film) and that is possible when Varun has the innocence and purity… You have to surrender yourself to the director. He did that, which was difficult for him. But brave of him to come from that world to our world and surrender,” he said.
This film was supposed to be shot before Pink and Judwaa 2, but the kind of commitment Shoojit needed from the actor – no use of cell-phone, surrender completely, no coming back to Mumbai during the film’s shoot, Varun told the director it was better he finished his father’s film before beginning the journey of October.
The film, which is set to release this Friday, is coming together of a lot of Shoojit’s personal experiences, which he had been trying to bring to celluloid even before his first film, Yahaan.
But the idea took a concrete form only when he and Juhi began discussing it while scripting Piku.
‘”The backdrop of this film is from some of my personal experiences. We used to keep discussing how to put this onto celluloid. While scripting Piku, Juhi and I used to discuss. ‘I’ve gone through this, how can we get this kind of story.’ It’s all from personal experiences,” the director shared.
October marks the debut of actor Banita Sandhu.