With his picture perfect good looks, he could have played the eternal romantic forever. Instead Varun Dhawan preferred to step out of his comfort zone to play the gritty Raghu, a man haunted by a tumultous past in the upcoming Badlapur. And if Dhawan has managed to make
people sit up and notice him, the credit for this transformation goes to the director Sriram Raghavan. After intense discussions on death
and watching films like Dead Man Walking, the actor was ready to walk an unknown terrain, a far cry from his earlier films like Student of the Year, Main Tera Hero and Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania. “The director’s contribution is always there, but Varun did a lot on his own,” says Raghavan of his protagonist.
Varun, what prompted you to take up Badlapur which is an intense revenge drama that required you to age by almost 20 years?
Varun: I actually signed Badlapur after Student Of The Year, and I know it was very different from my debut film. It’s an amazing story, in fact the best I have heard. As an actor, I feel I should do different roles.
Till date, you were seen in romantic and lighthearted roles. What is the response to your intense and hostile look in Badlapur?
Varun: Actually, a certain section of people who had not liked me in my earlier films have responded very positively to Badlapur, and so has the older generation and the media. But some of my fans are shocked by my look in the film. The response, however has been overwhelming. Badlapur is a small film shot in regions around Maharashtra like Pune and Igatpuri, but no one thought that it would have such a wide reach. We too are surprised by the response the film has received. Emotionally people have connected to it. The main test, however, will be on February 20, the day it releases, which is a week after Valentine’s day!
From a chocolate boy hero to this rugged and serious look, how has the transformation been in terms of preparing for what looks like a complex role?
Varun: Sriram (Raghavan, the film’s director) is the person who helped me and also took me through these emotions. He took me to Igatpuri where there was no television and we were cut-off from the outside world. I lived alone for 25 days, and this really took a big toll on me. I lost touch with everyone and broke my friendship with a few people and became very rude to everyone. Most of the people around me were unable to understand that I was prepping for a role. But to tell you the truth, when we were actually shooting, I was unable to understand what had happened to me. I actually learnt a lot from playing Raghu. You rarely get scripts like these and when you do, as an actor you have to put all your efforts into the part. At least I did, as there cannot be any half- baked measures. It’s going to take me time to let go of this character because every time I see any visual from the film, it rekindles memory of shooting the film. I shall take a break before I play such a part again!
What was the most difficult aspect to tackle?
Varun: Shooting in a hospital and dealing with death was very difficult.
Is there anything interesting you remember when you were shooting for the film?
Varun: Every character in the film ages 15 years. So, when we were shooting in the Nashik jail, we were all ‘aged’. I had to shoot a scene with Nawazuddin whom I hadn’t met till then. I remember I was on the set waiting for him and when he arrived I couldn’t even recognise him! He looked completely different. When I saw the other actors preparing and transforming themselves, it helped me transform
myself. Actually, we haven’t just made a film called Badlapur, we have lived it!
Were you aware of your look before signing the film?
Varun: No. We did a lot of trial looks before the film, some very bad trials as well (laughs) before we settled for this one. Praveez Khan, the action director of the film compared you with Salman Khan because of the intensity with which you did the action sequences.
Does it put a pressure on you when you are compared to someone like him?
Varun: You are comparing me to a legend. Actually, it was being this character Raghu which inspired me tremendously in its portrayal. He’s a character that has never been portrayed by any actor, a very new, anti-hero character.
As an actor, what do you consider before signing a film?
Varun: The story and the director are very important to me. The script should be good and entertaining and people should want to watch it. It’s not just because I want to do something and the director wants to make it. The producer and everything else is also important.
All your previous films like Student Of The Year, Main Tera Hero, and Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania have been hits, does success like that put pressure on you?
Varun: I was under a lot of pressure during the making of Main Tera Hero. But after the film did well and was followed by Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania, which was also a hit, I became a little confident. But now, Badlapur is something completely different and the pressure is:
can we pull this off? I know a lot of people will come out of curiosity to see how well I have played this character, while others will be curious to know what I have done in the film. All that I want is for the audience to come and see the film and give it a fair chance.
Do dark and edgy, films like Badlapur have a niche audience?
Varun: Obviously they do. But this film is more emotional than being dark or gory. There’s a love story, drama, action, and there’s a thriller element in the film too. It’s a complete entertainer in that sense because there is comedy as well.
There are several female actors in the film. What is your equation with each of them?
Varun: Yami (Gautam) plays my wife, Huma (Qureshi) is a prostitute and then there are Radhika Apte and Divya Dutta as well. I interact with all of them during the course of the story. That’s it, I cannot reveal more than that.
Your dad (David Dhawan) had mentioned in an interview that he wants you to be give spontaneous and unrehearsed performances. Would you agree with him?
Varun: I do agree with dad. But, in Badlapur I had to work a lot, both on the mental and physical front. Otherwise, the performance was very spontaneous as Sriram does not give dialogues in advance. He likes you to come up with them or gives it at the last minute. He just explains the scene and generally leaves the rest to his actors.
What’s his forte as a director?
Varun: It is the pureness with which he makes a film. You have always maintained that you love acting and always aspired to become an actor.
Which is that one aspect of acting which gives you the maximum high?
Varun: Acting is my world. Just to be on the sets to play various characters is the greatest high. Even when I feel I need a holiday— and I do need a holiday right now— very soon there is this craving to get back on the sets. I just love the sights and sounds of a film set.
Will your next be your brother Rohit’s Dishoom?
Varun: There is something before that, but I cannot talk about it. Dishoom is going to be an action film and we will be shooting in the Middle East. I can’t get into the story as my brother has forbidden me from speaking about it. But it’s going to be made on a very big scale. It’s going to be very exciting as it is a story that he has been writing over the past couple of years. I can’t wait
to start shooting for it.
Besides a film with Shashank Khaitan, have yousigned anything else… for instance, Rohit Shetty’s film which has Shah Rukh Khan?
Varun: I would love to work with Rohit Shetty, but I cannot comment on that project. OtherwiseABCD 2 is nearly complete, except for one song. Let me confess that I feel like a very mediocre dancer after doing ABCD 2. I shot with the best dancers from across the country and the world. It was difficult but I have learnt a lot. The film is a visual spectacle and talks about patriotism. Shraddha Kapoor is outstanding in the film.