Varun Badola has been a part of pathbreaking TV shows like Des Mein Niklla Hoga Chand, Rabba Ishq Na Hove and Phir Subah Hogi among more. But how did Varun’s stint with the small screen begin?
An assistant director turned actor, Varun’s close association with filmmaker Tigmanshu Dhulia landed him his first TV show, Banegi Apni Baat. This was followed by him playing a specially-abled character in Koshish and a man in love with a woman ten years older to him in Astitva.
Varun Badola is currently seen in Mere Dad Ki Dulhan opposite Shweta Tiwari. While the new show is getting a lot of audience love, the actor tells us how he landed Banegi Apni Baat, which ran between 1993 and 1997.
Here’s what Varun Badola shared:
1. How did Banegi Apni Baat come to you?
I did so many shows, but I would say Banegi Apni Baat was my first. If I remember correctly, I entered the show from its 250th or 260th episode, and by 300th episode, I was done as the show was winding up.
Banegi Apni Baat was a big show at that time. That was probably the only screen test which I passed. I used to be an assistant director and dialogue writer to Tigmanshu Dhulia at that time. So a lot of people thought that probably I was not interested in acting. When I came into the industry, I was told, ‘Why are you doing multiple things? Concentrate on one thing. If it is acting, then act. If it is singing or direction, do one thing.’ One interesting thing that happened was Tigmanshu Dhulia always wanted me to become a director, so once he told me why are you trying for acting. I told him Woody Allen can act and direct simultaneously. He said things are different in the West and that I would make a better director than an actor. I told him how can he say that since he hasn’t seen my acting as yet. Ultimately, it so happened that he turned into an actor and now he is acting with full gusto! (Laughs) So these things happened back then.
The story behind Banegi Apni Baat is also very interesting. Tigmanshu was doing this one show. He did the pilot and the first two episodes. The show’s name initially was Pyaar Mohabbat And All That. It then got aired with the title Just Mohabbat. Its shooting had already begun before I arrived in Mumbai and there was no assistant for its last three days of shoot. It was being made under the production of my sister. They asked me if I would come over. So I just went there to assist for three days. I did the clap. On TV in those times, they did not give the clap, just showed it on camera. So I did that. Tony (Singh) saw that footage and asked his assistant, who happened to be a friend of mine, ‘Why doesn’t this guy act? He looks decent’. The assistant told him that I was an actor only, just that I had come over because there was no assistant. He told me about this chat with Tony and I went to meet him. I remember he told me that my cheque was lying with him and why don’t I go and collect it. I said that’s great. I go to meet him after five months and get paid for it too! (Laughs) Anyway, I gave my photographs and all. Then I got a call from the production house about screen tests happening for some character in Banegi Apni Baat. I still remember there were three guys. The screen test was in Madh Island.
The show also had Irrfan Khan. He and Tigmanshu were very close friends. Irrfan was playing a major character and his wife Sutapa was writing the show. So Tony must have had a chat about me to take me on board. Irrfan bhai had pushed for me. Back then, TV had not seen a boom as such. So for us, assisting Tigmanshu Dhulia on television was as good as assisting on film. One had to look into all the nitty-gritties and details. Apparently, he put a good word about me too. That’s how I got my first character. He was called Ayush.
2. What do you remember of your first day on set?
The first day of shoot went very well. Performance-wise, it was great. It was my entry shot inside the house. I have come to see Firdaus Dadi’s character for marriage purpose. What can be a better start than getting to work with actors like Surekha Sikri on your very first day? I realised that day that when you are a new actor, you are able to do natural acting. When you become a smart actor, to maintain that spontaneity gets difficult. Even the biggest actors fail to do that. When I saw the footage, I realised there are so many things that I did right, which I had to work really hard to achieve later on.
3. Were you nervous? How many retakes did you take?
I was never the one who took too many takes. Even today, when I act, I don’t go under-prepared or unprepared for my scene. Even if you are tired or anything, that’s one liberty you should never take. There was no nervousness or any fear. It was all mind over matter. I have a simple philosophy that when you observe, observe like a student. Seeing others, you think how will I do it if given a chance. But when you execute, don’t do it like a kid or a pupil. Execution should happen like a master because you have to be very aware about your situation and surroundings. One should feel you are in complete control of your art. If you don’t do that, you will always be found wanting. There are days when you are out of sync and acting becomes a struggle. So you have to find different working ways. I have faced situations where I haven’t slept for 72 to 100 hours. Execute like a master, don’t be under pressure or anything. Nervousness is nothing but a state of mind.
4. And who were your co-stars? How was the rapport with them when you got to meet or work with them again later?
It has been wonderful. By the time I entered Banegi Apni Baat, it was already so huge that every character was a star. I was probably the only non-star actor. I remember when Firdaus Dadi walked on the road, people would mob her. She was such a big star. And among all the people I have worked with in the industry, I can say that I have never seen a more beautiful human being than her. She was so unaffected by her stardom. The way she behaved on the sets and publicly, there was no pretense. Not an iota of air about her personality which was so heartening to see. Then we got to work together again in Astitva where I was playing the main lead, and she was playing one of the prominent characters. Obviously, it is a small industry, and if you are doing television, somewhere, you tend to come across each other. Frankly, it has never been an issue. There were few actors in Banegi Apni Baat who I knew personally. I met Irrfan bhai almost daily because of Tigmanshu bhai. Vaquar (Shaikh) used to be a very dear friend. Though now we don’t get to meet that often. I am singling out Firdaus because my character was opposite her. It was always wonderful working with them.
5. If given a chance to go back to your debut role, what’s that one thing you’d like to change or do better?
I would just leave it like that because its imperfection was its beauty. If I attempt it today, there are so many things which I’d undo in that. If you add experience into something, then somewhere you have to compensate for the exuberance. You will have to push it out. So the time it was done, the age and particular character, everything was apt for that.
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6. One film or role that inspired you to become an actor?
So many! I was like any kid of the 1970s and 1980s who used to be an Amitabh Bachchan fan. I was in awe of Mr Bachchan’s work in Shakti. After growing up, I realised I loved his work because I just didn’t understand Dilip Kumar’s work in the film. And when I understood that, I was shocked to see how a man can play age this way. I have seen a lot of his films like Vidhaata and others. It’s unbelievable that the Indian film industry had such a performer. Of course, our elders remember him, but very few from the new generation understand the way that man (Dilip Kumar) performed. He is beyond “legend”. Dilip Kumar and Ashok Kumar are two actors who have created and nurtured our film industry with their performances. To name Motilal (Rajvansh) here is also important. I liked his performance in Anari. It’s not like getting inspired by watching one movie, but there were numerous small films. I loved Yeh Woh Manzil To Nahin in school. Then I watched Anuradha and Garam Hava. It’s not always that you get inspired by commercial cinema. My choice was all the more content-driven even as a kid.