Fans of rising star Varun Dhawan will be seeing a very different side to him in this week’s big Bollywood release Badlapur.
The talented actor has traded in the charming rogues he has played in previous films for a person hell-bent on vengeance. Unlike other revenge dramas, Badlapur sees Varun’s character age from a carefree teenager to an emotionally scared 40-year-old desperately seeking those who have wronged him.
The Sriram Raghavan-directed film has an impressive cast including Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Huma Qureshi, Yami Gautam and Vinay Pathak. Not surprisingly, this is the most challenging role of Varun’s career and one that will, no doubt, make a huge impact.
Eastern Eye caught up with Varun to talk about Badlapur, the challenges of acting in it and his unique look in the film before getting him to answer some searching questions posed by fans about his daily life, including a marriage proposal.
You have been offered a lot of films, but what attracted you to Badlapur?
This was the type of film I have been looking for since I started acting. It is the kind of genre and story that I’ve wanted to tell for a while. It is the journey of a common man living in Maharashtra. The layers and the type of emotional trauma he goes through is something I think men and families all over the world will identify with.
Were you not worried about taking on such a risky role after playing lovable characters?
Yes, I was afraid, but I thought we were all doing the same thing. A lot of the new actors who have come in were playing the same kind of roles. I also try to listen to what the audience wants. I’m not saying I get it right always, but I just felt I didn’t want to bore anyone by doing the same type of film again and again. So this was me trying to be different, I guess.
Tell us a little bit about the story?
What I can say is it’s definitely a revenge drama. It can also be classified as an action film or love story because there are a lot of layers in the film that complete it. There are some amazing characters because it is an ensemble cast. All I can say is there is no hero, heroine or villain. Everyone is probably grey or real, how people are in real life, I guess.
I didn’t recognise you initially when I first saw the promos of your older character. How did you decide on that look?
That is something we really did work hard on. We did a lot of tests. Actually I started at home initially. I saw the way my brother (Rohit Dhawan) had aged. When he writes, he doesn’t shave and has this big beard, so I thought, why not do that? I looked at some of my other cousins in their 40s who had children and how they look. They always colour their hair, but their beards have one or two strands of white, and they have a receding hairline. I kind of shaved my hair so it looks receding and stuff. So there was some amount of work that went into this.
Did you have to alter your body language as an actor to play someone who is ageing in the film?
Yes, I have done that in the film and I hope it’s successful. I had a neck injury because of that.
Did you feel like you were learning something new while doing it?
Oh, 100 per cent. I play three generations. There is a portion where I am 18, one when I’m 27 and then older. When I pla-yed the 40-year-old, I did feel like we were creating something new, but I was very excited about it because somewhere I think I got lost with this character. I felt like I went into a trance. So yes, it’s taken a part of me.
How much did playing a grey, negative character excite you as an actor?
I really did enjoy being Raghu and doing the things that he does. I don’t want to reveal much, but it was liberating actually.
Was Badlapur emotionally demanding for you?
The film has definitely taken a lot from me, but it’s given me a lot in return. So I’m not going to complain about it. Yes, there was a time while I was shooting where I was not in a very happy state of mind. Every day shooting in those locations and feeling those emotions, and going through all of that, I kind of lost my own personality. I forgot who I am and was becoming this other man. I don’t even have a wife or children in real life.
(Laughs) My mother would call me up and say, ‘Varun, you are not Raghu, you are Varun’.
Do you have a favourite scene in the movie?
Yes, I do. I know it sounds crazy, but the hammer scene is my favourite.
Are there any behind-the-scenes moments that will stay with you?
There are lots of behind-the-scenes moments that will. There is a scene actually, where I don’t know what happened to me while saying this one dialogue which is like a long monologue. Apparently I repeated it eight times in a row, the same dialogue. I think the director and entire unit got a bit scared; they thought I had gone a bit mad or something. I didn’t realise I had said it eight times. I just kept going on and on and on. So there were these weird things that happened while we were making this film.
Are you hoping that youngsters connect with this film the most?
I hope everyone does, actually, but I especially I want a lot of young people to go and watch it because I think they are ready for it. We shouldn’t insult their intelligence and think they are young and shouldn’t see something like this. I mean people are watching things like Walking Dead, Dexter, Fargo and all this other stuff on TV. So why can’t they watch this?
So you are not going to be a bad influence?
You know, that is not for me to decide, but for the censors. They will decide what is the correct age of people who should watch this film. What I can say is the film does have a moral message, but it is a film. If someone is dumb enough to watch the film and think everything they are watching they should repeat in real life, they should understand it’s a film, it is a work of fiction. They should know that and they should enjoy it. This is a story we are telling, I am not this person.
I would like to use your newspaper and say, ‘please do not follow the actions of the characters you see in the film in real life’.
Okay Varun, I have some questions from fans to finish off with. If you could be in any biopic, which person would you choose?
If I could portray the life of anyone, it would be my dad [filmmaker David Dhawan].
A fan wants to know if you will marry her?
I’m not thinking about marriage right now. (Laughs) But when I do, I will consider her proposal.
What were you like as a student at school?
I was an average student. I was pretty mischievous but I didn’t harm anyone.
Do you have any phobias?
I did have a fear of heights, but after shooting ABCD 2 in Las Vegas, especially at the Grand Canyon, I’m over it.
Which other films will we seen you in next?
There is another one with my older brother Rohit, which he is directing – it also has John (Abraham) and Jacqueline (Fernandez) in it. It is produced by Sajid Nadiadwala. That’s it for now.
How do you feel when you see fake stories about yourself in the press?
I do definitely ignore it now.
What is the craziest thing a fan has done so far?
I will say thankfully there haven’t been too many things like that, but I think cutting their hand is the most crazy thing one of them has done.
What are your biggest non-film passions?
Movies take up so much of my time. Right now I don’t really think of anything besides my work, and that’s the truth, so I don’t know if I have another passion at the moment.
Your fan base is growing at an incredible rate. How do you feel about them?
It means the world to me. I have worked for that. I live to make movies, entertain people, put a smile on their faces and probably make them cry a little as well, but eventually I want to make them happy. They have been very supportive and loyal to me throughout. I wanna keep working hard so I don’t let them down ever.
Would you like to give us a message for them?
I would just like to say thank you guys and I definitely hear your voices and see you all. I appreciate all the love and support you have given me, and the time you have taken to show your support. I’m going to try and work even har-der this year so I can entertain all of you even more. Thank you for 2014, I promise not to let you down.
Finally, why do you love cinema?
It has an amazing ability to create a world that doesn’t exist. You can put in things into this universe which can be happy or sad, or tell a story about another person or live the life of another human being, try and feel exactly what he feels. It just gives me a big high to be able to tell stories to people and make them feel those goosebumps, those moments in someone else’s life.
Badlapur is in cinemas now.