I have always believed in spreading happiness in the world - Varun Dhawan | Exclusive Interview

It’s a gloomy afternoon, as we head towards a suburban studio to meet the cast of Dishoom. While the pitter-patter of the rains continue, Varun Dhawan enters the room like a sunshine, packed with energy and enthusiasm for the long day ahead. The actor has been promoting his upcoming film non-stop, with multiple city tours and unique activities, which also included a training session with female journalists and a live stunt in Delhi. Despite a hectic schedule, he is enjoying every bit of these interactions with the media and fans. This, before he starts rehearsing and gets ready to fly to the U.S for his first world tour. After three successful releases last year, Varun is all set to thrill us with an action packed avatar in Dishoom. After a quick lunch, the actor, dressed in a casual outfit, his favourite trademark baseball cap and a big bright smile, settled down for a chat with Priya Adivarekar, to discuss all things cinema and lots more.

How did your prepare for your role, that of a Dubai based cop Junaid Ansari?
My character has a complete graph, going from a boy to man. He is based in Abu Dhabi and is not an Indian. Junaid is a rookie cop, who is not taken seriously, and as the film progresses, it shows how he rises to the occasion and solves a big case. A lot went into creating Junaid, because it is not easy to play a police officer. I really admire the military and armed forces in our country, and always go out of my way to ensure I speak to them or get a picture clicked whenever they ask for one. There is a lot of discipline required. I had to lose a little weight, because that’s the kind of a look that Rohit had visualised. He wanted John to have a super muscular physique, while he wanted me to be lean and agile. Rohit was very sure that he wanted the actor playing Junaid to look, behave and act a certain way. Since the film is based on a time period of 36 hours, there had to be a certain continuity. So, I used to cut my hair once in every three days and shave twice a day. I can’t explain how chikna I would end up looking (smiles). I also have a tan in the film, since the character is middle eastern.

Since you are playing a cop for the first time, did you meet any real-life cops to get your character right?
 We shot with the CID of Abu Dhabi, which helped as I got to learn a lot about the nuances. I also learned a lot of techniques, like how an interrogation is done. I am also seen speaking Arabic, especially during the first half. So, I had to learn a little Arabic. There is also a lot of referencing to characters like Tintin, who is like this boy on a mission. Junaid is quite excited about being a part of the all the action and for him, it's like a discovery.

Was there anyone else in the running to play Junaid Ansari, or did Rohit always have you in mind while scripting the film?
Rohit penned the script and the casting began only after Sajid Nadiadwala (producer) came on board. Of course, being a brother, I always ask him if I could read the script. As a brother, I like doing that. So, when I read the script for Dishoom, I felt I could do a good job as Junaid Ansari and that’s why, I told him to consider me. He asked if I was sure about playing Junaid, and I promptly said yes. Honestly, I thought this would be the right time to play a character who is a rookie cop. I don’t think I can justify such characters after say, two or three years, because I will start looking older. 

Junaid is a rookie cop, who is not taken seriously, and as the film progresses, it shows how he rises to the occasion and solves a big case.

How did Rohit toy with the idea of exploring a situation that involves a kidnapped Indian cricketer?
The film deals with the whole menace of match fixing, the bookies involved, the effect on cricket and how cricketers often get trapped. It opens a can of worms. Rohit has always been a fan of cricket, and the whole build up happened when there were attacks on cricketers (like the one on Sri Lankan cricketers  in Pakistan). So, that's how the idea of Dishoom was born. If a top Indian cricketer went missing, how would the country react? Of course, the nation would go berserk. Let's face it! Security fears are all across the world and anything is possible. We have all seen how several countries have been attacked in the recent past. There have been some references to real life incidences, which you will relate to once you watch the film. Although Dishoom has it's share of light hearted moments, at it's core, it is a serious action thriller. The film is more than what meets the eye. 

The Dishoom album is doing really well. But, is there a specific reason for only sticking to four songs?
Dishoom aims to re-define commercial cinema and we haven't conformed to the set rules of having a set number of songs or specific sequences. While we have 4 songs, the film will have only one. The special number (Jaaneman Aah) is also there for a reason, and it was a part of the script from day one. Parineeti (Chopra) plays a cameo, and it is a small, but important character. But, it is only Sau Tarah ke that you will see during the duration of the film.

You have performed some daredevil stunts for Dishoom, one of which includes the helicopter sequence. What was going on in your mind while hanging out of it?
Let’s face it, both John and I were a little scared. If you take anyone up that high, a little bit of fear and nervousness definitely kicks in. It’s natural. In fact, I wasn’t showing my fear because I thought John was scared and vice versa (laughs). But, I think there was more pressure on John, because he was focusing on getting it done perfectly with me, and ensuring that none of us get injured. Before we kicked off that sequence, he got a call from my Dad who told him to take care of himself and me. So, he was worried, since it was not just about his own, but also the co-actor’s (Varun) safety. But, the sequence looks very cool! There is a scene where John is hanging off the helicopter, and I am hanging from his hand. And let me tell you this, we have got all this done by ourselves. As soon as we finished, John was like, “Kaisa hain? Theek hain?” I was in a dilemma. How do I tell him? Everything was so surreal. In fact, when the helicopter was flying over a waterbody, I could clearly see the fish inside. It was a beautiful experience, and I must add that I felt safe because I performed these stunts with John.

Did your father often call to check on you, considering you were performing a lot of stunts.
Like any other caring Dad, he would often call, but he won't call me more than 2-3 times because he knows I would get upset or irritated. But, I know he keeps calling people around me. So, he ends up calling my driver or manager to check if I have eaten, or where I am going (laughs). Even during the helicopter sequence, I knew he had stressed out John, because he kept asking me if I was okay. It was only later that John informed me about Dad's call. That call pressurised John more than the stunt, I am sure (laughs).

Dishoom aims to re-define commercial cinema and we haven't conformed to the set rules of having a set number of songs or specific sequences.
Image Credit: Stardust Magazine
Actors often confess that they either feel too comfortable or pressurised while working with someone from their family. You have earlier worked with your father (David Dhawan), and now your brother. How would you describe your experience?
While working on Main Tera Hero, there was a lot of pressure, since it was just my second film. But during Dishoom, I definitely felt a little more confident. Having said that, it is important to understand that when someone knows you well, they also know how much they can push you. And in Dishoom, Rohit has really pushed me to get everything right. Everyday, Rohit would keep telling me that I am not Varun but Junaid Ansari. It came to a point where we would not interact after pack up. We didn't speak for almost 40 days, and post pack up, we would just go our own ways. That's because I had to be Junaid Ansari and believe that I am from Abu Dhabi, speak a particular language, get the dialect right and behave a certain way. That process wasn't easy, and I took some time to get into the flow of things.

How would you compare your father and brother as directors?
Honestly, it is very difficult to compare them. My father has a legacy in creating entertaining films, while Rohit is a complete task master. He has studied the art in NYU and later, assisted Farhan Akhtar. So that way, Rohit always has a planned process while working on a film. A lot of prep happens before we go on the sets. 

You bonded quite well with John. How was it working and 'working out' with him?
Since we had to do a few sequences where both of us flaunt our bodies, both John and I were very serious about getting it right. Some of these sequences were important. So, post pack up, we would work out together. Also, let’s admit it, if you want a gym partner who can help train you well, then who wouldn’t want it to be John Abraham? And luckily, he was there! I would just request him to train me and he did. For the last 20 days, he completely trained me, from working on my form to helping me to getting my technique right.

Rohit would keep telling me that I am not Varun but Junaid Ansari. It came to a point where we would not interact after pack up

Twitter Fan Question

Is there any one who influences your versatility as a dancer?
I am a big fan of Chris Brown. I have been following him ever since he started off. As far as someone's influence is concerned, I feel all actors dance really well. All our Bollywood stars have been great dancers. I have grown up watching Govinda dance on screen and I personally believe that no one can get the kind of finesse that he has. But when it comes to versatility, I feel Chris Brown is someone who does a variety of different styles, ranging from krumping, house among others. And most of those styles are now coming back. 

And you have brought out that versatility in all your songs featured in Dishoom as well.
Oh yes! (smiles) If you watch Toh Dishoom, you will notice that I have done a lot of old school house and krumping. Even the choreography in Sau Tarah Ke cannot be defined as typical Bollywood. It is Jaaneman Aah where I have gone completely filmy, with all the thumkas and moves that define Bollywood dance, since it caters to a specific section of the audience. So with the choreography in Dishoom, the idea was to have that kind of a versatility. Since I like experimenting with dance styles, it's amazing how I got a chance to perform different forms in each song.

As an actor, have you ever felt pressurised by box office numbers or this whole craze to become a part of the 100 crore club?
I am of the opinion that one should not compare their success to that of other people. For me, if Dishoom is liked by the audience and if they thoroughly enjoy it, I would consider that as a huge success. It would be a victory for me if someone comes up and feels that my performance was different than what I have done in the past. 

I am of the opinion that one should not compare their success to that of other people. 

Are you looking forward to working on a character on the lines of what you essayed in Badlapur, again?
Scripts like that are rare. Honestly, Badlapur wouldn't have been what it was, if it wasn't for Sriram Raghavan and I was lucky that he was directing it. If a film like that is not made properly, it can get a totally different reaction. It is more difficult to get a well written serious script. Because if the emotions don't come across, there is nothing else that can save the film or the actor.

How is Badrinath Ki Dulhania shaping up? Also, will the franchise continue to have you in the lead?
Pretty good ya! I am just keeping my fingers crossed that it all goes well. We have completed shooting 30 per cent of the film. Rest of the film will be shot, once we are back from the Dream Team tour, which is scheduled next month. And yes, I think that's the plan. Not just me, but also Alia, Shashank and even the DOP (Neha Matiyani) is the same. Several assistant directors working on the film are also the same. So, it's actually like working together as a family.

Most of your characters have always been full of life, energetic and fun. Are you a lot like what you have portrayed on screen in most of your films?
I would say I am moody, like most other human beings. I have my days when I am super happy, and some when I feel down or sad. So, it depends! That's how most people are. Sometimes, even the most serious person will crack a joke at some point in his life. But, I have always believed in spreading happiness in the world. The world definitely needs it.

The Dancebee

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Priya Adivarekar

Priya Adivarekar - Founder and Creative Director at Diary of a Dancebee. She is also a renowned Voice Actress and award winning artiste, with serious passion for dance. When not working round the clock, she can be seen reading, enjoying a movie-binge or listening to music.
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