I want to debut as a hero in South India: Varun Dhawan
The actor, who plays the lead in this week's release Shoojit Sircar's October, talks about the film
Varun Dhawan is a big admirer of October's director, Shoojit Sircar, who's sort of making a mini-comeback by directing a film after three years. "Shoojit's films grow on you with each passing day. I wanted to do a film for my fans who have not seen me showing too much variety. He has a hypnotic personality. Even Amitabh sir would say the same."
Shoojit for his part has spoken about how he considers October to be Varun's debut. "He has discovered a new side of me. A director is like a father. The characters are their babies. I wouldn't want him to see any of my old films because when you see a different image of your baby, you may suffer heartbreak."
The story of October, Varun reveals, came about from a newspaper clipping. "He showed it to me and then told me a freaky personal story," he says. "After telling me the story, he told me something that was extraordinarily difficult. He wanted me to be always honest, not just in cinema, but also in real life."
The advice partly had to do with Shoojit's intent to get the message of the film across to the youth. "If I came across as Varun, the message would fail to get through. I needed to become Dan." He pauses and continues, "October is not a film you will forget soon. It will make you introspect many days later."
The film naturally affected Varun a lot. "I bear emotional scars from doing this. It is a space you don't like to be in as an actor; the trailer affects me even now."
Among the films he had to watch to prepare for the role are Anand, Manchester by the Sea, and What's Eating Gilbert Grape. However, this is the film in which he's spoken the least English, Varun says. "I am a middle-class Delhi ka ladka. I have my own quirky humour, drama, emotion etc. This is not escapist cinema. This will tell you yeh hi zindagi."
He thinks that the audience has really warmed up to films like October. "Baaghi 2 is still running and Hichki has made something like 45 crores. Raid, an unusual Ajay Devgn film has hit the 100 crore mark. I wouldn't have been allowed to make such films 10 years ago."
I point out that his previous successes have perhaps allowed him the liberty of doing these films. "Perhaps, but I won't call this film experimental. This is Shoojit's take on romance, and what love does to people. Love, as you know, is the most commercial thing ever."
Shoojit's take, he says, is like no other. "October had made me question love. It affected my personal life. It made me question human behaviour. It made me wonder how we became so insensitive. It still haunts me."
The filmmaker is apparently so personally invested in this project that he didn't draw a salary. So money is not a pressure on this film. "They have not even sold the film yet. We have already got a deal from Amazon. We recovered the money from music. And there's the satellite revenue too. Money isn't a problem with this film."
I point out that with Shoojit, he's ticked off another one from his checklist of big directors. And then he surprises me with his response. "Raju Hirani is left and if I worked with him, I guess I could retire (laughs). I also want to work with Shankar and SS Rajamouli. I have always wanted to do a Telugu or Tamil film. Ram Charan is a good friend, and told me to learn Telugu."
Bollywood actors typically get chosen to play villains. "Not me. I want to debut as a hero in Tamil or Telugu cinema. After the first film, I can play whatever character the script demands. "
First things first though, and Varun is keen that his Hindi films reach more South Indian audiences. "We have not managed to capture the South market as much as we want to. Maybe if we actually start dubbing our films in the local language, we could. I love watching South Indian cinema, and am influenced by their choices. Films like Arjun Reddy or Mercury, for instance. Let's not even talk about how Malayalam films are the king of content."
And Varun says he always chooses content over director appeal. "Debutants come up with the best scripts and more often than not, their first films are their biggest hits too (Karan Johar, Aditya Chopra). Our youth is ready and accepting of good content. 2017 taught us that, and that's why this year, I'm doing films like Sui Dhaaga and October."
What next? "An as-yet unannounced big film, ABCD 2 (India's first 4Dx movie), and a warrior film for next Diwali, which will have a big cast from the South."