Varun Sharma: Secretly hoping to play a psychotic character soon
The actor talks about the pop significance of 'Choocha', his upcoming spoof-comedy Arjun Patiala, and the genre he wishes to explore next
The Indian slacker film has witnessed an appropriately sluggish revival in recent years. A summation of the genre in Hindi cinema requires favourably little work: we begin with the precious frivolity of Chashme Buddoor and Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro in the early ‘80s, and arrive at the Gen X causticity of English, August in 1994. Much later ambles in Ayan Mukerji’s Wake Up Sid (2009), lazily tailed by the trouble-prone idlers in Raj and DK movies. The indie space cranes its neck in 2014, with Sulemani Keeda, losing out by a year to a mainstream comedy that gave this generation its biggest slacker icon: ‘Choocha’, the precognitive streetwise dreamer in Fukrey and Fukrey Returns, played with boisterous heft by Varun Sharma.
In both films, Choocha is the dramatic centre of the chaos, dreaming up lottery numbers and offloading them on his smart-alecky bunch of friends. His snivelling one-liners and dopey comebacks make the franchise a conversational delight. Varun, who hails from Jalandhar and has appeared in 11 films since his 2013 debut, acknowledges the pop significance of Choocha.
“As an actor, you always want to be remembered by the characters you play. Whatever love and acceptance I have today, and the films I’ve been getting, is all because of Choocha,” he says.
But doesn't he feel a little protective about the character, now that a franchise is in place and there's obvious commercial interest to see him repeat that performance? Even the trailer of his new film, Arjun Patiala, co-starring Diljit Dosanjh and Kriti Sanon, makes an allusion to Choocha.
To this, Varun contends, “When we made Fukrey, we didn't know the character will become so iconic. There are dishes and drinks named after Choocha in Delhi restaurants and Bollywood cafes. It's immensely heartening to see all that. I trust Mrighdeep Singh Lamba, the director of the Fukrey series, and Vipul Vig (the writer) to the fullest. They are far more protective about the character than I am. I’m sure they will remain sensitive to him.”
Directed by Rohit Jugraj, Arjun Patiala is a spoof-comedy set in Punjab. Diljit plays a small-town policeman whose love story with a crime journalist (Kriti) plays out like a Bollywood cop drama. Varun figures into the romp as ‘Onida Singh’, named for the famous colour television brand. “There are a lot of in-jokes in the film, from budget issues on Bollywood sets to digs at popular classics. We’ve seen such movies in the west like Deadpool or Meet the Spartans. This is the first time we are attempting it in Hindi.”
Varun maintains that comedy is his preferred genre (all his previous appearances have been in comic roles, with a hosting stint on the trivia-based game show, Bollywood Bazinga). The 29-year-old actor shrugs away concerns of being stereotyped. “In my heart, I know that I am not a comedian but an actor who excels at comedy. So it's fine if I continue to work in this space. I am enjoying it.”
That said, Varun has strikingly opposite choices when it comes to consuming content. “I don't watch standup or comedy stuff at all. I am a huge fan of thrillers. My favourite shows to binge are Dark, Ozark, Black Mirror, Under The Dome, Animal Kingdom, The 100, Tyrant… I’ve been secretly hoping to play a psychotic character soon.”
After Arjun Patiala, Varun will be seen in Khandaani Shafakhana, alongside Sonakshi Sinha and rapper Badshaah. The film is a slice-of-life comedy about the revival of a family-owned sex clinic. He has also finished Nitish Tiwari’s Chhichhore and has started shooting for RoohiAfza, with Rajkummar Rao and Janhvi Kapoor. “I am excited for all these films, especially RoohiAfza because it's my first horror-comedy. It's a genre that Maddock Films has pretty much pioneered with Stree. Everyone wants to make a horror-comedy now. I hope Arjun Patiala does the same for spoof-comedies,” he says, clicking off.