Vardhan Puri: Yeh Saali Aashiqui does not promote stalker culture
The debutant talks about his theatre days, researching for an ‘extreme’ character, and growing up in the house of Mogambo
Screen legend Amrish Puri’s grandson, Vardhan Puri, makes his Bollywood debut in Yeh Saali Aashiqui. The film, directed by Cherag Ruparel, is a romantic thriller centered on two collegemates.
Vardhan, 29, grew up in Mumbai and was drawn to the arts from an early age. He shares an anecdote about the great playwright and theatre director Satyadev Dubey, who had come home for dinner one night and noticed Vardhan’s talents. “I was just 5 years old then,” he recalls, “While everyone was eating, I started dancing to a song and got really involved. I pretended it was an actual film shoot. The only person who wasn’t amused was my dadu (grandfather). He was afraid I would turn out to be a filmy kid, instead of learning about art and culture.”
To ensure otherwise, Vardhan was enrolled in Satyadev Dubey’s theatre group, where he did backstage chores before landing bit roles in plays. His first leading role was in a production of Girish Karnad’s Tughlaq. “At 14, I had to play such a complex character. I could not sleep for 35 days.”
Around 2012, having finished his higher studies, Vardhan joined Yash Raj Films as an assistant director. He worked on the films Ishaqzaade, Shuddh Desi Romance, and Daawat-e-Ishq. He met Cherag during his Yash Raj stint, and the two ended up co-writing Yeh Saali Aashiqui (the film’s original title, Paagal, was changed upon a CBFC objection).
“Our film is a love story gone completely sour,” Vardhan says, “My character, Sahil Mehra, is a man of extremes. There’s nothing moderate about him. If he is happy or angry or upset, he’ll make sure you know.” Vardhan referenced films like Daar, Deewangee, Raging Bull and Taxi Driver for the part. He also visited the mental health institute in Agra and interacted with inmates at central jails.
In the trailer, Vardhan’s character is interrogated by the police for allegedly stalking and assaulting a woman, who may or may not have been his girlfriend. The debutant assures the film does not promote stalker culture or violence against women. “We have made a socially-responsible film. Once you watch it, you won’t have any such complaints. There’s nothing anti-society or anti-feminist in the film.”
Vardhan was 14 when Amrish Puri passed away. He describes his grandfather as a ‘gentle giant’. “As a kid, I used to cheer for the villainous, Magambo-type roles he played. Whenever Amitabh Bachchan or Sunny Deol or Salman Khan would win in the end, and my grandfather would pass away, it would be the saddest moment for me. I would run at the screen screaming and shouting. I never understood how they could kill my dadu. He was always taller and stronger than them.”