VARUN DHAWAN: FILTERS OFF!
WHAT MAKES @VARUNDVN, NOW 30, THE MILLENNIALS’ MOST FAVOURITE STAR TODAY?
H e’s director David Dhawan’s son and a qualified MBA. In the last five years, he’s starred in eight highgrossing films, starting with his debut Student of
the Year in 2012, continuing to his most recent triumph with Badrinath Ki Dulhania. All this contributes to his fame. We got Varun Dhawan to open up about his parallel life on social media, where he has an active fan following of millions.
He’s shooting for HT Brunch in a studio in Andheri, Mumbai. The photographer, Rohan Shrestha, is an old friend, and is using his smartphone to create zany looks with Snapchat filters. The ambient music is upbeat, the mood even more so. I believe it’s because this actor doesn’t have a carefully crafted image to live up to. He is who he is and is happy with that. When the shoot is done, he flops down artlessly onto the bean bag next to me, and the conversation flows as freely as it would with a friend.
His digital footprint is similarly approachable. “A lot of people have agencies to handle their social media, but I handle everything myself. That’s why there are a lot of grammatical errors. When I write, it’s all me!” smiles Varun.
But it isn’t all painting a rosy picture. “Usually, I try and do fun stuff, things that send out a positive message. I’ve been negative as well, but I’m a human being, and it’s okay if I have off days. I want to make sure that people feel it’s okay to make a mistake, to have a bad hair day, to look bad sometimes. It takes the pressure off them.”
Varun says there are times when he’s in a narcissistic mood.“If there’s a picture of mine I like a lot, I post that,” he says. “Once, I’d post pictures where I looked good but now instead of choosing the best looking, I go with the craziest shot.”
He also feels that he must not overexpose himself. “The movies, the ads, the brands, the online presence…how much will I do? If you force anything, the fakeness comes through.”
A large part of his fan following are teens and pre-teens. How does that impact his online presence? “I can’t abuse. In daily life, I’m not a heavy user anyway but I’m extra careful online because of the kids who look up to me. That’s the fun part of being an actor – that kids like you – because they are very pure and transparent in their likes and dislikes. There’s no filter like the ones on Instagram,” Varun muses.
He expands, “All kinds of things happen online. I’ve had girls send me pictures cutting their hands and things like that. What can you do in such a situation? Not much. I tell them that they won’t get my attention this way, that it’s very wrong. I also don’t like it when my fans bash other actors online.”
The actor is still clued into the world of the millennials. And what he doesn’t know, they teach him! “I learn a lot from my followers. Like the phrase ‘on fleek’ and GOAT – greatest of all time.”
That’s why he loved the idea behind this shoot, where we used Snapchat filters. “You do it for fun. Of course, I don’t think it’s cool to be too obsessed with taking selfies.”
So, how many shots of himself does he take on an average day? “Not as many as people think I do!” he quips. “I prefer videos of myself. For example, the original Tamma Tamma from
Badrinath… was playing on the radio and I took a video of myself jamming to it because I really like the song. Now with
Judwaa 2 coming up, I’ve created another Twitter handle for the character!”
Are filmmakers okay with him speaking for characters that they’ve created? “It’s a new space and they are not well versed with it,” he says. “I’ve grown up with it, so I know how to handle it. It may not always give out the complete message of the film, but it’s like a 100 per cent of my personality can’t come out on social media. You do connect, but to know me, you still have to meet me face to face.”
This begs the question…does he work on his ‘cuteness quotient’? He laughs, “Mostly, I’m just being me and people say ‘That’s so cute…. Do it again!’ and I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. I understand sexy and hot. With cute, I don’t know. I’m just trying to be a nice guy who looks good, like anyone else.”
His daily two-hour workout is certainly helping. In Judwaa 2, he’s doing two looks. “One is a tapori and the other a musician. I’m trying to get a differentiation in terms of the physicality but it’s difficult. Maybe I’ll use a Snapchat filter for that!” he jokes.
“I LEARN A LOT FROM MY FOLLOWERS LIKE THE PHRASE GOAT, WHICH MEANS GREATEST OF ALL TIME ”
“I HAVEN’T OPENED UP SNAPCHAT FOR THE PUBLIC, IT’S ONLY FOR MY FRIENDS.... IT CAN BE USED FOR A LOT OF NAUGHTY THINGS AS WELL!”
So what’s his platform of choice? “I’m most active on Instagram, then Twitter and then Facebook. I haven’t opened up Snapchat for the public, it’s only for my friends. Only in this issue of Brunch are there exclusive pictures of me that I usually don’t want anyone else to see! I love doing the voice change filters and the sheep with the snow is my favourite. When Humsafar was launched, I did a post where I was singing the song with that sheep filter, which was really cool.
“See, all this has to be used smartly. Snapchat can be used for a lot of naughty things as well! But each to their own…the only thing I always tell people is to be careful about the pictures you share.”
Varun says he likes Instagram more. “I think people who use Instagram are also inherently different, as it’s a way to express creativity. You’re not just posting pictures, but adding filters, your own touches to it,” he thinks aloud.
Varun is emphatic that one mustn’t take social media too seriously. He says, “People will judge you or troll you. There are online bullies, who can be harsh. If someone says they didn’t like a film, I can’t feel bad about it. But if they get bitchy and I abuse them back, then I’ll never hear the end of it. I’m on social media to spread happiness and love. ”Doesn’t he feel rage sometimes? “I do. I do, I do, I do. But when it gets to me, I blow off steam underwater. That’s my escape route to peace!” he reveals. “When I go for a swim, I go underwater and try to hold my breath for some time. That’s when I truly find myself. ”
There’s more depth to this man than the media will have you believe. I try to go beyond what he willingly shares. But… “There’s a big part of my personal life that I won’t share at all,” he says. “After all, some parts of your life have to be sacred. It’s very easy to lose that today. Being an actor, being on social media… you’re putting out so much already. Sometimes it’s nice to have a part of you that nobody knows about.”
Are the people in his life on board with his digital dalliances? “My mom doesn’t want to be in pictures and my brother hates it! My friends are cool with it, but get annoyed as so many people DM them to reach me. At times hate is also directed towards girls I know and I don’t like that at all,” he says.
“Shraddha (Kapoor) loves taking selfies. Arjun (Kapoor) would see me posting so much, so he started. But now he’s bored. Jacqueline (Fernandez) is massive on Snapchat. Alia (Bhatt) and I did a LOT of planned media together. She’s really good at photos and Instasize. We would collaborate on that.”
Does digital noise impact his acting decisions? “Obviously, I can’t make films for the Twitterati,” he asserts. “I like to entertain everyone and can’t look at just a small section of society. I believe I am where I am because of my acting and nothing else. I don’t take movies for granted, ever.”
PARTNERS IN CRIME Varun says Alia (Bhatt) is good at photos and Instasize, and they did a lot of planned media together for their film