Hindustan Times - Brunch - - News - Text by Priya Pathiyan Pho­tos shot ex­clu­sively for HT Brunch by Ro­han Shrestha on a smart­phone Styling by Kazim Del­hi­wala and Priyanka Sha­hani for Vain­glo­r­ous

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.




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

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