‘I USED TO BE VERY HYPER’
Actor Varun Dhawan says he won’t change anything about the last five years of his life
It has been exactly five years since he made his Bollywood debut with Student Of The Year. Call it a coincidence if you want to, as 2017 has seen Varun Dhawan score two back-to-back ₹100 crore grossers. “I am very happy that everyone — exhibitors, distributors and people who put in money — are happy,” says Varun, as his latest film, David Dhawan’s Judwaa 2 hits the bullseye. We catch up with him for a chat about career, life and more.
To start with, what’s the feeling like [of delivering backtoback hits]?
Obviously, it feels amazing. I am very grateful to the audience and everyone else [who made it possible]. I am very happy for the fraternity — distributors and the exhibitors; and the fact that people have come back to the theatres [to watch films], which is a very good sign.
Your dad makes very few films nowadays. Do you feel great that audiences still love his movies?
It is a conscious decision to slow him down. All the family members – me, Rohit (Dhawan; brother), my mother and bhabhi – have made him slow down. Otherwise, he would be making a lot more films. It feels amazing as it’s a bigger moment for me as a son than as an actor. If you look at it; the director of Judwaa (1997) has come back after 20 years and given a hit after rebooting his own film.
Do you feel blessed that you have worked with him twice?
Yes, honestly, I feel so blessed. I can’t deny that I am lucky as it’s my second film with him. He is a very senior director, who has done 44 films, so you can only learn from him. Just getting to spend time with him on sets is amazing. I must say he is a very different person on set than he is in real life.
Judwaa 2 is your second 100 crore film after Badrinath Ki Dulhania this year. Are you happy being the new 100 crore hero?
Obviously, these titles make you feel good. But at the end of the day, these clubs don’t matter much. What matters is how much [budget] you have made the film in and how much have you recovered. For me, success is even love [of the audiences]. People have reacted crazily. This is more love than I have ever got for any of my other film.
It’s your fifth year in the industry. Are you happy with the way things have gone or would you like to change anything?
No, I won’t change anything because you learn from each step. I have made a lot of mistakes in these five years but I have also learnt from them to rectify and get better.
Any particular ‘mistake’ that you remember?
Initially, I used to be very hyper and competitive in my career. But I feel I haven’t been like that in the last three years. I have changed in that sense. I have seen how the business has been evolving and today, I want every film to do well and even better than Judwaa 2. I want the films of every actor that I am compared to, and am reportedly in competition with, to do better than mine. We are an industry, and we are all in this together and can’t survive without each other. I feel it is high time we realise that. If we go against each other, or if we get happiness from other people’s falls, there is no way we will move ahead.
So, you are in a happy space right now?
Yes, very much. To be honest, since Judwaa 2 released, I have not been at home. For the last 200 days, I have only been working and I am going to work even more. I have just spent time at home, relaxing and not doing anything. I am getting into an important film (October) of my life now, so I am really excited about that.
Visàvis Judwaa 2, were you ever worried that there would be comparisons with Salman Khan?
Well, that was a given, so it wasn’t a new thing. When the trailer was released, we got a positive response and I knew what I had done in the film. We knew that if people accepted the trailer, then the film would be fine. We were honest and never put out any content that wasn’t in the film. I believe that content is the star today and it is the only thing that does all the marketing. People knew what the film was about as soon as the trailer came out.
The film has done very well at the box office. Did that take you by surprise?
Yes, it did. I had not expected that. I thought it would do well, but I didn’t expect it to become what it has. I am happy that everyone — the exhibitors, distributors and people who put in money — are happy. Of late, as an industry, we have been facing many losses.
You were recently called newage Govinda and now, it’s being said that you are a mix of Govinda and Salman. Do you take such things seriously?
Not at all. What matters is if the audience likes the film or not. Everything else is secondary. For instance, I have realised that your personal life does not matter and it should not even be in the picture. Only the performance matters. If you are a great guy off-screen but you are a bad actor and are dishonest to your work, then I would not spend my money on you. My priority is to make good cinema and do films that entertain people across India.
You recently said that the term ‘star’ is used very loosely…
People give you that tag out of love, and I have received a lot of love. People can call me a lot of things, but eventually it is the film that matters. An actor is never bigger than the film. I do like the tag. Who doesn’t? It feels good. But I feel everyone — Taapsee (Pannu), Jacqueline (Fernandez) and Rajpal Yadav — are as much of a star as I am in Judwaa 2.
But stardom does get you the audience, doesn’t it?
Yes, it’s great that people like to see my films. I am blessed. What’s nice is that I have a clear connection with people who come to watch my films, and they are beginning to understand me.
How do you see your career panning out now?
I am not an astrologer, so I can’t tell what will happen. I want to live in the present. If you think of the future a lot, then there’s a problem, because you lose touch with what people want right now. I always try and do research on people and the mindsets of today’s day and age, and social media is not the way to do that. Aamir Khan said that one of the best things to do is to travel the country, and he is right. How would I know what the people of Bhopal are thinking if I stay put in Mumbai?
After this hit, trade analysts feel you are a bit ahead in the race…
There is no race. There is Race 3, which Remo D’souza is directing with Salman Khan and will be very cool, but there is no race between any of us. If there is a race, then what is the finish line? How is there ever a finish line? As artistes, we are just working to entertain people and make good films, and hopefully, we will get to make a career. I feel amazing about being able to do that and provide for my family and my loved ones. But I am not working so I can be better than someone else.
So, you are friendly with everyone?
I am very friendly and so is everyone else. I will say on record that after Judwaa 2, I have received calls from people like Anil Kapoor — he had a long conversation with me, and he has been such a big star. Also, people such as Akshay Kumar, Ranbir Kapoor and Salman bhai praised my work. Javed saab sent me a beautiful message. Adi (Aditya Chopra) and Karan Johar enjoyed the film, so I’m like, what else do I need? For me, it’s a big reaffirmation that such stalwarts have enjoyed the film, and they know how difficult this genre is. But ultimately, it’s not about getting calls, because I did this film to put smiles on people’s faces and to make them laugh the way original Judwaa did.
You recently interviewed yourself, and going by the way you cracked jokes on yourself, it looks like you don’t take yourself too seriously...
I don’t, and I believe you just can’t. I don’t believe my own hype. You have to laugh at yourself, and I am okay doing that.
Do you realise that not many from your industry can do that?
No, I think it’s okay. Logon ko hansi aa rahi hai dekhke, toh achhi baat hai (It’s good if people can watch it and find it funny). I am laughing and having fun cracking jokes on myself. Many of these jokes were inspired by jokes that my friends have cracked on me. So, I thought this was a nice idea and I should put this out. And I felt that people couldn’t say or write anything more negative than what I talked about in the interview. They won’t be able to. I had a lot of fun doing it.