‘I USED TO BE VERY HYPER’

Ac­tor Varun Dhawan says he won’t change any­thing about the last five years of his life

HT Cafe - - FRONT PAGE - Prashant Singh prashant.singh@hin­dus­tan­times.com

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.

Varun Dhawan

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