Varun Dhawan’s career started off with a bang when he debuted with Student of the Year (SOTY; 2012). Ever since, the actor has made it a point to work in a variety of genres. His success at the box office — including the new hit Badrinath Ki Dulhania — has also earned him a reputation of being one of the most bankable young actors in B-Town. Varun spoke with HT shortly before leaving for London, UK, to shoot for Judwaa 2 about his career, love life and much more.
Many feel you have done exceedingly well in your five-year-long career…
I don’t know if I have done exceedingly well, but I think I am doing well. People around me keep telling me that, but I haven’t hit my full potential yet. For instance, last year, I did Dishoom, but I felt that maybe I should have had another release and do an average of at least two films a year. I also try to look at the industry holistically, that’s why I feel it’s great that the first quarter of this year has been better for the industry compared with the first quarters of last two years.
Is there any pressure due to all the praise and success?
No, because — regardless of people having expectations or not — I have always expected a lot from myself. I have kept the barometer a bit high, and so have the people around me. I remember before Badri released, I was in the gym, and one of my trainers said, “Now, you should do very well, like 100 crores and all, then kuch baat hai (then it’ll be something).” I told him that not every film can do such business. But he felt that if my films performed ‘normally’, then it’s no big deal. So, I guess people around me think that my films should reach that kind of a number.
Is it true that you have gone off Twitter?
I have taken a break from Twitter. I never said that I am leaving it for good. After the first week of the release of Badrinath, I decided I would go off Twitter for a while. I’ve uninstalled the app. I felt it was necessary, because I am doing a difficult film (Judwaa 2). Playing two characters can’t be easy with a lot of VFX and action involved. It’s physically draining, too, so I need to be in great physical shape to pull off this film. Social media was a bit of a distraction. I’ll come back to it.
You have been called the new-age Govinda and new-age Salman Khan. What do you have to say about that?
I don’t react at all to [things like that], because it’s not true. For a few, it’s important to replace people with other names and things. But it doesn’t matter to me. I think they do it just for fun, or other reasons. But I am definitely not near the age of any of these people; they are far more senior and talented than me. I am just happy being myself.
Recently, you said that new-age actors play it safe and that it’s boring.
Yes, and I’ll stick to the statement. But, we all need to play it safe because the media’s scrutiny has increased. The society we live in also judges you more than before. And, it’s not true just for actors, but for people in general too. So, we have to be careful of what we say. It’s boring, but it doesn’t mean you have to lead a boring life.
With a new Rs 100 crore film under your belt (Badrinath Ki Dulhania), you must be on a high…
It feels very good. I also feel more responsible. But, I haven’t had the time to soak it in because, now, I’m going for the next schedule of Judwaa 2. After Badrinath Ki Dulhania released, there has only been a month’s gap, and during that too I was constantly prepping. Instead of thinking so much about what I have done, I have to think about what I have to do.
Last year, you had only one release, but 2017 has started on a high note already…
One of the best things about Badri is that it succeeded in a month (March) that never had a film do so well. For me, it’s about doing well –– when you break a record –– and also helping the industry move forward in some way. When Badlapur (2015) released, I was asked, ‘how well will it do as it was releasing on February 24?’ In fact, I had three releases that year. When I was a kid, Aamir (Khan), Shah Rukh (Khan), Salman (Khan), Akshay (Kumar) and Ajay Devgn would have three-four releases a year. These days, we do only one film (a year), even as the chatter goes on about the industry not doing well. So, young actors need to start doing more movies. And, that can also be an idea of ‘doing well’.
You have already had a great mix of roles and films. Was it always on your mind?
Yes, it was. I am lucky that from whatever offers I have got, I found these films in the bag. But, honestly, you don’t –– and you can’t –– choose the first three-four films in your career. They (films) choose you. It’s not like I got some 40 offers initially. Be it directors, producers or anyone else, we have to work hard to reach a position. I didn’t have choices at the start. Definitely, there are some directors with whom I really wanted to work –– such as Sriram Raghavan, Rohit Shetty and Shoojit (Sircar) sir, with whom I am working now. I have maintained right from the start that I wanted to work with a lot of these directors.
If given a choice, what would you pick — critical acclaim or box-office success?
Both, that’s the truth. Look at what Dangal (2016) has done. What does making lots of money mean for a film? It means that people are watching your film. But you can’t force people to see a bad film just because it has made so many crores. If a film is bad, why would so many people watch it? A film that’s watched by people in huge numbers is 100% good. It means something has clicked with the audience.
What’s your mantra when it comes to choosing films?
I am always like, ‘don’t try and change the audience. They will change you (smiles), and that is also a wrong thing to do’. I believe that you can make whatever you want to but make it for the audience who’ll understand it. So, if Robot (2010), a sci-fi film, was made for Indian people, the same is true for the Bahubali series. From storytelling and background music to casting the film is being told in an Indian way now.
After all the success and respect, are you at peace?
No, I am not at peace at all (smiles). How can I or anyone else be at peace? The world is not at peace.
But you must be less anxious about things as compared to when you started out?
Back then, the anxiousness was of a different kind. But, things are better now. I went through a restless, rough period between SOTY and Main Tera Hero (2014). I didn’t have a release for a year before two-three films worked. The feeling is different now. But, I feel peace only for maybe two-three days when I go away, and I am with my friends. Then, I feel relaxed and peaceful. So, I go for a swim and watch a good film. But, that’s for a brief period. The industry is not meant for people who want to stay peaceful. Peace chahiye toh idhar mat aao, sanyaas le lo (laughs). With multiple things happening, our lifestyle is maddening.
Of late, you’ve been making news vis-à-vis Natasha Dalal (alleged girlfriend)…
I have not been making any news. People are finding it to be news, but I don’t know why they think like that.
You and Natasha have been called new ‘lovebirds’…
This is all very childish. But it’s fine; it doesn’t bother me. I have been a little disconnected of late, because my focus is on what’s important (work). Once I am free, I will enjoy then (smiles).
You are few days away from turning 30. Are you thinking of marriage?
No, it has still not started crossing my mind. I have a big thing in front of me that is going to take off — I have to ready my house, which is downstairs [from his family home in Juhu]. That’s the prime focus right now in terms of what I want to achieve. Once that is done, I will think about everything else. It’s still being readied. My mother is doing the interiors.
Your new home is a floor below your family home, are you happy that you will stay close to your parents?’
Yes. It’s good for them because they want to keep an eye on me (laughs). I don’t know why, but they do want to. You should ask my dad. Main toh kuch galat nahi kar raha hoon toh mere ko nahi pata why (laughs).
Rumours are that your new home is being readied for your nuptials?
Nothing like that. I have worked so hard and I just wanted to buy one house.
Many feel that you are a ladies’ man...
I don’t think that’s true. Maybe, initially in my career, I would hear these things, but not now. In the last two-three years, there has been a complete image change (smiles).