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Varun Dhawan’s October girl, Banita Sandhu: Shoojit Sircar reveals how she was discovered

HT gets exclusive details about Varun Dhawan’s new heroine, Banita Sandhu, a model from Wales (UK), whom he will romance in Shoojit Sircar’s next, October. The director reveals how they zeroed in on Banita.

bollywood Updated: Sep 05, 2017 11:56 IST
Prashant Singh
Prashant Singh
Varun Dhawan,Banita Sandhu,Shoojit Sircar
Varun Dhawan and Banita Sandhu will co-star in October. Director Shoojit Sircar says everybody loved Banita Sandhu in a chewing gum commercial that he had directed last year.(Avinash Gowariker )

Remember the stunning model from the DoubleMint ad last year who went on to become a sensation of sorts? Now, the same girl, Banita Sandhu, from Wales (UK), is set to make her big Bollywood debut in Shoojit Sircar’s October, co-starring Varun Dhawan. There has been a lot of buzz about Banita and it is only now that her identity has been revealed. In fact, Shoojit reveals he took his own time telling Banita that she has been chosen for the project.

Shoojit says, “Everybody loved Banita in a chewing gum commercial that I had directed. It had almost 40 million hits. While I was shooting the ad film, Juhi (Chaturvedi; writer) and I were also working on the script [for this film]. So, one day, I clicked a picture of Banita and sent it to Juhi saying, ‘She has the potential to fit into the character that we are looking at’.”

Varun Dhawan says he always wanted to work with film-maker Shoojit Sircar.

Until then, the film-maker hadn’t told Banita that she was being considered for the film. He says, “I didn’t pursue it further at that point, as we were still working on the script. Then, we locked the script and Varun was finalised. We did look at other actors [for Banita’s part], but then one day, I called her and told her that I may be casting her in the film, and that she should start doing workshops,” he says.

The Piku (2015) director admits that although Banita had been given the news, the film’s makers “weren’t absolutely sure until that point”. He says, “But slowly, Juhi, Ronnie (Lahiri; producer) and I zeroed in on her and were sure that, ‘She is the girl we should go for’. My casting director also felt that she was the right person for this character.” The film-maker adds that the project will go on the floors within a few weeks. “We are still working on finer details, but most probably, we should start in October,” he says.

In October, Varun Dhawan will team up with Shoojit Sircar (left) for the first time. The film will be produced by Ronnie Lahiri (centre).

Be it Minissha Lamba in Yahaan (2005), or Ayushmann Khurrana and Yami Gautam in Vicky Donor (2012), Shoojit Sircar has a knack for finding newer faces. “Please don’t say that; I don’t have any such knack (laughs),” he says, adding that what he always hunts for is the ‘feel’ and ‘vibe’ in an actor.

“I always look for people who are ready to jump into my story and the kind of commitment I am making. So, it’s like, ‘is that person as excited or gung-ho about the film and the story that I am going to tell? In that case, even if the person doesn’t fit in 100% or isn’t a great technician or a great actor, but is ready to go along with my idea, story and vision, I’ll definitely work with him or her. At least, there is a commitment or interest,” he says.

This one is special. Bappa aur Meri kahani.Here's a sneak peak of #raja. #ganpatibaapamoriya🙏 out tomorrow

A post shared by Varun Dhawan (@varundvn) on

So, what made him choose a newcomer, when he could have easily worked with an established actress? “It has never mattered to me if I am working with established or non-established actors. The demands of the script is all that matters. The script required a certain face, vulnerability and innocence, so we did many auditions,” he says.

Last year, Banita Sandhu became a sensation of sorts when she appeared in a chewing gum ad that was directed by Shoojit Sircar.

Shoojit admits that “established names” were also considered. “But Juhi, Ronnie and I thought that Banita is perfect for the character. In the past, if I have worked with Minissha, Yami, Nargis Fakhri in Madras Café (2013), Deepika (Padukone) in Piku (2015), or the three girls in Pink (2016); they worked as characters and not just because they were established or non-established stars,” he says.

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First Published: Sep 03, 2017 19:25 IST