MUMBAI—Eight releases in five years and Varun Dhawan is still waiting for a film that flops on his name! Of his films, “Dilwale” collected over Rs. 120 crore in India but could not recover its investment, but that was a Shah Rukh Khan home production. His brother Rohit’s “Dishoom” was another film that had decent footfalls but could not recover costs. But John Abraham was the senior hero.
Of the remaining six films, his debut “Student Of The Year” (co-starring Sidharth Malhotra and Alia Bhatt as co-debutantes) and “Badlapur” were successes, while “Main Tera Hero,” “Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania,” “ABCD 3” and “Badrinath Ki Dulhania” were all solo films that reached hit status. The last two even joined the 100 crore club.
And now, Dhawan is set to give us his biggest film, “Judwaa 2,” the second of his nine films to be directed by his father David Dhawan, whose last flop was way back in 2009, and who has made 44 films since 1989. “Judwaa 2,” contrary to popular thought, is a reboot, not a sequel, to Dhawan’s iconic “Judwaa” made in 1997, and the original “Judwaa,” Salman Khan, makes a cameo(s) in the movie.
India-West met a perky Dhawan, in Raja mode (one of his two characters) at Mehboob Studios and settled down in a stuffy room for a chat on the eve of the film’s release.
Excerpts from an interview:
Q: With six solo films succeeding in a row, you could be termed the next superstar.
A: I am a star, I concede, but not a big star. That is why there is no pressure on me, An old saying in the industry is that fortunes change every Friday, and only when a film works, everyone, including the actor in the film, does well.
Q: But is it right that when a film does not work, the actor is blamed?
A: As a director’s son, I think that an actor, who merely follows a brief, should not be blamed at all. It is the director who decides the content and everything in a film. And if he has made the film with his vision, without any interference, then he is primarily responsible when a movie flops.
Q: This is your second film with your dad as director. Were there any changes in your professional relationship?
A: Not really. This time he told me that he had signed me because I was a star, that’s all. He worked a lot harder on the story and screenplay, like on the bond between Nandu, one of the girls, and my character of Raja. There was this scene where Prem meets his doppelganger Raja, and we improvised that scene fully with no dialogues given to me. Dad has made Salman-sir, Rishi Kapoor-sir, Govinda-sir and others play dual roles, and he would play back one person’s lines and let the other think of the replies on the spot whenever they first met on screen.
When I did “Main Tera Hero” I was not a star. So that was different.
Q: But would he have made “Judwaa 2” if you had not been around?
A: Frankly, I do not think so. The project was discussed by Sajid-sir (producer Nadiadwala) and dad and, as I said, it could have been made only with a star.
Q: But why make a reboot, not a sequel?
A: The ‘90s kids – and I am one too! – never got to watch this genre, and the film was made 20 years back. While “Judwaa” is iconic, there is hardly any film made of this kind nowadays. And it is important that kids from that era who are now grown-up as well as later audiences watch it, because this is not a Chinese or an American genre but completely ours. My father considers Manmohan Desai his guru, and he had made so many successful classics of this kind.
Q: Still, most films and their remakes have wider gaps between them than these 20 years, because a lot of the audience is common.
A: Yes, but this is not a frame-to-frame or near-remake. The story is slightly different, so is the screenplay. I play the roles my way.
Q: And how were Jacqueline Fernandez and Taapsee Pannu as Karisma Kapur and Rambha?
A: Again, I would say they are not really counterparts. Their roles, their importance, the way they react and talk have all changed. But both are very credible and talented actors, and they really helped me become Raja and Prem.
Q: So what remains the same?
A: Fans of the old film will know how we have kept the core of the story intact, and three to five cult sequences are re-created. Hardcore fans may find some more similarities though! Then we have the two iconic songs, “Oonchi Hai Building” and “Tan Tana Tan.”
Q: Another potential downer: comparisons with Salman Khan will inevitably arise.
A (Nods his head): I knew from the moment I accepted the film that comparisons will happen. But honestly, how will they go? “Oh, Varun was good!” or “Varun was not bad!” or “Varun has ruined the film!” But that was fine because, whichever way we look at it, it will result in some incredible buzz for “Judwaa 2” that can never be bought or created! And so everyone will have to watch my film to know which way the film and I will go!
Q: There was a lot of promotion, and suddenly, you guys are lying low!
A: When I arrived five years ago, the promotion was a different thing, For five years now, I have promoted like a madman and frankly, enjoyed doing it. But now there is some fatigue. We have all realized that the number of people coming to watch you promote and supporting you on social media and the way the film is doing in the theatres has no connection. There are some people writing that the film is lousy while it is going full in the theatres too! Ultimately it is word-of-mouth, not our promotion that matters.
So for “Judwaa 2” we planned a neat five-week promotion and then lay low, but for select shows. We plugged the film in Mumbai and Ahmedabad and went by default to Hyderabad when our plane was diverted there due to bad weather. But that was apt, as the original was based on the Telegu film “Hello Brother!”
Similarly, we took a concerted decision on promoting the songs. We gave brief excerpts, 1.40 minutes for “Tan Tana Tan,” 1.50 for “Ganpati Bappa Morya” and 2.04 for “Oonchi Hai Building.” We decided not to show everything for free!
Q: Does the social media affect business?
A: Not at all. In fact, we cannot let Twitter decide films we make. Unfortunately, it is influencing a lot of us, but luckily not the big actors. Thanks to Twitter, many filmmakers get disconnected from the actual audience!
Q: How would you like to be branded?
A: In terms of image, I think you should brand or assess me only after a good body of work like, say, after ten years as an actor, I should be able to make people laugh, cry, be scared and get emotional. That’s my job as an actor.
Q: Aren’t you doing “ABCD 3?”
A: I would love to, and Remo D’Souza has sounded me off and is working on a script. But right now, I will be starting Shoojit Sircar’s “October” in October (Grins), and I have Yash Raj Films’ “Sui Dhaaga: Made In India.”
Q: Any special dreams?
A: Honestly, I would like to do a regional film to please my fans around India. Their cinema also belongs to us, and “Bahubali” has shown us the way.