A dash of sweetness

superstars

A dash of sweetness

Having started out together more than four years ago, Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt share a striking bond that is transparent even off-screen. Perhaps being the latest breed of future superstars with the best track-records (Varun has yet to give a flop, and Alia has grown as an actor even in unsuccessful films, besides also starring in hits), they have the confidence and the clout to create a chemistry that is sweet rather than sizzling.

Two-movies-old together (their debut Student Of The Year and Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania), they are now on their third romance together in the second part of the unique …Ki Dulhania franchise, Badrinath Ki Dulhania. And clearly, even if they are cute together on-screen, they are fun unlimited off-screen, with a clarity that comes only from serious thought on even the lighter matters.

For starters, both stress that they signed the new film only because they liked the roles and the scripts. “Karan has always left the door open for us to say ‘No’ to a script we do not like,” says Varun. And Alia, who considers the filmmaker her second father, nods in agreement.

The need for consistency

Are there pressures now after delivering two hits together, with this film almost being like a sequel? Replies Varun, “Humpty Sharma… was more than just a hit. It became a hit because it had a heart, and people connected to the purity. If this film does well, it will do so only because people connect again. Badrinath… is a safe film. This is because at the time of Humpty Sharma…, with a new director, Shashank Khaitan, and barely a film or two done by Alia and me, we were all the underdogs. Nobody expected anything from the film. Now, we are no longer so. However, the reason for a film to run must be the film, not us as stars.”

When we ask Varun to elaborate on the “safe” part, he goes on, “Though, ideally, a film should make a profit mainly from the theatrical run, today there are other sources of revenue, like music, satellite and digital rights. There are a lot more mediums to watch a film, and limited time because we cannot control piracy.”

And Alia quips, “I have never understood the business part, but before every release of mine, my father (Mahesh Bhatt) and chachu (paternal uncle Mukesh Bhatt) ask me what is the cost of my film, as they want to sit on it like hawks and make their profit and loss calculations. It sounds funny, but I do not even know how much I charge for a film!”

Where most sequels fall short, we tell Varun, is in the fact that the next film is just bigger, not better. Varun agrees and says, “But none of us — Shashank, Alia and I and Karan — settled for anything less here. Yes, Badrinath… is bigger than Humpty…, but it is also a film with a message and more depth. And Alia and I accepted the film separately.”

During the discussions, Varun had many disagreements with the director. “Shashank kept telling me that Badri’s actions and responses may not be right for me, but they were right for him,” smiles Varun. “Badri is so much a Jhansi guy and Shashank has brought him out beautifully even in the trailer. He is so unlike me that it is probably the first definite character I am playing since Badlapur.”

He smiles and adds, “Even when in love, the hero and heroine keep a distance. Badri, for example, can never go on to hold the girl’s hand.” Alia nods again in agreement. “Yes, there is a certain sweetness in such conservative characters. But tell me, when have we last watched a heartland love story? Do we even remember that?”

About her character, she says, “In my case, the character I played in Humpty Sharma… was a sweet and naïve girl whose only dream in life was to wear a pretty lehenga and get married. With Badrinath…, I can identify with my character, because she is so forward, is a feminist, and does not like being taken lightly. Her thinking is mature as well.” Looking meaningfully at Varun, she adds, “I did not have disagreements with Shashank at all. I was a good ‘student’.”

Isn’t it true that Karan and Shashank plan to make more films in this unique … Ki Dulhania franchise with them, where the lead pair will be repeated but the characters will be different? Replies Varun, “Let us see what happens with this film. But India has so many cultures, which gives us a lot of scope. Most problems we have shown in this film are not first world, but pertain to India and its heartland.”

He explains, “Shashank is from Nashik, so the way he sees people and romance is different. That is why we had all those disagreements, but today, he also deserves the credit for whatever praise I am getting. It will be my biggest victory if people feel that Varun is not repeating himself in this film.”

Of hits & flops

Varun confesses that after Dilwale, he had hit a roadblock. “That is because I just stopped being a viewer then. When you get converted to the other side, you get a bit lost as it becomes difficult to gauge the audience. That is why I took up my role of Junaid in Dishoom. I will always try and do different characters, but will never remove the entertainment aspect. Right now, I am doing a Shoojit Sircar film that has a beautiful script, besides my dad’s Judwaa 2. My films should not just make money, but must have a shelf life.”

Will he do a Badlapur-like role again? “I am sure I will, but with the entertainment angle intact. The relatable quotient of my character matters. If you see most of my reel names, they are those no hero has ever had — like Humpty, Badri, Seenu or Junaid!”

But isn’t he a superstar from among his generation? “Thank you for saying that, but it’s not true. I am proceeding for sure in the direction taken by Salman-sir, Shah Rukh-sir and Akshay-sir. But I have not reached anywhere near them, otherwise my films would have shown collections on their movies’ scale. That only comes from a huge pan-Indian connect,” he says pragmatically.

And what is Alia’s take on the diverse roles she has done? “Look, your first film chooses you and after that you choose the films,” she smiles. “I chose a Highway, a Humpty Sharma, a 2 States and an Udta Punjab. I am the same person since birth. I feel I am just working, and the achievements I am credited with are a by-product of my choices.”

And she wisely adds, “There is pressure only from my point of view — to challenge myself. Badrinath… is my first out-and out commercial film after a long time. I get bored easily. Like right now, I want to do a comedy. I am doing Dragon, starring Ranbir Kapoor, because it is different. More than a superhero film, it is a supernatural film. Gully Boy, which I am doing with Ranveer Singh, is a roughed-out, raw Mumbai film. The audience is very open to the concept of us actors doing different things. Like tomorrow, my conviction can be in doing a slapstick movie.”

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