Varun Dhawan hasn’t put a wrong step forward since he made his debut in Karan Johar’s Student of the Year in 2012. Every film of his has clicked with audiences, whether it’s the adults-only revenge thriller Badlapur (2015) or the sober coming-of-age drama October (2018). Expectations are high from Sui Dhaaga, directed by Sharat Katariya and featuring Dhawan as an ambitious young man from a small town, but the 31-year-old actor doesn’t want to fuel them.
“Now it has become like a bet, and people wonder whether this will continue or when it will break,” Dhawan said during an interview in Mumbai. “I am trying not to pay attention and going about my work as usual. It comes with a lot of pleasure and pressure. I think it is a double-edged sword.”
In Sui Dhaaga, which also stars Anushka Sharma, Dhawan plays Mauji, a tailor, embroiderer and handyman who dreams of setting up his own business and graduate “from unemployed to self-employed”. Mauji’s sense of optimism is reflected in his favourite phrase, “It’s all good.” The movie will be released on September 28.
Apart from paying a tribute to India’s rich handloom culture, the movie encourages entrepreneurship beyond the metropolises, Dhawan said. “I think the next big idea for a company could come from a small town, the next big talent from fashion could be from a small town,” he said. “This shift is very important and if in a small way the film can contribute to that, it would be nice.”
Dhawan’s preparation for the part included learning tailoring and going through rigorous accent training under actor Mahesh Sharma (Dum Laga Ke Haisha). “Mahesh worked with me extensively for two months for every scene,” Dhawan said. “I worked on the sewing machine for three months. I made sure that they did not just take close-ups of my hand and wanted them to shoot the whole thing.”
The film reflects Dhawan’s own philosophy behind his career choice: it should be for everyone. “Everyone should feel invited to watch my films,” he explained. “Everyone should feel that they own the film. Sui Dhaaga is everyone’s film and is 2018’s family film. Seeing a film and not feeling anything is like eating something very boring.”
Dhawan has played a range of roles over a short span of time, including the dapper Rohan in Student of the Year, the over-the-top comic hero in Govinda mould in Main Tera Hero (2014) and the romantic lead in Shashank Khaitan’s Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania (2014) and Badrinath Ki Dulhania (2017).
The goal is to satisfy every moviegoer by doing different kinds of films with the same amount of passion, Dhawan said. “I do not want to be told that I can only do this or that, I want to do every type of cinema,” he said. “Choosing a film, for me at least, comes from a pure place. It is not about the film making me the biggest star. It is always about the film making me closer to the audience.”
No matter what the genre or contents of a film, it should be able to affect the viewer’s mood, Dhawan added. “A film has to impact in such a way that it creates a little bit of a mood shift in your thinking, attitude or personality,” the actor said. “When films manage to do that, that is when a filmmaker’s voice is truly represented in a good way. I am not saying I do that with every film, but my eventual aim is to do that.”
Varun Dhawan named two movies as turning points: Main Tera Hero (2014), directed by his father, David Dhawan, and Sriram Raghavan’s Badlapur.
“There is a certain appeal you need to have to be accepted in Main Tera Hero because otherwise you are going to fall flat,” Dhawan said. “And the movie did well. Badlapur was an A-rated film and a different genre in itself. When that got accepted, it was like fighting against all odds.”
The aim is to balance commercial entertainers with more grounded narratives. “I feel like every time I do a masala film, it is difficult,” Dhawan said. “Even for a movie like Judwaa 2 to get accepted 20 years after the original was released is not easy. Whatever conversation might go on about the film, it is a movie that got me recognition in so many parts of the country.”