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‘The film emphasises on the importance of family’-Entertainment News , Firstpost

Actor Varun Dhawan on returning to theatres after two years with Jug Jugg Jeeyo says that he wants to see a packed auditorium with people enjoying the film.

Varun Dhawan will have a theatrical release after almost two years with Jug Jugg Jeeyo; his last film Coolie No 1 premiered on an OTT platform in December 2020. Backed by Dharma Productions and Viacom18 Studios, the comedy drama centres on a family where both father and son are planning to divorce their partners. One of the much anticipated films of this year, Dhawan says JJJ is a progressive take on marriage, and divorce with an emotional story about relationships at its core. The excitement is palpable as further on the actor has a huge line-up of films including Bhediya (helmed by Amar Kaushik) and Nitesh Tiwari-directed Bawaal besides a web series co-starring Samantha Ruth Prabhu and helmed by Raj & DK. Lauded equally for commercial potboilers like Main Tera HeroHumpty Sharma Ki DulhaniaBadrinath Ki DulhaniaJudwaa 2  and those where he dropped the Bollywood hero’s garb in dark revenge drama like Badlapur, or the coming-of-age October, or then the heart-warming Sui Dhaaga – Made In India, Dhawan wants to invest more time in the making of films for what he calls the “larger-than-life vision on screen”.

Excerpts from a chat with the versatile actor :

Well-made wholesome family dramas with good music usually pulls audiences, it is also pretty much a safe genre, is that what attracted you to Jug Jugg Jeeyo?

I have grown up on films like Hum Saath Saath Hain, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, Hum Aapke Hain Koun, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge…I love these films, so obviously when I became an actor these films attracted me but then premise has to be new, we can’t do the same thing. I was approached with the subject and I really liked it. It is about this young couple, this boy wanting to divorce his wife and his wife wanting to leave him. He has come home to tell his father and when I tell him, he tells me that he, too, wants to divorce his wife. Now only I know this information and I also keep issues between me and my ‘wife’ to myself. I am trying to control the situation and in the midst of all this I am shown getting busy with my ‘sister’s’ wedding. Alongside my ‘father’ is introducing me to his girlfriend who happens to be my school teacher, so all this is a very complicated situation but all this is also a great space to create situational comedy.

Lot of things have changed in terms of audience and viewership post pandemic especially with this hype around South films which have got great footfalls and kind of captured the market? How do you look at the current scenario?

Look, cinema overall is doing well right now, there is a lot of choice and variety and the audience has the right to choose what cinema they want to watch. Hollywood films have always been working, which is good, they are working because people are liking it. Coming to South, I myself enjoyed KGF 2 so much, people have loved it and hence it is one of the biggest grossers today. If you make a good film it will definitely work. If we have had seven to eight flops here in Hindi cinema, even in the South around that many films have flopped. That has also happened because for two-and-a-half years nothing released, a lot of out-dated cinema which people held on to, or could not exhibit were also showcased but I feel when a good film will come it will work. In the Hindi film industry we definitely have a lot of good films coming. Now every film won’t work. But the audience will never watch a bad film whether it is a Hollywood film, a Hindi film or a South film. Filmmakers today do need to re-establish the connection with the audience, who are now spoiled for choices courtesy digital platforms and pan-India theatrical releases.

Still from Jug Jugg Jeeyo

You said you have grown up watching family dramas and now that you are doing a film in that genre what is that you bring in?

I have tried to tackle every scene differently. In almost every scene the director would tell me, ‘Varun, I don’t want you to look yourself in this, I want you to be very vulnerable and I had my pay-offs in the end in scenes with a lot of drama, in the fights, in the sequences specially because man on the other end is my father, he is not my friend. I have to deal with the situation with some amount of respect. It doesn’t matter if he is having an affair. I can’t be upfront or hit him. I can’t go beyond a certain level with him because that relationship comes in between. In that frustration, in that situation there is a lot of comedy. It is an interesting situation because my character wants to talk but he can’t.

How was it working with such a huge star cast especially since many of you enjoy doing comedy?

Yes, there are so many people in the team who love comedy, from Maniesh, to Anil Sir, to me, to Prajakta (Koli) who does so much comedy on YouTube. But Prajakta’s is a very different target group. I have done many humorous scenes with her in the film but her timing is different. It is not filmy but very funny and anytime when me and Anil Sir were having a scene, Prajakta would start laughing saying, ‘what are you guys doing?’ But at the same time there are some very emotional scenes between me and Kiara, and Neetu ma’am and me which are very crucial from the film’s plot point of view and because all are such good actors we were able to crack it. There is a lot of humour in this film throughout but when the situation gets emotional and the message part of the film comes in we get a bit teary because everyone wants to see the family together, nobody wants to see cracks in relationship and breakups. When that part of separation comes, that is the message how a family should try and stick together no matter what.

You got married recently, what do you think keeps marriage going? What is the secret of a happy marriage?

I feel friendship is a very important factor that keeps marriage going. Before you get married you should know each other very well. You should know all those things that could cause a problem later on in the marriage. It is not good to discover new things suddenly which may happen because people evolve but basically you should know each other’s secrets. If suddenly something is discovered that can rock the boat later on. I have known my wife for the last 20-23 years so we really have known each other rather too well.

Is there any takeaway from the film?

Don’t be like Bheem (Anil Kapoor’s character) (laughs). But the film also taught us to count your blessings because we shot this film during the pandemic which made us realise to live for today, the present is important and that is what this film also tells us. There is a lot of laughter and fun but it tells you the importance of family. Family will always be with us but we always take our near and dear ones for granted. We know that we will have our parents, spouse waiting for us when we go home after work. The most important thing in our life we take for granted and that comes across in the film very well.

You have worked with Rishi Kapoor and now how was your experience working with Neetu Kapoor?

She would always tell us the anecdotes about Rishi Sir and how he used to be on set but for some reason she would be feeling nervous because for the first time she is coming on set without him. But eventually when she started doing scenes she was amazing and she had some incredible scenes in the second half.

You have been part of many light-hearted films like Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania, Badrinath Ki Dulhania and now Jug Jugg Jeeyo, is the pressure lesser on you compared to when you do an intense film like Badlapur, or October and Sui Dhaaga where you are ripped off your commercial image?

The pressure definitely is more with films like Badlapur, October…But pressure is very subjective. I have seen some very senior superstars and actors dealing with this and there is one thing that I learnt from them is to keep pressure at bay. They always keep pressure in their pocket. It is there but they don’t let it affect them and they have a very positive outlook on the outcome. But unfortunately, the younger generation, we are thinking more of the negatives than the positives. So this one I want to enjoy because I have seen the film and I am happy with it. Genuinely it is a good film, I would watch the film even if I was not in it. So now if the outcome is not good then something is wrong with me.

You are returning to theatres with Jug Jugg Jeeyo after almost two years so what is the box office pressure like, or the kind of expectations you have from this film?

Expectations are there that people enjoy the film and they love it. Eventually what is it that you want to see? I want to see a packed auditorium and people enjoying the film. The money is not coming to me…I have got some stake, some percentage in the film but that is not the criteria, the criteria is people having a good time in the auditorium because that is my memory of a theatre…my film coming out and I am sitting in the premiere with friends and fans and we are enjoying. Or when we get messages that we had a great time, this is what I liked about the film…

How did you resonate with your character in the film?

On a personal level…well, every son has gone through a stressful situation at home, with parents and then outside sources putting pressure on him that now you have grown up, you have to handle this, trying to make him more responsible for various things in the family. My character is a bit irresponsible and I am trying to be more responsible is what my character is all about. I have been through that phase from boy becoming a man …

You also have a huge line up of films like BhediyaBawaal which are being talked about, and then there is a web series with Samantha Ruth Prabhu to be directed by Raj & DK. How exciting are the times ahead for you?

It is exciting for me because I am doing something new but definitely I am putting in more time now to do films. I am not doing it in that window of three to six months. It is taking nine months or more, it is taking a while to do it. We are trying to make films which will go beyond as in Bhediya was shot extensively in the jungles of Arunachal Pradesh and in a town called Zero with VFX happening in London, Los Angeles and Hyderabad. Some of the shooting happened in Delhi, then here at Mira Road and now we will go somewhere else. Bawaal is being shot extensively between Mumbai, Paris, Poland, Amsterdam, Normandy and Berlin. These films are going to take time but we have made up our mind that let’s put in the time if we want to excel. And all this is coming from the directors, so I am excited. There is no fast food now. But I can’t comment on the web show yet.

Do you think we are going to see more of this where more time will be invested in making a film for probably good results? Soon Brahmastra will be out and the film’s director Ayan Mukerji was also talking on the same lines that a good film takes a certain time…

Yes. Those who want to bring that larger-than-life vision on screen such films are going to take time. Even a film like Jug Jugg Jeeyo has taken over one-and-a-half years in the making because the director said I won’t cheat by having Punjab in Mumbai. He was told that he will get actors’ dates but he said No. He said I will go to Chandigarh or Patiala and shoot. We had to shoot abroad because a certain section was shot abroad. He wanted snow and for that he wanted to go in December only. There are some directors who are hell-bent on the look and the feel of the film for small things but it reflects and you have to empower the director today. How much can the actors do? Well, they can go to a location with hot weather and act as if it is cold but it will look fake. It is high time that directors get power in their hands.

You have completed a decade in the industry this year, from headlining a teen romance to playing a mature married man, how do you see your growth? Also, do you think it is a great time to be an actor considering there are so many avenues now?

Since the time I stepped into the industry people have been saying it is a great time to be an actor. It is always a great time to be an actor and we are blessed to be loved by so many people who watch us leading a film. We have to just give our best and our personal growth and happiness will reflect eventually in our roles.

Seema Sinha is a Mumbai-based mainstream entertainment journalist who has been covering Bollywood and television industry for over two decades. Her forte is candid tell-all interviews, news reporting and newsbreaks, investigative journalism and more. She believes in dismissing what is gossipy, casual, frivolous and fluff.

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