An unlikely actor, with plain looks but the confidence of a practiced performer, Varun Sharma is a delight to talk to. Honest, forthright and focused, here, he tells us why sharing screen space with other leading men in ‘Dolly ki Doli’ didn’t worry him, and on his incredible journey to the silver screen!
You’re obviously the funniest man in ‘Dolly Ki Doli’ . Your co actor, Rajkummar Rao, who is an accomplished performer, said that he found it challenging to keep pace with your comic timing. What made you choose this film, despite it being an ensemble cast like your debut film?
The first time that I met Arbaaz sir, I went through the narration. I also met the director Abhishek Dogra & Uma Shankarji, the film’s writer. I found it very quirky, and I love that quirky comic zone in films.
Basically, I never thought that I could make people laugh! Even when I started off in films, when I saw ‘Fukrey’ onscreen, I was surprised to see that I was funny. In ‘Dolly ki Doli’, my role is meaty and an upcoming actor always needs that. If there were something that I can explore as a performer and actor, I would do that. That’s what I found in Manjot Singh Chaddha’s character.
I play a mama’s boy, who is quite dominated at home by his mother. When he steps out though, he is living life to the fullest. Whatever he can’t be doing at home, he does those things twice over when he steps out. So he loves doing those ‘fukrabaazis’, and he loves to show off. He’s never fallen in love. So when he falls in love with a person like Dolly, his life goes for a toss and she takes him for a ride. I thought those little nuances would add a lot to my profile as an actor.
The film is clearly centered on Dolly. Did that not deter you?
No, not at all! I never expected to bag films with such leading banners. I don’t belong to the film fraternity, and I knew no one here. When I came down to Mumbai initially, I started my own journey. I landed a film with Excel Entertainment as a debut. It’s a huge thing for me.
Of course, working under Arbaaz Sir’s banner is quite special. As someone who follows films, I have grown up watching the family’s films. As long as I am getting to perform, and can add value to the role, I am happy with a role. And of course, who wouldn’t want to do a film with Sonam Kapoor, with Pulkit and Rajkummar as co-stars!
Are you an accidental actor? Or was acting always a dream for you?
I grew up wanting to be an actor! I was watching ‘Ye Kaali Kaali Aankhen’. I stood up on the bed and started dancing! I wanted to be an actor since then. I used to speak with a lisp then, and my mother thought that I would get over the bug of becoming an actor. When I finished school and my parents asked me as to what would I like to pursue ahead, I said I wanted to act. She felt then, that I am quite serious.
So I studied filmmaking in Punjab, and moved to Mumbai as part of my internship. I preferred to begin somewhere- so I worked with casting director Nandini Srikent. I worked on films like ‘Talaash’, ‘Student of The Year’, ‘Ye Jawaani Hain Deewani’, and ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’. I learnt a lot during this process. Its beautiful learning when you witness so many actors perform in front of you.
The goal was acting, but I didn’t expect that so much would happen so soon! As outsiders to the film fraternity, we keep reading about how much it takes to get an acting break in films. In this profession, you can’t lie to your family, or relatives that ‘I am doing well’. If your work isn’t visible in acting, then that means your work isn’t going well. I am just blessed to be working with such amazing people at the start of my career itself!
So what kind of work are you looking for now?
I am open to all work. People keep saying, that I shouldn’t be doing any more comedies, and that I might get typecast. But I know that for any actor in Bollywood, it’s an achievement to even get cast in a film!
But you’re good at comedy! And you must have witnessed the struggle to get cast very closely, having worked in casting. How difficult is it for an actor to get a break even today?
Yeah, landing a role is a big thing. I don’t fear being typecast, for I don’t want to get in a zone that’s not my space at all. If people like me in comic roles and are watching me in theaters, I am happy to keep doing it. Of course I would like to explore other forms of acting and roles. But that has to happen gradually and the right kind of roles must come in.
As for a journey of an actor, personally, I don’t think of it as a struggle. In my head, there’s no such term. To me, it’s all learning. I did my graduation in filmmaking, but in this city, I have completed both my Masters & Phd in film through my experiences. I have dealt with rejections and I have dealt with confirmations. It’s two different worlds altogether! The day you get a call saying you can release your dates and the role isn’t yours, and the day when you get a call saying that you must block your dates for a shoot are two totally different worlds! The toughest part is just patience. You’re hoping to work in a city where the cream of talent from all over India- Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and all zones- is competing for roles. To shine out in this world, it’s quite tough. A producer is also putting his money on a new person, so you must prove your mettle.
But I am also thankful to the audience, and to the film fraternity, that all kinds of actors are being accepted. I cracked the role of ‘Choocha’ through auditions. And right now, anything is possible.
Final word of working with Sonam Kapoor. She has been saying at many interviews, that you, Rajkummar & Pulkit are better actors than her! What was it like, working with her?
Sonam is very honest. Everyone has preconceived notions- and I did think she is a fashionista and a glamorous star. But the ice was broken instantly during our workshops. She is a very warm person, and speaks her heart out.
I don’t think it’s easy for any actor to portray Dolly. She has to act in different spaces in the film. It will take a lot of preparation and thinking, and she is brilliant in the film.