Nobody can fault Bollywood actor Varun Dhawan for not having a quirky sense of humour. The hunky actor, who was in Dubai to promote ‘Bhediya’ earlier this week and was recently in Goa for the opening ceremony of the ongoing International Film Festival of India (IFFI), claims he lost the will to live when he stumbled upon this.
“There was a time when I used to read reviews very diligently, but unfortunately when a DJ with a verified account reviewed my film, I realised that I had to filter what I read,” said Dhawan.
“Now, I read reviews solely based on who’s reviewing them. This upsurge of influencers — where everyone is a journalist and a movie critic — is simply weird … Everyone is an influencer who does random Insta reels and a reviewer, and that’s disturbing,” said Dhawan.
But Dhawan and Dinesh Vijan, the hands-on producer of ‘Bhediya’, have come up with a solution. They have found a perfect candidate to do the painstaking job of reading reviews — their leading lady and award-winning actress Kriti Sanon.
“I read all the reviews and even all the tweets … I love finding out what their theories are. Reviews are someone’s personal opinions, right? And reviews often depend on what mood and environment you saw the film in. Movie watching is an intensely personal experience … I read every one of them and it gives me an idea of what people are feeling. I don’t take reviews too personally,” said Sanon.
This terrific trio behind ‘Bhediya’ — Dhawan, Sanon and Vijan — a horror comedy where the hero is bitten by a wolf and turns into a beast, much to his chagrin and confusion, believes that they have come up with an entertaining film that’s likely to draw the audiences back into the theatres again in the post-COVID-19 era. The makers and director Amar Kaushik, who have created hits of the same genre ‘Stree’, are also behind ‘Bhediya’.
“I have always wanted to work with Amar Kaushik, but he chooses actors only if they choose his script … And did you know that bhediya [wolf] is the only animal that you can’t tame. You can even tame your pet tiger or lion but forget taming a wolf and I found that fascinating,” said Dhawan.
Sanon, who sports a pixie hair cut in the film, plays the quirky vet Dr Anika Mittal, who is on call to help the reluctant werewolf Bhaskar Sharma. If the trailers are anything to go by, the film is a neat blend of comedy, horror and drama.
Dhawan, who built a lean and athletic body to make his transformation from a regular dude to a beast, famously set aside nearly two years of his life preparing for the role. Largely shot in the jungles of Arunachal Pradesh, his vanity was shown the door.
“I was given clear instructions by Dino and Amar that I had to look grungy, dirty, and even had hair all over my body … For the first time in my career, I didn’t have to worry about how I looked and I got ready for a shot the fastest. It was liberating because all I did in terms of make-up was to put on some coconut oil on my face and that’s it,” said Dhawan, who was spotted applying lip balm before this video interview with Gulf News. But hey, no one’s judging.
The 35-year-old actor, who made his debut in the glossy 2012 college romance ‘Student of the Year’, is one of India’s biggest heart-throbs and is known for his amicable persona. His soaring popularity, among young men and women, was on full display when he danced robustly at the opening ceremony of the weeklong IFFI earlier this week.
“I am super excited about dancing for the IFFI guests … It’s going to be a fun night, I promise,” he said. Dhawan lived up to his promise because he displayed immense showmanship and star power in the song-dance spectacle along with actors such as Kartik Aaryan and Sara Ali Khan. He was on fire and that makes sense because the actor admits that he’s an unfettered soul.
“I can’t be tamed … Look at me right now as I am doing this interview, I am craving to go swimming. I am manifesting that this interview will happen by the pool as I swim in the future,” said Dhawan.
While the prospect of Dhawan wading into a pool sounded lush, Sanon and Vijan jumps in with their own theories about the actor.
“The fact is that nobody can control Varun Dhawan including Varun himself. He’s not into worldly things but gets all those things because that’s the way it is. You will the 2.0 version of Varun Dhawan in ‘Bhediya’. Earlier for my film ‘Badlapur’, Varun fully submitted himself to that role. I don’t think he did anything else except wanting to play that character right,” said Vijan.
‘Badlapur’, which opened to good reviews and was a money-spinner, remains Dhawan’s career-altering film. In the revenge saga, you saw Dhawan swapping his dapper metrosexual persona for a dark, sombre man consumed by the need for revenge when his beloved family gets murdered. His process for ‘Bhediya’, also starring a raft of formidable talents like Deepak Dobriyal and Abhishek Banerjee, wasn’t any different.
“I was just working on ‘Bhediya’ all these months and when I heard that other actors were doing several films, I felt a bit anxious. But patience is something that I learned through this film … I had to remain in this character for months together. Grow a beard, learn animal flow movements,” said Dhawan. Animal Flow workouts are designed to provide strength, mobility and stability. He worked extensively with his personal trainer Devrath to prepare physically for the role. In the film, he sports a lean, mean and athletic build to make the human-wolf transformation seem authentic.
“I am sure it will be worth all our time,” said Dhawan.
‘Bhediya’ is a significant release in the Bollywood roster since the industry is on the cusp of revival after a spate of underwhelming films performing poorly at the box office worldwide. But things are looking positive ever since Ajay Devgn’s thriller ‘Drishyam 2’, which was released a week before ‘Bhediya’, continues to do robust box office business in the UAE cinemas, Indian theatres and beyond.
In a separate interview, Devgn, who’s also participating in IFFI 2022 in Goa along with Dhawan, expressed his support for ‘Bhediya’.
“We need at least three Bollywood hits like ‘Drishyam 2’ to be back on the road again. I really hope that ‘Bhediya’ will be successful too at the box office,” said Devgn.
Just like Devgn, the team of ‘Bhediya’ is equally optimistic about its outcome. Steeped in Indian folklore, this film has ticked all the boxes when it comes to what usually works in Bollywood. It has sturdy A-listers like Sanon and Dhawan and is the blend of comedy and horror — if done right can do wonders at the box office. ‘Bhediya’ releases a day before in the UAE cinemas, and the cast and crew are keenly aware that the Gulf market is a crucial litmus test for them.
“Our films are reviewed by the press here, a day before India and it’s almost like we are sitting for our exam in Dubai … It’s a big deal and I hope we pass with flying colours with ‘Bhediya’. It’s your big-screen entertainment with a unique concept, some great VFX, and above all, I promise you it’s a good film,” said Dhawan.
Don’t miss it!
‘Bhediya’ is out in UAE cinemas on November 24.
“Bollywood is undergoing a shake-up now … The spending power was earlier in Indian cities, but now that spending power has moved to small towners who are acquainted with digital content. They are now mature, and they want their heroes and stories to be bigger. They want an Indian protagonist in Indian reality,” said Dinesh Vijan, when asked about how Bollywood is going through a challenging phase.
Did you know?
– Varun Dhawan is craving for real reviewers to critique his films. “I hope it’s not just DJs who review films and that shake-up happens soon,” said Dhawan.
– Kriti Sanon, who plays a quirky vet in her horror comedy, went for a ‘pahadi’ (person from mountain region) look.
“We experimented with my hair. I got the same haircut like I had when I was a kid — the ‘Sadhana’ bob, had flushed cheeks, and freckles … And, I am going to keep my wig for myself,” said Sanon.