Varun Sharma began his Bollywood journey not so long ago and has already shared screen space with Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol and Sonam Kapoor to name a few. At age 26, the actor claims to be living his dream and hopes it only goes uphill from here. He received great appreciation for his role in Fukrey where he played Choocha and went on to create lasting comic memories through his role in Dilwale as Siddhu. Fukrey Returns is set to release at the end of the year and his fans who fondly refer to him as the sabse bada fukra from the rest of the gang can’t wait. His passion for acting and love for what he does shows through and through as he speaks to us about his journey in Bollywood so far and how he plans to surge ahead, breaking stereotypes and challenging odds.
We hear Shah Rukh Khan was your idol. When was the first time you saw him?
He’s always been my idol. It was he who sparked the dream of becoming an actor in me. I was about four and was watching Baazigar and the song, Ye Kaali Kaali Aankhen played and I started jumping on my bed telling my mom that I wanted to be an actor. So that was the first time the acting bug got into my head and from there I have always been chasing that dream. The first fanboy moment was when I visited Mumbai for the first time, I was in Grade 8 or 9, and Om Shanti Om had just released. The MTV Lycra awards were going on and somehow my sister and I got passes to it. I was standing in this long queue and Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone entered on the red carpet and I stood in shock. I think life comes in a full circle so eventually I have ended up working with the people connected to Baazigar, SRK in Dilwale and Abbas-Mustan in Kis Kisko Pyaar Karoon.
How did Dilwale come about?
SRK saw Fukrey and he told me that he really liked my work and that’s when he mentioned he was about to do a film with Rohit Shetty and Kajol ma’am and thought it would be a great idea to have me on board. He insisted that I go meet Rohit sir, which I did and from there the rest fell in place. It was a dream come true when I received my first award by him, The Star Guild Awards.
Was it easy to make friends within the industry? Who were your first group of friends?
Earlier, my perception of Bollywood was similar to every newcomer in the industry – grey and uncertain. But once I started working here, I realised people are really warm and welcoming. Right now my closest friends are Varun Dhawan and Kriti Sanon. My first group of friends was obviously the Fukrey gang since it was my debut film. Excel Entertainment played a great role in supporting me as a newbie. I still run straight to Riteish and Farhan sir for any sort of guidance.
You are quite a shy person contrary to your on-screen roles. How do you prepare yourself to get into your on-screen character?
I am extremely shy and take a lot of time to open up in real life though the characters I am normally offered are loud and over the top. When I started off with theatre in college I never thought I could do comedy and make people laugh. I have always done very hard-core serious theatre and it was only after Fukrey that I realised that I enjoy comedy. Preparation wise, I have a very basic strategy. I try to visit my character’s native place around 10 days prior to the shoot. This helps me really get into the skin of the character, learn their language and their chaal dhaal.
Since you did a lot of serious theatre, were you apprehensive while auditioning for Fukrey?
Fukrey took me around eight months from my first audition to my signing. There were a lot of auditions but it was worth the wait. Of course, I was scared but also when one has never tried a particular genre, you automatically put in double the effort. So I was less apprehensive and more excited.
Newcomers generally struggle in Bollywood. But your first film was a hit so was it easier to get another film?
When I got my first film I was just crazy with excitement! But for any newcomer I think getting any film is tough, and I think choosing the right script and doing the right work is vital. Every film gives an actor a shelf life of about two years and it keeps happening until you reach a point where you are so established that it is on auto pilot. So it basically keeps getting tougher after your first film because the audience expects better from you. After Fukrey, I waited almost four months to get the right film, which was Dolly Ki Doli.
It’s easy to get stereotyped in Bollywood. How do you plan to break the mould?
I don’t want to do only comedy but as a genre I will never stop it either since it gave me my much awaited recognition among audience. But there is a film I am doing with Jimmy Shergill, directed by Ashwin Mani, a South Indian director that will have me playing a different kind of role with a lot of unexpected twists.
You took part in IRT - India’s deadliest Roads that involved you driving a truck on some of the scariest roads in India. Tell us more about that.
It was one mad ride in Ladakh, a place I have never been to. I refrained from seeing videos since I wanted to go there and experience it first-hand. But when I was there, living without a phone, Wi-Fi, hot water and electricity was nearly impossible. I had to run to an army phone every day to call my family and tell them that I was alive. The whole experience was one of a kind. When I first got offered the chance, I thought it was going to be a journey of self-discovery and solitude but after just one week all that came crashing to the ground and I was on a truck, road tripping on some of the scariest paths in Nothern India. We started from Manali and I had to drive across Leh and Ladakh, eventually ending at Turtuk, the north most village in India.
Fukrey Returns is set to release this year. Anything new we can expect from your role as Choocha?
I was happy when I was offered the chance to play the character I loved so much again. But there is obviously a lot of pressure since the audience has higher expectations. I took a nice break before shoot started and met all my friends so I could come to set with a refreshed mind. The script this time is more mad and exciting and the characters are Fukras to the core!