So far, David Dhawan’s younger son Varun’s career as a hero has been a festival of frivolity. More often than not he plays a carefree happy-go-lucky guy whose biggest worry in life is what to wear for the party in the evening and would that pretty girl in the red dress look at him when the deejay babu plays the latest track. Whether playing Rohan (Student Of The Year) or Badrinath or Humpty Sharma, the vibes are always basti se door parbat ke peeche masti mein choor ghane pedon ke neeche (courtesy: Bobby). But wait there are three films that remind us Varun is more than a star. He is an actor too. Take a look.
Badlapur (2014): Varun Dhawan, a bit raw around the edges is nonetheless acutely effective as the grieving family-man and Nawazuddin flawlessly flamboyant as the sly villain who has willy-nilly destroyed the hero's life. They together confer an overpowering immediacy to the proceedings. “The tree remembers, the axe forgets,” reads a proverb in the opening credits of a film that left me feeling like both the tree and the axe. While the film's pain-lashed topography in the first overture is exceptional - with every vein on Varun Dhawan's temples ringing a bell- the second overture gets audacious tongue-in-cheek subversive and sometimes downright silly. As if the tree decided to get even with the axe by cutting off its own branches. Cast in the mould of the greatest redemptive dramas, Badlapur has an ambitious ambience of unmitigated doom irrigating almost every frame. It's as if director Sriram Raghavan and his co-writer Arijit Biswas wants to shut out all light from his protagonist Raghavan's life. Insulated from the outside world, Raghav's festering pain spreads itself out in the narrative spanning a seductive facsimile of reality that jumps off the screen to claim our attention.
October (2017): Juhi Chaturvedi’s writing is so lucid I felt I knew first-hand all the characters who populate her wondrous world of alchemized pain. The plot is about an obdurate seemingly obnoxious hotel-management trainee, played with wilful gusto by Varun Dhawan, who decides that the quiet shy colleague Shiuli (debutante Banita Sandhu) who has gone into a coma has some kind of bonding with him. Unsure of that thing we call love, Varun Dhawan’s Dan simply lives on the IDEA of love, extolling its idealism to a point where his existence is defined by one casual 3-worded question that Shiuli asked her colleagues before she slipped into a long coma. Varun Dhawan’s deep understanding of what makes a character as seemingly overbearing as Dan brings out his sensitive side navigates the film’s simple elegant structure through a maze of life-transforming experiences which convey the unexpectedness of life as it suddenly swerves into death.
Sui Dhaaga (2018): Playing the diligent darzee Varun Dhawan surrenders to his character Mauji as though the role was tailor-made for him. Not afraid to look less than heroic on screen, Varun furnishes his darji’s characters with a rugged candour. This is an actor and a character who are so sincere to their craft they don’t mind crawling on the floor if that’s what it takes to stay afloat. Dhawan’s performance is filled with a smothered disappointment it takes his quietly confident deceptively docile wife Mamta to bring out the suppressed ambition in her husband. The aspirational narrative of how Mauji finds his groove with considerable help from his street-wise wife works like a charm because all the performers are solidly sincere. But most of all Sui Dhaaga wins our hearts because the director never milks the milieu for soppy sentimentality. Nor does he swing the other way to make the middle-class ambience a place to celebrate misery. The tone is constantly energetic yet poised. Director Sharat Katariya is neither awed by stillness nor intimidated by noise. He listens to the heartbeat of the heartland. We listen. As long as Varun gives us one such performance every 2-3 years we forgive him all the excesses of Coolie No 1 and Judwaa.
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