After three back-to-back releases last year, Varun Dhawan is glad that Dishoom is his only release in 2016. “I had Badlapur, ABCD2 and Dilwale in one calendar year. While I did manage to show a lot of versatility, it could have been too much for the audience. Badrinath (Ki Dulhania, with Alia Bhatt) was to be released towards the yearend, but it’s been moved to next year which is a good decision,” he says.
Dishoom is almost a family affair for Varun, considering his elder brother Rohit is at the helm of the film. “Not really, ya. When we were shooting, Rohit and I would not meet post pack-up. Most of shooting has been done in Morocco and Abu Dhabi, and we would shoot long hours, so it was pretty easy to not meet him.” Varun also clarifies that it wasn’t understood that he could be a part of the film just because his brother is the director. “I read the script only after Sajid (Nadiadwala, the film’s producer) suggested that I should play Junaid Ansari. He thought I could be perfect to play the rookie cop. Before that, I knew Rohit was writing this story because he tends to bounce off ideas to dad (David) and me, but there was no understanding that I would get the part.”
Along with the script, Rohit gave his actor-brother a list of do’s and don’ts. “He told me that I couldn’t deviate too much from the script and improvise like I usually do. Junaid is a cop from the Middle East, so his character is quite set. I have a lot of funny bits, but it’s not played out as funny. When my character says, ‘main paida hua tha Bhendi Bazaar ke agal mein, jawani aayi Burj Khalifa ke bagal mein; main kamata hun dirham mein, kharchta hun rupee main; main khata hun inki, lekin sunta hoon sirf Modiji ki’, he is being very serious. He is an NRI and loves everything Indian, but he also speaks Arabic.”
When he wasn’t shooting or hanging with his co-stars in Abu Dhabi, Varun spent quite a bit of time with his Pakistani driver. “He became my best friend. He would play ghazals during our drives out to the desert. He would get emotional while playing Pankaj Udhas’ Chithi aayi hai or Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s songs. Spending time with him helped me understand what it means to be away from your country and family. It was quite an eye-opener. I would also run my Arabic lines with him.”
Dishoom is Varun’s first all-out action film and the 29-year-old is excited. “I’d been dying to do action for a long time. We have a lot of chases… there is a bike chase in the mountains of Morocco. John (Abraham) was riding the bike while I was standing on the side. I also piloted a speedboat for the first time. John was in the boat with me and I almost threw him into the sea a couple of times. He is a big guy but he fell seven times! He would give me a really dirty look each time. It was fun,” Varun says with a laugh.
John and Varun have quite the bromance going on these days. Varun even has a nickname for John. “I call him Jonathan Rossi because he loves bikes and cars… he is obsessed with them. We have so many bikes and cars in this film. So, every time one was brought to the set, he would start rattling off all the specs. This is the speed... it has these gears... I have never seen someone so passionate about anything.”
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When they weren’t shooting, the duo spent time together pumping iron in the gym. “We have an underwear sequence in the film. John told me ‘listen to me, I have a lot of experience shooting in my underwear’,” Varun recalls, adding, “He has full theory about how the scene would look. I have always had ab, but John told me to train my chest and shoulders. For about 40 days, I had John as my trainer. What a treat that was!”