After the box office success of Pink and Piku, director Shoojit Sircar is back with a subtle love story, October. The movie that released on April 13 has Varun Dhawan and newbie Banita Sandhu in the lead. They are playing hotel management trainees.
Shoojit reveals that he made Varun unlearn a lot of things before he chose him for this role. “I had not seen any of Varun’s films before signing him. Casting him was an accident. He came to the office one day and I saw my character Dan in him. My instinct and gut told me that he would be Dan and I told my writer Juhi Chaturvedi and producer Ronnie about it.” But soon he observed that Varun’s energies started flowing out with joy of getting this role. So Shoojit told him to calm down and unlearn whatever he had learnt in the films he did before.
Varun says, “I got a little scared when I was asked to unlearn everything. He didn’t want even a single dialogue delivered in my old style. He used to tell me to keep a glass of water and ask the boy to pick it up. I was instructed not to look into the boy’s eyes while saying the dialogue. ‘Are you in love with the boy?’, he would question me. I was told not to act in the film but be normal. ‘Just feel and deliver the lines, the rest will happen at its pace’, he would say.”
Banita’s selection, on the other hand, was instant. “We were looking for newcomers and then I remembered that I had done an ad with her. She is very simple and says a lot through her eyes. I knew she would be my heroine,” says Shoojit, whose first Bollywood project was Yahaan with Jimmy Shregill and Minissha Lamba in 2005
Born and brought up in Wales, Banita says it was a life-changing experience for her. “I was studying in London and trying for roles. I came to India because I wanted to connect to my roots. And I got this Doublemint commercial with Shootjitda.”
When he offered her a role in October, she was on cloud nine. “I was doing graduation in London when he called me and said he wanted to cast me in his next film. I didn’t know Hindi so well, and being in London and trying to pick up a language was very difficult. I got worried and called him frantically, and told him that it was not working out. But then he came up with the idea of doing Hindi conversations on Skype. After coming here, the Indian accent helped me get a hang of the language. And by the time I was on the sets, I had picked it up. But I was instructed to speak a little slow as I talk very fast,” says Banita.
Varun says he plays a trainee, who wants to become a sous chef at a hotel. “We were shooting in a five-star hotel, where I met this 19-year-old trainee named Abhilash. He also wanted to become a sous chef. I was talking to him one day and he just broke down. He said people made fun of him because he was short, and his parents also told him that he won’t do anything in life. On the last day of the shoot, I told the manager to put him in the kitchen to help him begin his journey towards his goal. I modelled my character on him and Shoojitda even gave me a bike as the boy used to ride a scooter,” says Varun, whose last film was Judwaa 2.
Banita says she had some cinematic references for her role. “The Theory of Everything was one of them. I was crazy like the Felicity Jones character, yet retained that innocence. I tried to be like Juhi Chaturvedi. I would watch the way she would talk and behave.”
Varun says the film is more about Shoojit’s life experiences. But the director clarifies that it’s not at all his love story, it’s a personal experience in 2004. “Juhi has also put in some of her experiences in the film,” he adds.
On their forthcoming films, Varun says he’s looking forward to Sui Dhaga with Anushka Sharma. I am playing tailor Mauji and the movie was shot in Bhopal. Banita says she is getting a lot of offers but she has not signed anything yet. Shoojit hasn’t thought of any new project. “I will take a break and start afresh.”