Bollywood: Varun Sharma on romancing a 'chudail' in 'Roohi'
The actor talks about working with Rajkummar Rao and Janhvi Kapoor and why he’s thrilled the horror-comedy got a cinematic release.
Varun Sharma is on a roll these days. The Fukrey actor, who is getting rave reviews for his performance in horror-comedy Roohi, is also thrilled about the fact that cinema buffs are returning to theatres to witness movie magic on the big screen once again, an experience that was hit hard by the Covid pandemic.
Jalandhar-born Varun, a crowd-pleasing actor with a knack for comedy, impressed us in his last release, 2019’s inspirational comedy Chhichhore (that also starred the late Sushant Singh Rajput). In telephonic conversation with City Times, he revealed how happy he is to be back on the big screen with Roohi.
“I feel very excited. I think we’ve all been waiting for this day for a very long time. Firstly I am very happy that the film released in cinemas and I think the biggest happiness that we as actors got is that people came back to cinemas to watch the film. We’ve been getting great reviews from the audience and from critics. People have been going to cinema halls, they’ve been watching the film with their families, sending us messages, sending us videos of reactions at theatres, so it just feels really overwhelming. I just feel very happy and blessed that after a year, the magic of cinema has kind of returned.”
Varun recently shared an emotional note on social media alongside a picture of himself bowing down inside a theatre, encouraging people to come back to cinemas to watch Roohi. “I was very emotional at that time. I went to a theatre after one year. As an actor everything I wrote just came from my heart.”
Roohi, which is currently playing in UAE theatres, revolves around a girl (Janhvi Kapoor) who charms two small town crime reporters with her twin avatars - one of whom is a chudail (witch). Varun calls the film “interesting and quirky”. "It’s a very new-age idea, a very ‘twisted’ love story. The character I play, Katanni, falls in a love with a chudail. And it’s a very genuine kind of love that he has for her - a very shiddat wala pyar. He is trying with all honesty to woo her, he is trying to be the one for her. Bhawra (Rajkummar) falls in love with Roohi who is a normal person. So basically it’s one girl with two different personalities, and this story is about the madness and the love triangle that ensues!”
Varun’s on-screen chemistry with Rajkummar, evident in the hilarious trailer, was a hit with audiences as well as critics. When asked what it was like working with Rajkummar, renowned for his versatility with films like The White Tiger and Newton, Varun says, “It was amazing. Rajkummar and I already have an equation - the first film we did was Dolly Ki Doli. This is my second venture with him. But I’ve been friends with him ever since, we’ve been hanging out, chatting and all that. So it was very easy. I think once you have a friend who is a co-actor and you share that chemistry and comfort with one another everything becomes very natural; I think we were just having a lot of fun while we were shooting for Roohi and I feel really happy it was translated on screen and people are enjoying that.”
Roohi also generated a lot of buzz prior to its release because of the presence of late superstar Sridevi’s daughter Janhvi Kapoor who plays Roohi, and her demonic twin personality Afza. Varun, who didn’t know Janhvi well prior to shooting, admits his Punjabi spirit was won over by some delicious food that she brought to set! “I never knew Janhvi before the film. (That was when) I met her for the first time, properly. I’ve only interacted with her at social gatherings and formal events. But there was a reason that kind of broke the ice between us and we became friends - she got home-made South Indian food for all of us on set!”
The horror-comedy genre is getting to be quite popular in Bollywood with many star-studded films on the way like Phone Bhoot, Bhoot Police and Bhediya. Varun reveals that while he wasn’t initially a horror fan, the concept of adding comedy to it made the combined genre very appealing. “I think horror is a very interesting and thrilling genre. Once you add comedy it gives the audience a lot of ‘feels’ while watching the film. I myself wasn’t a horror genre fan but it was Stree (starring Rajkummar Rao and Shraddha Kapoor) that got me into the genre, brought me back to the cinema to watch a film where one second you are laughing, one second you are getting scared! It gives you a lot of mixed emotions. We’ve had films like Bhool Bhulaiyaa and Golmaal Again which kind of got into the genre of getting scared and having a laugh at the same time and I think it worked amongst the audience. I think Dinesh Vijan as a producer of Stree, Roohi and then Bhediya is very beautifully making a universe of his own, of the genre.”
Varun who is looking forward to Fukrey 3 (which will start shooting next month) gives credit to the 2013 comedy-drama that catapulted him into the spotlight. “Fukrey is the film I debuted with and it’s what gave me the kind of acceptance that I have today among the audience. For an actor being accepted by the audience is the biggest achievement. I’m really happy to be back on set with the crew, the same team with whom I started out. It’s going to be very interesting and I am really excited and thrilled about it.”
As someone with no showbiz connections how would he describe his Bollywood journey thus far?
“It’s been a beautiful ride - I’ve had my share of rejections and ups and downs but it is the process that has really taught me a lot. In all fairness the industry is a very welcoming one. I am an archetype of an outsider who got a chance to work with the biggest of banners and be on film posters with the biggest of leads. You just have to be honest with your work. You just have to be at it with full focus. Overall I feel there is a lot of love which the industry showers on people from outside. I have experienced all of this.”
In parting he had a message for UAE fans. “Roohi is a film that you should watch in a cinema because of the cinematic experience that it offers. It is visually stunning! Go with your family and your friends, laugh, get scared while you laugh!”