Three years after Agent Vinod, director Sriram Raghavan is bringing his Badlapur on screen. While the promos have done the trick, and the songs are being well received too, there is curiosity to watch Varun Dhawan in his first ever dark role after three happy films (Student of the Year, Main Tera Hero, and Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhaniya). Meanwhile, from Sriram too, much is expected, especially after two widely accomplished dark thrillers Ek Haseena Thi and Johnny Gaddaar where he scored quite well.
Since you have made dark films like Ek Haseena Thi and Johnny Gaddaar was stepping into a dark part like this really alien to you?
Every film is an adventure. I had shot over 120 days for Agent Vinod, so I was very clear that I wanted to do a contained project. I was working with DoP Anil Mehta for the first time. I had a good team. This is the fastest film I have made. I am quite thrilled with that.
So when you actually pitched the film to Varun, how did he react?
He couldn’t believe that we were making this story. We didn’t hard sell it to him. I said let’s meet after five days. Dinoo (Dinesh Vijan) said to Varun – ‘Just think about it. You will find it tough to say yes, but, you will find it tougher to say no.’ Varun called on the third day and said yes.
How did you lend him a helping hand so that he performs to the optimum here?
Like I said, we watched a lot of films and discussed them – The Place Beyond The Pines, 21 Gram and so on. That was the fun part. We also talked a lot. We spoke about death, losing loved ones, how the grief hits suddenly and unexpectedly. Varun took the research a bit too seriously sometimes. Raghu is not a fists and fury action hero in the film. He is playing a quiet, reclusive character. There is a lot going on in his head. He is a person who exists around us; he could be good but capable of breaking bad.
In fact, all eyes are on him to perform as he is one of the most promising young stars to reckon. That must have felt like a lot of responsibility?
We all had something to prove to ourselves. We all just wanted to tell the story as good as we can. We had signed him after Student of the Year. He was shooting for Main Tera Hero when he signed Badlapur. I remember when I saw Main Tera Hero, I asked him how will he put all this bounce and energy in a bottle and shut the cork.
On the other hand, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, is anyways a terrific actor. Did that make your job even easier?
Nawaz is a consummate actor. It’s a treat working with him. He makes a character jump up from the page and come alive. His process is invisible. Many years back, I had worked with Raghubir Yadav on Raman Raghav and I had a similar experience.
Meanwhile, there are four distinct females in the fold – Yami, Huma, Divya and Radhika. How does their presence play in the film?
I love them all. They are all playing pivotal characters. They are all connected to Raghu and Liak in the film in different ways. And there are two more terrific actresses in the film. Also playing brief but vital roles. And then, there’s Vinay Pathak. I have been lucky with my cast.
Music of your film has made heads turn too.
Dinoo’s contribution to the film has been huge, especially in the music. Sachin-Jigar have given us some very good songs that capture and add to the mood of the movie. They are my friends forever.
What happens next? I am sure you certainly won’t want another three year break now.
(Smiles) I am going to make a major announcement in April about the release date of my next thriller. Hope that creates some suspense.