Rohit Khilnani in Mumbai
Filmmaker David Dhawan's younger son Varun Dhawan is all set to make his acting debut along side Alia Bhatt and Siddharth Malhotra in Karan Johar's upcoming release Student Of The Year, set to open in theatres on October 19.
The hunky debutant, who spent his childhood surrounded by movie stars and his father's hit films, insists that the glamorous atmosphere he grew up in had little influence on him.
Varun talks to Rohit Khilnani about his father's films, his equation with Karan Johar and his costars and his expectations from SOTY.
Your father David Dhawan has given big hits with stars like Salman Khan, Sanjay Dutt, Govinda, Karisma Kapoor and many others. Since you saw the world of glamour and entertainment so closely at an early age, did you know that you'd become an actor early on?
No. That's because my father is not a star, he is a technician. He is always behind the camera and sitting on edits. He never went for filmi parties, so even I didn't attend any film functions.
I didn't see much of that glamorous life. It would have been different if my father was an actor.
Since I am a director's son, I know that a film is of prime importance and everything comes after that.
'I have to be more experienced to do a film with my father'
(Laughs) Sometimes, they liked the films and sometimes they didn't. They would tell me honestly if they didn't like a film.
I never defended any of my father's films because eventually most of them did well at the box office.
Will we see you do a David Dhawan comedy?
I would love to do a film with him but I have a long way to go to even be offered those kind of roles.
The kind of work Salman (Khan) and Govinda have done in my dad's films is not easy. I have to be more experienced to do a film with my father.
'Assisting Karan Johar was one of the most amazing experiences of my life'
So who have you taken acting tips from?
While I was an assistant director on Karan (Johar)'s My Name is Khan, Shah Rukh Khan gave me a lot of valuable tips on the sets.
I'd decided to act but I wanted to do theatre first and then do in films. I joined Sanjana Kapoor's group at Prithvi Theatre but I realised later that I didn't have to do theatre first and then films. It doesn't make a difference. If I can act, I should be able to act in front a camera or in front of a crowd.
Your first hands-on experience on a film set was with one of Bollywood's most successful filmmakers Karan Johar. How was the experience?
It's a great opportunity for any actor to see what goes on behind the scenes. It was just great seeing the way Karan directs films, the way he visualises and brings it across on screen.
He has his own vision which obviously people see and are spellbound with. Assisting Karan was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I couldn't have asked for anything better to start with.
'The image people have of Karan Johar is not true'
You have spent a lot of time with Karan Johar on the sets. Tell us something about him that we don't know.
He is a very simple and a down-to-earth human being. The image people have of him is not true. People think it must be so difficult to get through to Karan. Let me tell you he is the most approachable guy.
How did you land the lead role in his movie Student of the Year?
After my acting course, I made a couple of short films. I showed one of them to Karan and I think he liked it. But after that, it was a long process.
Later, he offered me a film and told me about the role but he didn't tell me that he is going to direct it. Two months after that, he told me that he is going to direct it. Life has moved really fast from there.
'I want the film to entertain the audience'
When your co-actors are newcomers too, is there anything you get to learn from them?
All three of us come from different backgrounds and you only learn from different people.
Siddharth (Malhotra) comes from Delhi and Alia (Bhatt) comes from a film family in Mumbai. We all shared our experiences of life with each other, bonded and became good friends.
Alia is younger than me but I learnt a lot from her.
Now that the film is ready, the film's posters are up across the city and the songs are playing on television, are you enjoying this first phase of fame?
It's a very strange feeling. It's been my dream. Now I want the film to entertain the audience. My friends are very excited about it. But the reaction that I really want will come after I do a few films when I am more experienced.
What would you have been if not an actor?