BAWAAL Interview: Varun Dhawan, Janhvi Kapoor & Nitesh Tiwari On FLAWED Characters, WAR & More
Sir, you were saying something very interesting that your and Ashwiny’s European tours have influenced the story of this film.So, what exactly happened on these tours that really inspired to tell this particular story and in the format that you have done?
See, some of the incidents which are there in the film have been borrowed from our experiences. But the core plot is something which kind of came from the life experience which we had back at home. My dad was a history teacher. He took lot of interest in World War II and he had this keen desire to visit all these places. He said, how can I not see places where these things actually happened. And it just didn’t materialise. It was destiny. And that kind of remained with Ashwiny. Once she came up with the story of Bawaal, we knew that this is something which needs to be developed. And once you write a film where the protagonists do travel and we normally have this habit of bringing in our own life experiences into the stories which we can and wherever we can. So, it’s been garnished with those kind of experiences.
When the Bawaal script came to the two of you, what was that first honest reaction that came to your mind?
Janhvi: I actually got a 30 minute speed narration for the first time when Nitesh was telling me about the film. And I teared up a lot by the end of it. Got quite teary. And I laughed quite a bit throughout.
Varun: Similarly, for me it was like, there’s a lot of fun in this, there’s a lot of humour in this. The film is, you know, now it goes into this part. So, it’s very interesting. And by the end of it, it just gets you and then you are like feeling very vulnerable and emotional. And I was like, when did this happen? How did this script get me here? And every time, every time I read it, every time sir narrated it, even in the first narration I got emotional, the second narration I got emotional, when I read it I got emotional. And I laughed. So, the best thing about this script is every time you go through it, you have the same reaction. And if that happens 4-5 times, then it’s definitely working. So, if your reactions are consistent, that’s like a huge mark.
When you make a character like Ajju, how many liberties can you take with this moral compass? Ajju has a moral compass that is very skewed. So, how many grey shades can you give your hero? And as a writer, as a director, do you ever get stuck with that?
So, we work on this philosophy. You push and test the limit and keep him, push him to the maximum place. If you push it any further, he can’t be redeemed in the eyes of the audience. Take him only up to that much level and don’t push it beyond that. And that is one golden rule which we follow. I think that’s a golden rule which we followed in Dangal also. That push the Mahavir Singh’s character only up to a certain limit after which he will not become redeemable. And you should keep him redeemable also. So, that’s what we have done with Ajju also. No matter what is his character, our attempt has been that he still needs to be able to entertain the people so that it becomes easy to forgive him.
Varun, when you are faced with such a character, look, inherently nobody is like that. Even if they are, they will probably not acknowledge it. But when you are sort of dealing with these shades, I mean, where do you go? Where do you get that inspiration from?
Definitely from life itself. And like Sir said, of pushing the other side. I love doing that. I have done that in many films .I love playing flawed characters. And there is a lot of fun in doing that and there is a lot of fun in playing bad also sometimes. It’s very liberating. I would feel very liberated when I became Ajju because he is just saying and doing whatever the hell he wants. I can’t do that. And he is just behaving rude.
Can it be a liberating experience for you?
Varun: Very. It’s very liberating to play bad sometimes. Because everyone has that side, let’s be honest. Like there is a line, that all of us are a bit like Hitler. And I am not saying we go to that tilt, obviously. And that’s not there in our film either. But everyone does have these streaks.
Janhvi: I think a lot of people’s moral compass is also adjusted keeping the fear of society in mind. So, when you have the freedom on a film set where you are playing the character, whatever is there inside, you have the freedom to take it out. And I think that teaches you a lot about your own psyche and human nature.
Has it ever happened to you? I mean, has a character liberated you completely and brought you, made you discover shades that you probably didn’t know you had?
Janhvi: Yeah, a couple of times. But I think the most in Mili. I think when I was in the freezer. You know, in life, you carry a lot of baggage when things happen to you. And more often than not, you don’t have the freedom or the luxury or you don’t want to seem weak even to yourself in front of the mirror that you’ve let things get to you or you have a moment where you really break down. So, I think all of us are carrying a lot of baggage. But in that freezer, because the level of suffering of that character was so high and so intense that it gave me the freedom to just… It was like a purge of everything. I mean, I took out all the anger. Whatever it was for years. And it was very freeing. It was very cathartic, I think.
Varun, has this ever happened to you?
With Bhediya, definitely just being… a wolf. Yeah, I think like an animal and just being in nature and being like pretty much stark naked just with nature and environment.
Each one of you, give me one historical character that you have been intrigued by and why? What is that one part of their personality that really intrigued you?
Varun: For me, it would be Mahatma Gandhi. I have always been very, very intrigued. Mahatma Gandhi is always intriguing.
Nitesh: He is someone who has fascinated me a lot also. It’s so much so that I would want to sit and have a conversation with him as to why he did certain things the way he did and what was his thought process and how he actually thought. And that’s something which we crave for. You do something and you want everybody to pay attention to that. That man with that limited media around that time managed to get the attention of the whole country. Got them to do one thing which he wanted. How did he manage to do that? What was his process? How did he think about it? How did he come up with those things? It’s something which would be quite incredible to know from the man himself.
Janhvi: I think Bhagat Singh, for sure. To have that amount of courage at such a young age. I think Mata Hari because there’s so much conjecture about who she was and what her life was. And also the last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas. Because I think he was so crippled by his privilege but put in such a powerful position. And how his actions or his lack of actions resulted in a complete upheaval of Russian society.
In your individual families, who is the person who creates the most chaos? And how do other people in the family deal with it?
Varun: My dad, definitely. He creates a lot of Bawaal. It’s a lot of fun. It’s too much fun.
Jahnvi: Yeah, also papa. He creates the most Bawaal. For sure. With his mild OCD, with his food habits, with his no filter, he definitely creates a lot of chaos. I get agitated. But he doesn’t like hearing logic. Like, if you cry and get emotional, then he’ll also cry and be like, so that’s what you have to do.
Did any of his brothers ever struggle with his?
They’re all such distinct personalities and characters. And they’re all just like, you know, we’re like this, and he’s like this, and she’s like this, so we can’t do anything.
Nitesh sir, anyone in your family?
My twins. They are enough to keep both me and Ashwiny on the edge, everyday. They’re 13 now – one is boy and one is girl. So that sibling rivalry has kicked in big time now. So now they’re at loggerheads on everything and we have to constantly keep on, you know, how two boxers who can’t get away from each other and the referee has to come and say, you go in your corner, you go in your corner. Me and Ashwiny have been doing that now, non-stop, whenever we are at home.
Janhvi: But such bright kids. They were on set for quite a bit of our shoot and they were basically helping. Like I think at one point they became your DA and ADs. And honestly, clapping is not an easy job to write the correct take and scene. Like I’ve seen veterans mess up at that, but he always got it.