Team Main Tera Hero, Varun Dhawan, Ileana D’Cruz and Nargis Fakhri in conversation with team Box Office India
Nargis Fakhri (NF): Oh yeah! But I danced in Ileana’s film Phata Poster Nikla Hero.
Ileana D’ Cruz (ID): Yeah, this is our next film together. We go back a long way. (Laughs)
NF: We have this weird karmic connection! (Smiles)
BOI: Also, both your first films were with Ranbir Kapoor (Rockstar and Barfi!). Do you have anything nice to say about Varun?
Varun Dhawan (VD): Yes please, praise me. It’s part of the film’s marketing!
NF: He is lovely.
ID: He would keep taking his shirt off even when he didn’t have to, to match up with all the exposure around him. Varun likes taking off his shirt very much.
NF: He is a very caring individual and always made sure people looked nice.
VD: I would do their make-up for them.
NF: And our hair!
BOI: In Rockstar and Barfi! both of you played very serious roles but in Main Tera Hero, they look like fun roles.
VD: Yeah, that’s what the film is like. They are both quirky, which you wouldn’t notice in real life. I think this film unleashed this quirky, crazy side of them.
ID: He thought we were these shy, quiet girls.
VD: Yeah, Ileana gives the impression of being serious and pseudo-intellectual, someone who watches the nine o’clock news every day. Slowly, I saw other sides to her personality.
VD: Like she is obsessed with mint! Also, she is very serious about her work and knows when to detach herself from it. As soon as it’s time to pack up time, she becomes the most normal human being on earth. She is very simple and carefree.
ID: Now, don’t say ‘gharelu’!
VD: Very gharelu, maternal…
ID: Aur kuch bolo, nurturing…
VD: Yes, nurturing.
BOI: What about Nargis?
VD: She wants to be a stand-up comedian. It was her hidden agenda that ‘main America se India aaoongi, actress banoongi, logon ko ullu banaoongi ki main bahut khoobsurat hoon…
ID: Par woh hai khoobsurat!
VD: Haan, woh sab hai, lekin actually usse stand-up comedian banna hai. Like the TV show Comedy Nights With Kapil, she wants to start her own show titled Comedy Nights With Nargis. It will happen very soon, wait and watch.
ID: I would watch that show!
VD: I would watch it too. I will watch anything to do with ‘night’.
NF: I’m not all that funny.
VD: You are quite funny.
NF: The sad part is I don’t think I am funny but everyone around me thinks I am. For instance, Shoojit (Sircar) would say that he always laughs when I am on the sets.
ID: If he used to laugh, then you have to be funny.
VD: Yeah, he comes across as very serious.
NF: When I used to ask Shoojit what was so funny, he would simply burst out laughing again.
NF: No! Comedy is hard. I can’t just be myself. There are these lines and stuff, you know. And there’s like this whole other language I had to deliver the lines in. Also, working with a lot of people was quite overwhelming. Usually, it’s just me and another person, which is easier because the director focuses on just you. But in this film, there were… how many people?
VD: That’s why I always end up saying that for me, this is not a hero-driven film even though the genre is such that I was the hero. This film actually has an ensemble cast. There’s Anupam Kher, Saurabh Shukla, Arunoday Singh, Nargis, Ileana, me, Rajpal Yadav, Manoj Pahwa, Supriya Pathak and Raju Kher. There are so many good actors. Yet we all got along like one big family.
NF: Yes, we all loved each other.
VD: I used to wish they would fight a little but they never did.
NF: Yes, I’m just too nice!
VD: Also very modest. (Laughs)
BOI: How did it all begin for all of you?
NF: Oh, I heard the story and got all excited. I think my character is awesome. I had a great time playing her.
VD: According to me, Nargis had the most difficult character to play. It’s a character that can go either way but she played it with a very positive edge. Her character comes across as very endearing because of that.
ID: It’s difficult to get somebody to like you. People tend to universally hate you.
VD: You can sometimes go overboard while playing a character.
BOI: Ileana, what did you think when you read the script?
ID: I really liked it. I am the kind of person who thinks a lot. So whenever I hear a script, I go five steps ahead and say, ‘Aha, so this is going to happen after this.’ If I think it’s predictable, I don’t do it. So I had a certain idea about how the story was going to be and when I heard the second part, I was surprised. I thought it would be interesting and funny and I thought the audience would have the same perception as I did. It was funny and I was laughing like crazy. I liked the way my character transitions from the first half. You see a big change in my character. I liked that. It was more fun than challenging.
VD: That’s because you’re a really good actress.
ID: It was, for me.
NF: Same here. I was lucky my first film was this dramatic love story; the second one very intense; and this one different from both the others… and all of this in such a short time.
BOI: What about you, Varun?
VD: Many people asked me why I was playing a college student once again. But I have to say this… Earlier, we used to watch movies where actors like Aamir Khan, Akshay Kumar and Anil Kapoor would play college kids. And in every film, they would carry that one notebook to college! I used to have a blast watching those films. I remember Govinda’s song, Meri pant bhi sexy… Somewhere down the line all that stuck in my memory.
Somewhere in the 2000s, we lost that. We stopped making films for the young audience. We began to take ourselves seriously and this reflected in cinema too. We started making intelligent cinema. But with every older generation fading, a younger generation comes to the fore and I wanted this generation, who is a little younger than I, to get a taste of college life. Let’s be honest, that’s the best time of our life. I believe the David Dhawan of the ’90s entertained an entire generation. Today’s 16-20-year-olds have not seen his type of cinema. Also, people in their 30s miss that kind of cinema. In a way, Main Tera Hero is meant for that audience.
BOI: There is a six-pack scene in the film.
ID: Only one?
VD: No, there’s more than one. But woh scene mein main maa baap ko six pack dikha raha hoon! The humour is tongue-in-cheek and situational. We made sure we didn’t push it into the slapstick zone. Rohit (Dhawan), Milap (Jhaveri), Tushar (Hiranandani) and dad sat together to make sure the humour was very current. There are references to technology and world affairs.
BOI: The trailer has gags and punchlines but does not really give away the story. Was that deliberate?
VD: After you watch a David Dhawan film, what is the first thing you say?
BOI: Mazaa aaya!
VD: Mazaa aaya, right? You never say, ‘Kya storyline tha!’ Let’s be honest. But there is a brief storyline. People watch films to get entertained and I don’t think any of us wants to lie about their films.
ID: Davidji’s films are thoroughly entertaining and clean comedy. When I heard the second half of the film, I just laughed and laughed and laughed. He has the ability to make even a simple line sound funny. It’s not a typical comedy; it’s not even a typical love story. I don’t like films where the hero bashes up 10 guys to win over an actress. This film is not like that.
VD: (Cuts in) Here, the hero runs away! (Laughs)
ID: It’s a very realistic film as the hero is not bashing up 10 guys in one go. The timing of the film is fantastic. It’s very funny.
VD: Because, in the film, no one believes I am a hero.
BOI: And you’re trying to convince everyone?
VD: Yes, I am trying to convince everyone to accept me as a hero.
BOI: Whom? Nargis or Ileana?
VD: The audience. And, yes, the girl my character loves, basically. When a woman is in a jam, she doubts whether the guy will be able to help her and wonders whether she should call the police. We have maintained this realistic angle to the film.
BOI: Narggis, were you aware of David Dhawan and his kind of movies?
NF: Yeah, they are different and they are modern. No offence but since I have not worked here a whole lot, I sometimes don’t connect with every film. But with this one, I saw myself right there. Also, sometimes I might not get the jokes but with this film I understood everything.
VD: I think this is a very refreshing story to watch for an outsider.
NF: Am I an outsider?
VD: I think it’s very refreshing to have someone who comes from the outside. She has no idea ‘ki inke pictures toh hamesha chalte hain, toh yeh chalega’. She is judging it on face value.
VD: Like when we used to do the scenes, I used to ask her if she found them funny. Often, she would say ‘no’.
NF: I didn’t understand where the joke was.
VD: It happens, yaar.
NF: Yes, and when he used to explain it to me, I used to be, like, ‘Oh, that’s the joke’.
VD: Sometimes dad changed the scenes at the end. He changed some of them an hour before we started shooting or while shooting itself. So when you get a person from the outside who doesn’t know much about cinema, it helps to know what they have to say. It was beneficial for me to have worked with Nargis because, for instance, if there was a joke that she didn’t like, I would then speak to the director about it. That way, you get a perspective. When he used to ask ‘why?’, I would say ‘ask Nargis’ (Laughs).
The thing with Ileana is she is very secure, and that helps me as a co-star. For instance, if I am going overboard with a scene, she lets me know right away. That comes with experience, I guess. So my performance in the film shaped up only because both of them. So if it’s bad, you know who to blame!
NF: That’s not funny.
ID: It’s not something you can practice. To an extent, you can do rehearsals and learn from your co-stars but I don’t think you can study comedy. You have to have an innate talent for it. You have to understand and feel the comic timing. I think Davidji saw that in us as individual actors. He probably felt I could bring it out because he used to call me kameeni on the sets.
VD: Now you know where the line came from in the film.
ID: Hey, that’s a different line. I am not that. I am a kameeni I agree that most people don’t see it and he did. That’s what he drew out of me. But, subconsciously, I didn’t think ‘how I am going to do this?’ I performed as he asked me to. He is a very organic director on the sets, at least for me.
BOI: Varun, this is your first solo lead film. Did you have any apprehensions?
VD: Obviously! I won’t lie, especially after I was launched by a director like Karan Johar and the entire industry is watching me. So your second film is very important. I remember Salman bhai telling me this after Student Of The Year. He said, ‘Good launch, very big break but second mein kya karoge?’ And you realise your entire career is ahead and you have to start thinking about it. But I wanted to do this role, not as a genre or any masala movie but because I have been dying to do comedy. There are two kinds of emotions that I want to do – one is comedy and the other is drama. Perhaps I am partial to comedy because of my dad, who has directed comedy.
ID: He is like a benchmark.
VD: I don’t speak about him a lot and, in fact, made a decision during SOTY not to speak about him. I am proud to say that he is one of the greatest directors of our time. So many of his peers have retired but he is still making films, probably making his youngest film.
ID: With young actors.
VD: Yes, a young film with the youngest actors we have. His thinking is aimed at the new generation.
BOI: With which film is the pressure more – Student Of The Year as your debut film or Main Tera Hero, where you play the main lead?
VD: The pressure is more with this film, not because I am playing the main lead but because dad has directed it. A lot of his diehard fans, who were excited by the first trailer those, will be coming to enjoy watching a David Dhawan film. They should not feel, beta kuch nahi kar paaya. They will not say ‘Varun Dhawan, the actor, didn’t do it properly; they will straightaway connect it to the father son jodi. So there is a lot of pressure in that sense.
BOI: Which is David Dhawan’s favourite film, for you?
VD: Swarg. It had mixed emotions. It had emotion and comedy as well.
BOI: There was a song in that film…
VD: (Cuts in) Yes, Filmon ke saare Hero mere aage hai zero.
BOI: Ileana, which is your favourite David Dhawan film?
ID: My favourite is Biwi No.1. I also loved Bol Radha Bol. But if I have to pick just one, it would have to be Biwi No.1.
BOI: And, Nargis, what about you?
VD: She will say Main Tera Hero.
NF: Yeah. That’s the correct answer.
NF: Not deliberately but I think I was lucky to be approached to do this film as well as those films. I did not look at the genre or think, ‘Oh, I should do comedy now.’ I always knew I would do a comic film and to get to work with his dad was a pleasure.
BOI: She sounds like ‘Miss Perfectionist’ from Hollywood?
VD: Yes, she is.
NF: What? (Laughs)
VD: Well, she does have very diverse roles and has worked with different directors.
NF: Yes, I have worked with different kinds of directors. Now I will be dubbing for this film with his father. So it’s a new challenge with every film.
VD: I would love to add that Ekta (Kapoor) has been an amazing during this process. (A) she is a creative person (B) she was not intrusive in this film. She is a brand but I have to say she has been very encouraging towards me. I think, more than my father, it was Ekta who believed in me. She told me she believed in me and that I should not throw that away. It’s inspiring. Then Milap and Tushar also balance each other. Ek upar khinchta hai toh dusra niche kar deta hai aapko. And Rohit (Dhawan) too. He is very strict. Ileana knows that.
ID: (Cuts in) I call him Sergeant.
VD: Sergeant, because he sits in a bunker (Laughs).
ID: (Cuts in) Rohit never compliments anyone. So, after a shot, if he says ‘nice’, I am, like, ‘Oh, my God, he said nice!’
VD: He is very hard to impress.
NF: Gosh, I feel good about myself. He actually complimented me a lot!
VD: Yes, he likes you a lot because of your New York connection.
VD: It was very difficult, not because he is my dad but because he is David Dhawan. He is not an easy man to please. He sets the bar so high. Jahan aap khatam hote hain wahan se woh shuru hote hain. Like that dialogue of Amitji’s (Amitabh Bachcan), Hum jaha pe khade ho jaate heain, line wahi se shuru hoti hai. A scene starts only at a peak and you’re wondering where to go from there.
ID: (Cuts In) He has high expectations, which is a good thing for an actor. He challenges you, pushes you. I don’t know if it was difficult because he is easy to understand.
NF: Yes, his communication skills are very good with his actors.
ID: And he likes variation. He likes to see how many ways you can do a scene. There have been times when he has asked Varun to show him how he can do a scene and said, ‘Let’s see what you can do.’
VD: Yes, we argued a lot and he would scold me a lot.
NF: (Cuts in) I got scolded too.
ID: I hid from him in the balcony! (Laughs).
VD: Yes we all did. But, at the end of the day, I feel that directors manipulate their actors, in a way. And he kind of used that to his advantage. He knew that the minute he put me down or the minute he challenged me, I would do its best. Sort of, I would show him what I could do. He would say, ‘Kya scene hai yaar par yeh tu nahi kar payega. Kya line hai ye lekin tu nahi bol payega. Govinda hota na toh kya baat thi.’ And I would be, like, ‘Arre yaar main Govinda nahi hoon.’ You can’t blame him because any director who has worked with a talent like Govinda will miss him.
ID: But what Varun didn’t see was how Davidji would react behind the monitor. Like when Varun was giving a shot and Davidji was sitting near the monitor, he was so proud, you could it see on his face. He would say, ‘He is my son and look how well he is performing.’ The next moment, he would start yelling into the microphone.
BOI: Now that the film is complete, how close is it to the concept that was narrated to you?
ID: It’s crazier, funnier.
NF: (Cuts in) Although it had so many characters, it went very well.
VD: It has grown bigger than I had imagined.
ID: I think Arunoday (Singh) is a little bit of a surprise element in the film.
VD: Yes, Arunoday is the surprise element and we shouldn’t say much. I mean everyone knows him and has seen his work but to see him in this zone, and he has a very good character to play. From start to finish, it’s me and Arunoday. The play between him and me is very good.
BOI: Varun, Davidji is very clued in to the trade aspect of filmmaking and we know some of that has rubbed off on you. From the trade’s point of view, where does Main Tera Hero stand?
VD: All the new actors say numbers don’t matter; only audience appreciation does. But I have to say that numbers definitely matter because you cannot invest money in a film and not expect any money out of it. I think if people like the film, we should expect good numbers. But what do you mean? Like, first-day or weekend?
BOI: As in, how trade-friendly is the film?
VD: This film is very trade friendly. It is a pan-India film as it is meant for the family audience. The film is no doubt aimed at the youth, yet it carries upwards. It has a whole family angle and by that I don’t mean saas bahu. We are not going back to the old family audience theme. I mean new family themes. We are showing a different type of family in the second half, one which is very crazy but at the heart of it, it is an Indian family.
NF: (Cuts in) Let’s not say too much (Laughs).
VD: The emotions and humour are very Indian. Humne ek Hindi picture banayi hai. It’s about our culture and the emotions that come out of our hearts. We are a melodramatic people and we have tried to create comedy from that melodrama.
VD: I have completed shooting 50 per cent of Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania, which is with Alia (Bhatt). Then I move to Sriram Raghavan’s film, which is a complete departure from the happy zone. A lot of prep is going to go into ABCD 2.
NF: I have Shaukeen. I can only work on one thing at a time. And that’s a hard one.
ID: I have Happy Ending lined up.
VD: For me, everything now depends on Main Tera Hero. It depends on how this film is perceived and how it is accepted because you can’t work only for yourself. You can’t say, ‘I like this, so I’ll do this.’ You want people to like what you do because eventually making films is a public medium. You are making films for the audience and for their love of the entertainment, if you are an entertainer.
ID: (Cuts in) Is that why you keep taking off your shirt (Laughs).
VD: That is not for me. Why would I take off my shirt for myself?
ID: Yes, it is for the audience.
VD: But I have always been like that. As a kid, anyone who visited our home would always find me running around in my boxers. At home, I wear only my boxers. Bombay is so hot.
ID: Even in his vanity van.
VD: She has walked in when I was in my boxers. Both of them have.
ID: I had to complain to his dad.
VD: I was in my boxers, not nude. (Laughs).