Didn’t Know Who Varun Dhawan Was Before ‘October’: Shoojit Sircar

Shoojit Sircar talks about why he decided to cast Varun Dhawan - the new-age Govinda.

Published
Bollywood
3 min read
Varun and Shoojit on the sets of <i>October</i>.
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As an audience, I always felt a connection with this man, one could call it the ‘Bong’ connection. Something about Shoojit Sircar’s intimate films and the mundane characters touch me in a way that I fail to explain. Another filmmaker who has touched me in a similar way is Satyajit Ray. So when I met Shoojit da to talk about his upcoming film October, I had to ask him about his idol in the world of cinema and the answer was not surprising, “I am influenced by Satyajit Ray. I am only influenced by Ray, nobody else.”

There was this sudden urge to discuss Satyajit Ray with him but I controlled my emotions and let him do the talking. Shoojit da’s passion reflected as he spoke about his icon.

“I watch his films every week. I don’t know how many times I have watched his films. I tell every actor I have worked with to watch Ray’s films, I make sure they watch Ray. It’s Ray who is my everything.”
Satyajit Ray

What was difficult to digest is how a filmmaker like Shoojit Sircar chose our new age Govinda, Varun Dhawan as his lead actor. Well, the filmmaker laughs and confesses that he had no clue who Varun Dhawan was and had not watched any of his films. “I knew that he was jumping around the place, singing dancing, full of energy. I actually didn't have any clue who he was...” he laughs.

“Our planets don’t match at all. He is from Mars and I am from Earth.”
Shoojit Sircar on Varun Dhawan
Varun with his director Shoojit Sircar and producer Ronnie Lahiri.
Varun with his director Shoojit Sircar and producer Ronnie Lahiri.
(Photo Courtesy: Instagram)

It was not Shoojit Sircar who approached Varun, it was the other way round and even Shoojit da could not resist Varun’s disarming charm. Varun was in touch with Shoojit Sircar throughout 2016, coaxing Sircar to meet him. Varun was accidentally cast in the film.

“We were looking for fresh faces. When Varun came over, I saw a different side of him, in person. I had a pre-conceived notion about him, the commercial world he was living, stardom and all. But I saw innocence in his eyes. There was something boy-ish about him, something pure.”
Shoojit Sircar
Shoojit Sircar and Varun Dhawan catching up.
Shoojit Sircar and Varun Dhawan catching up.
(Photo Courtesy: Instagram)

Bas uski masumiyat Shoojit da ko bha gayi but that was not enough. So when he asked Varun to come and see him, he had just woken up and Shoojit Sircar insisted on meeting him in his out-of-bed avatar. “He was very clumsy when I saw him,” he said and that was the second most important requirement for him. “I needed an actor like that. When I clicked his picture and sent it to Juhi, she said ‘I never thought you'd be even thinking of casting Varun’. It was in her mind too but she said she didn't have the guts to tell me that!”

The picture that Shoojit Sircar clicked of Varun Dhawan and sent to his producer and writer.
The picture that Shoojit Sircar clicked of Varun Dhawan and sent to his producer and writer.
(Photo Courtesy: Instagram)

Now came the main challenge to turn this star boy into a boy next-door who could play Dan.

“My botheration was how to make him unlearn what he has learnt. I didn’t want that Varun in this film. I wanted my Dan and that is possible when Varun has the innocence and purity.”
Shoojit Sircar

Shoojit da makes a quick reference to three time Oscar winner Meryl Streep who said “I surrender myself to Spielberg,” on working with the director. This is what Sircar expects his actors to do.

“You have to surrender yourself to the director. Varun did that, which was difficult for him. But brave of him to come from that world to our world and surrender himself.”
Shoojit Sircar

It looks like Varun Dhawan is set to add a new feather in his cap as Dan in October.

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