Our superstars since the early ‘90s (and Hrithik Roshan since 15 years) cannot possibly be youth icons. And as Ranbir Kapoor too seems to have lost his market moorings as of now, Varun Dhawan is the sole, unopposed claimant to the throne of the Youth Icon! Because, so far, in his career, Varun has never gone wrong!
In five films released over less than three years, with three biggies to come, and a couple more in planning stages, the son of the celebrated director David Dhawan and (what few know) nephew of Anil Dhawan (who came in like a star meteor in the early ‘70s but could not sustain momentum) has taken a quantum leap over all the contenders, like his closest competitor and co-debutant Sidharth Malhotra, Arjun Kapoor, the over-choosy Tiger Shroff and the rest.
Let us look at the advantages—natural, acquired and worked at—that Varun has over anyone else.
First, his debut in Student Of The Year, under director Karan Johar in his first non-Shah Rukh Khan directorial ever: Varun’s looks were instantly appealing, especially to the 15 to 30 years age group that forms the bulk of the audience today. Sidharth was liked by most, loved by some, but Varun was liked by all, and loved by most. It helped that he also had the author-backed role.
From his first interview, Varun always stated that he was here to do diverse cinema, and he suited the action to the word. His next release came almost two years later, and although he had stressed that he personally loved dark cinema, it happened to be his father’s Main Tera Hero, a classic David Dhawan-athon. “It was an emotional decision to work with dad, not a commercial one!” he declared, because his father had been quite unwell then.
Varun was the solo lead in this breezy entertainer with two (commercially) inconsequential heroines and a very ‘90s-flavoured script, which proved that he did not need only trendy movies to succeed. He was hailed as the main reason for the film’s success, while the movie proved beyond doubt that he could be brilliant at the song-dance-comedy-action routine of a mainstream hero.
And Varun clearly stated: “A typical hero who has to do everything is any day more difficult to play. It is like juggling with three balls instead of just one. Main Tera Hero was an opportunity to show what I could do.” Another truth was consolidated: Varun had a level head on his shoulders, knew where Hindi cinema was coming from, and respected it. In short, he respected his own fans and audience as much as his father’s.
His third film, Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania, reiterated his affair with masala entertainers, besides showing that he could work wonders even with, and probably for, a first-time director. His expertise at song-dance-comedy-heroism was also reaffirmed.
With Badlapur, Varun gifted both 2015 and director Sriram Raghavan their first success, with his fan following providing the initial impetus. The youngster completed his wish to do a dark film (and it will not be his last, he promises). His character as the vengeful widower demonstrated with crystal clarity that Varun has a long innings ahead, that the actor in him was as big as the star within, an actor audacious enough to take such chances so early in his career.
His fifth film, ABCD2, seemingly rode to ‘hit-dom’ more on Varun’s muscular shoulders than on its own franchise and virtues. Varun is now a clear star, the till-date flop-free hottie!
“I always show Rohit all scripts, and when I sign a film, he helps me take my character forward,” Varun said. He also stars in Rohit’s next film, Dhishoom, with senior hero John Abraham ironically lower in market status!
Salman Khan, one of Varun’s idols, has even tweeted how happy he is that Varun has stepped into his role in Karan Mahotra’s Shhuddhi. Salman, David’s pet star, had done God’s voiceover in Main Tera Hero, whenever Varun’s character conversed with the Almighty.
Finally, besides more films being planned, Varun is in the ensemble cast of Shah Rukh Khan’s home production Dilwaale. As of now, Varun may not have a dark film of his choice, but has chosen a very bright reign ahead!
– Rajiv Vijayakar, a Senior Journalist, Film & Music Critic and Historian for Hindi cinema and Film Music is also an Author and Twice Jury Member at 58th and 62nd National Film Awards.
Rajiv Vijayakar tweets @rajivvijayakar