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Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Chhichhore: In Conversation with Varun Sharma aka Sexa

Chhichhore is one of the finest Bollywood films of 2019. It has all the ingredients for a feel-good movie and most importantly, conveys a thought-provoking, important message.

Varun Sharma has once again shined in a talented, ensemble movie through his ace comical timing and acting prowess.

In a group of crazy university friends, his character Sexa is undoubtedly the raunchiest, but highly loveable.

Furthermore, undertaking a role that spreads over a long time span also poses as a novel experience for Varun… Which he has succeeded well in doing. 

In a special interview, Varun reflects over his experience of playing Sexa in Chhichhore and how the film really speaks to the youth of today.

Chhichhore is getting rave reviews from critics across the globe. Were you always expecting this kind of reception?

It feels amazing. We made this film with a lot of love and passion.

Once you see Chhichhore, you can notice the honesty that has gone into it.

After a long time, I’m noticing that critics and audiences are unanimously liking the film. We’ve had some terrific feedback so I am very happy.

We’ve had some great growth as it’s been an incline of 70% since Friday and Saturday.

The word of mouth is spreading like fire and people are wanting to watch the movie.

Plus, the best part is that no one is spoiling what happens in the film and they just convey that there is a beautiful message in it as they want others to go and experience it.

It’s a beautiful feeling and incredibly satisfying.

Your character ages over a span of 20 years. What challenges did this pose to you as an actor?

This was the first time I’ve experienced such a character in a dual narrative setting.

If you see previously, in earlier films, usually the elder actors get younger (in the film). The Youngers getting older is quite rare.

Sexa is a very naughty, mischievous character and I myself (alongside Nitesh sir) were conscious because it had a very thin line of being an endearing to a vulgar character.

Of course, the intention was never for Sexa to be a below-the-belt character. We always wanted him to be a loveable naughty kid.

As for the language, we couldn’t change that because that is what the youth speaks in today’s time.

Balancing the language and making the character seem endearing that was the task.

However, from the responses I’m receiving, I am convinced that we’ve fulfilled that and people are interpreting the role in a fun way.

Even to play the 45-year-old, it changed me in that time-frame because he was still that naughty kid at heart but matured at the same time.

How similar was your college life in comparison to Sexa’s?

It was quite similar but I was not the ‘Sexa’ of my group. I had a Sexa in my group, but I wasn’t the one (laughs).

I was more like ‘Mummy’ (another character from the Chhichhore crew). I used to keep calling my mum and my family every day when I was in boarding school.

All the nuances and naughtiness that has been shown in the film, I’ve lived through that.

There has been an ‘Acid’ – who has sworn a lot, there has been a ‘Sexa’ who smuggled the things all boys wanted. These characters were there in my life too.

Since the story revolves around a group of friends, what kind of rapport did you share with your co-actors – including Sushant, Shraddha and the Chhichhore crew?

I knew Sushant before and have been friends with him for a long time.

Likewise, for Shraddha, I knew and met her a couple of times.

However, Naveen, Tahir and everyone else I was meeting for the first time.

All thanks to Nitesh sir, credits to him for getting these boys together much before we started shooting.

We broke the ice once or twice when we met and actually became a group. We bounced off each other’s’ energy it became one happy crew.

Plus, we used to do all the maddening fun things together like camping or crashing at each other’s places and dine together.

It never felt a part of the preparation and just happened that we clicked together so well which is why we started meeting.

That was the most beautiful part because when you see the boys on screen, it doesn’t feel like they are actors.

Credits go to Nitesh sir and us.

We are a group of childhood friends who have their own business… Mainly settled in Punjab. Every 3 months I visit them to catch up.

The film showcases a reunion of old friends. How often do you stay in touch with yours?

I am constantly in touch with my friends. In fact, one of them is a painter who studied with me since Nursery.

She sent me a beautiful hand-painted sweatshirt and requested me to wear it on the release day.

I did wear that when I was going to the theatre visits.

Another friend of mine in Ludhiana booked a 9am screening of the film for his friends and family. He even took a day off of work to go and see the movie.

Then they watched the show after that… So in the first 6 hours of the movie’s release, my friend saw it twice.

I was amazed and so grateful. All my friends are uniting to watch the film and supporting it.

For them, it’s one of us who have made it to the big screen so it gives them a lot of happiness and they’ve seen my journey.

They’ve seen that passion in me for acting come to life.

Director Nitesh Tiwari felt it was like working with friends. Was this the same sentiment for you?

Oh absolutely! There wasn’t any pressure. We were just filming, having fun and doing it with a lot of honesty.

We knew that if we played our parts with sincerity and fun, it will translate.

So there wasn’t any baggage or pressure of sorts… It was just these 7 boys enjoying themselves and working with a lot of focus/passion.

That magic is created by Nitesh sir and the hero really is the content.

Today, youths are constantly conflicted with the pressures of success and failure. How do you feel this will start a conversation in households?

What I took home and pondered over after watching the film was that we as humans have become reckless and restless.

As such, if something does not shape up the way we wished it to, we don’t acknowledge the time gone into that thing.

I think it’s important to value that time dedicated to our ambition. If it succeeds, amazing. But if it doesn’t, then it’s not the end of the world.

The process, learning curves are most important.

Also, we’ve become so busy in our lives that we don’t give enough time to our family, friends or the people who have been there when we first started.

We have started doing everything for the world to see… But that’s not the point and there is much more to life than that.

It’s important in life to live the present moment.

It is equally important that the conversation on mental health, especially amongst, the youth continues…

Absolutely and this film has the power to change perspectives.

The most beautiful part of this is the fact that it entertains rather than just deliver a message.

Films like Chhichhore can be quite thought-provoking because cinema is the most entertaining manner to convey a message.

More such movies should be made to evoke changes in mindsets.

Nowadays, Bollywood college films are quite romanticised in a glamorous light. Why do you feel this is the case?

For me, the entire shift is happening. If we talk about 10 years back, cinema as a medium is the strongest one in the field of entertainment.

Before it was all about escapist/aspirational movies. However, in the recent past, it has all changed and is changing.

From aspirational cinema, is now becoming the relatable cinema. I’m a huge fan of aspirational films and we love it.

But at the same time, the relatable factor in a film is a great feeling and that credit goes to the audience.

The audience’s mindsets in accepting these films so beautifully are wonderful to see.

The parallel types of cinema will continue to be there.

Your previous two films did not live up to expectations. Following the success of Chhichhore, are you in a happy space now?

To be honest, every film is special for an actor because they dedicate so much to it.

I feel no film is ever bigger than the other.

I don’t know about being in a ‘happy space’ but it feels great to see Chhichhore doing well.

Definitely, I was disheartened when Arjun Patiala and Khandaani Shafakhana didn’t work, in a sense, it didn’t get the eyeballs we were hoping it would.

Obviously, it was a phase and a learning curve on understanding what the audience wants/likes.

With Chhichhore, it’s going beautiful and a big shift. I’ve been getting messages on Sexa is leaving an impact on audiences like how Choocha did.

It’s a very big achievement for me as an actor.

With that optimism, we certainly wish Varun all the very best for future projects.

Also, an immense congratulations to him on the success of Chhichhore!

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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