Known to be succinct to a fault, Varun Badola opens up about his life

“I know I have meagre talent but I know how to make optimum use of it. Ek paise ka talent, 100 per cent application. It is a unique quality.” You rarely come across actors with such frank appraisals of themselves. But with Varun Badola you always expect few but heart-felt answers. The Delhi boy, who is now making waves with his portrayal of a politician in Man Rahe Tera…Pitaah on Sony remembers Delhi for providing him a sound foundation for life. “The credit goes to my father (noted journalist and theatre personality Vishwa Mohan Badola) and my school, Sardar Patel Vidyalaya. We (he and his sisters) went to a rich school but the money never showed. Years after passing out from the school, I discovered that the girl I shared the bench with is the daughter of the head of HCL. I don't think this was the case with other schools. In fact, my father got an offer from the principal of another popular school. He was his colleague on the theatre circuit and offered to help. But on the day my father went to collect the forms, he found kids coming to school in the car with a dog peeping out from the rear window. It was quite a sight for an honest journalist and he decided that he won't be able to match such standards.”

For a long time Varun was unsure what he wanted to do with his life. “My sisters studied at school, I just went to school. After doing my BA Pass (he emphasises on Pass) from PGDAV College, I thought of becoming a sports journalist as I used to spend a lot of time in the cricket field. I was keen on acting but theatre was not an option because even in school I was dropped from plays for being too ‘realistic'.” He says his father never pushed him to move in a certain direction. “There is a lot of unsaid part in our relationship. He doesn't need to express himself in words. The only condition he put on me was not to be seen in front of Sri Ram Centre. At that time it used to be the hangout zone of the frustrated and drug addicts.”

The catalyst came in the form of a television interview of Naseeruddin Shah. “There used to be a series called Bagpiper Sitaron Ka Karvaan. When the interviewer asked him what he would have done had he failed to become an actor, Naseer sahib replied ‘I never gave myself that chance. I had not kept a second option for me'. His approach spurred me.”

A turning point

He began by assisting Tigmanshu Dhulia.

“I wanted to be an actor but he found me suitable for an assistant director's job. In the beginning I felt spending time with him and Irrfan Khan made me understand the nuances of the field. As I was not a trained actor, I had a lot to cover up and Irrfan shared with me little details about a performance. Meanwhile, I proved to be a good assistant and Tigmanshu allowed me to direct a couple of stories of ‘Bestsellers'.

The big break came with Koshish – Ek Asha and he arrived on the scene with Astitva. “More than anything it gave me the confidence that I can play a range of emotions and my performance could evolve with the change of age of the character.” He and his wife Raajeshwari became a darling of the media during the Nach Baliye period. “Yes, we didn't win the show but still our ouster from the show was among the top 10 stories of the year.” But he didn't use the publicity. “See, I participated in the show to learn a talent — dance. When I found the focus is less on talent and more on what somebody commented, I decided to move out of the reality show business.”

The media often finds him arrogant but Varun says what people see is just the surface.

“When I moved in a group of four friends, I usually happened to be the fourth type. If there were three girls to befriend, I would invariably lose out. If a play required three actors, I would be the fourth who almost made it. So, in a way I always lived under a shadow, somebody who is used to play second fiddle. The feeling stayed in me somewhere. That's why I am not really comfortable in the crowd, when all the eyes are on me. Media sees arrogance in it, in fact a lot of people do, but the reality is most of the times I don't know what to say.”

Did things change after marriage? “Yes, in a way it was reassuring but I was repeatedly told that I have married above my status. After all (Raj) Raajeshwari is a National Award winning actress and I am merely a television actor. But you know relationships don't work like this.” Does acting come home? “Once Raj asked this and honestly I had no answer to it. However, one thing is certain. Nobody can make me conscious. There is no negative bone in me.” We leave him looking out of the window at the new furbished Connaught Place. “I believe if I keep my head down I can still move around in the Circle without anybody recognising me.”