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Bollywood actor Varun Dhawan, who was in Dubai to promote his epic romance ‘Bawaal’ with Janhvi Kapoor atop the floating hotel QE2, describes love as transformative but seems to have a problematic take on the role of women in marriages. In his eyes, women are tasked with doing the heavy-lifting in a relationship, indicating a skewed understanding of gender roles and expectations.

“I really believe men need to be domesticated. I truly believe men need to be taught, at least some men, and women will do that for you,” said Dhawan in an interview with Gulf News.

Dhawan, who got married to his childhood sweetheart Natasha Dalal in 2021, makes this assertion with a caveat.

“I am married and so I definitely believe in the institution of marriage. I believe in how it can change people for the better. And this film ‘Bawaal’ has an interesting take on marriage and the kind of impact it can have on a man. Women are definitely the most superior species for sure. Before I got married, I thought that of my mother, but then after I got married I felt it further with my wife,” he explained.

At the wrap of the interview, Dhawan also made an off-hand remark on how his comments could be misconstrued as the perfect click-baits or unnecessarily sensationalised.

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Actor Varun Dhawan plays a history teacher Ajay Dixit in 'Bawaal' alongside Janhvi Kapoor, who plays Nisha Image Credit: Amazon Prime Video

However, shifting the focus back to his professional endeavors, the actor’s upcoming romantic drama ‘Bawaal’, directed by National Award-winning Indian director Nitesh Tiwari of ‘Chhichhore’ and ‘Dangal’ fame and out on Amazon Prime Video on July 21, features Varun Dhawan in the role of history teacher Ajay Dixit, and Janhvi Kapoor as his new bride Nisha. The movie takes you on a captivating journey through the streets of Lucknow in Northern India and the picturesque landscapes of Western Europe.

The glossy trailer, which sparked outrage online when it compared the turbulent love story between Ajay and Nisha to the atrocities committed during World War II, opened to polarising reactions. But the actors and the principal crew, including its director Tiwari and producer Sajid Nadiadwala, maintain that they have approached the subject with great sensitivity.

“It’s important to note that none of us are trying to compare any of the characters and their problems to the atrocities of World War II. It’s more of a lesson. Without divulging more, everyone will get a better idea about why World War II is such an important metaphor after watching the film. I don’t think we are trying to demean, diminish, or trivialize the gravity of that war. It’s an important theme in the film and everyone will understand it far more once the film is out,” said Kapoor.

The cast and crew of 'Bawaal' at their trailer launch at QE2 in Dubai
The cast and crew of 'Bawaal' at their trailer launch at QE2 in Dubai Image Credit: Clint Egbert

Actor Dhawan also pointed out that outrage towards ‘Bawaal’ isn’t wholly fair and reeks of discrimination.

“These days, the internet or social media will want to create a ‘bawaal’ [meaning catastrophe] out of anything and everything. When a JoJo Rabbit gets made, you are all OK because it’s being made by the West. There is some discrimination by my own audiences here,” said Dhawan. His co-star Kapoor quietly points out that ‘Jojo Rabbit’ was a satire. The 2019 World War II goofball comedy, ‘Jojo Rabbit,’ was a celebrated tale of a young boy in 1940s Germany who discovers his mother is hiding a Jewish girl and was a roaring toast of several film festivals. Director Tiwari also had a more placatory take.

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A still from 'Jojo Rabbit', a satire set against World War II starring Scarlett Johansson

“As long as you’re mindful of the sensitivities involved in this film, and about its treatment, we can make it extremely believable. People should hold onto their opinions until they see the film. I don’t think any of those fears will be found to be true. We respect whatever has happened and we take a leaf out of history to correct our present,” said Tiwari, known for his blockbusters like the hit wrestling drama ‘Dangal’ featuring Aamir Khan.

For Dhawan, it was a more personal battle. The actor, who made his debut with Karan Johar’s candy-flossed ‘Student Of The Year’ in 2012 and has topped his career catalogue with solid films such as ‘Badlapur’ in which he played a vengeful husband, is one of Bollywood’s top draws among the young breed of talents. He claims he’s done with being cautious in life and films.

“I have spent so much time fearing the future. You don’t know life because nobody knows what’s going to happen the next second. We spent so much time fearing what’s going to happen. This constant battle we have to fight our own insecurities can get tiring. It’s time to go all in with ‘Bawaal’. This film is my leap of faith,” said Dhawan.

Varun Dhawan and Janhvi Kapoor's take on love being the eternal food for romantics and more:
If you could describe love and conflict as food, what dishes would they be?
Janhvi Kapoor: What a fun question. Love is like chocolate, sweet and comforting, and it brings warmth to your soul. Conflict is like a complex dish such as bitter gourd, that’s tough to swallow – at the same time, you can’t deny its importance and the growth it brings.

Varun Dhawan: Love is like a well-cooked biryani that’s full of flavors and takes time to perfect, but once it’s ready, it’s the most joy to experience. Conflict, on the other hand, would be like a chili pepper - tough to handle for a lot of people, and it can bring tears to your eyes, but it can add depth and character to the overall dish.

Have you ever experienced a real-life love and conflict situation that helped you prepare for this role?
Janhvi: Every relationship has its share of ups and downs, love, and conflict, so yes, experiences did shape my portrayal of Nisha, and I hope it’s as realistic as I think and feel it is.

Varun: There’s no person on earth that hasn’t experienced some form of love and conflict in their lives. Those experiences help them connect with their character and self on a deeper level. For me, it’s about drawing from those experiences to make my portrayal more authentic.

Can you share a quirky anecdote or story about love and conflict from your own life?
Janhvi: Once, I had a disagreement with a friend over a petty issue. We didn’t speak for weeks, but then one day we bumped into each other and couldn’t help but laugh at the situation. It made us realize how strong our bond was.

Varun: Well, love and conflict go hand in hand, right? But usually for me, the conflict blows over in a millisecond as love trumps conflict every time.

If love were a famous landmark or monument, which one would it be, and how would it reflect the grandeur and emotional depth of your characters’ romance?
Janhvi: Love would be the Eiffel Tower. It’s iconic, grand, and romantic: the perfect symbol for the love between Nisha and Ajay.

Varun: It would have to be the epitome of love: The Taj Mahal. Just like the monument, love is grand, beautiful, and timeless. It’s something that withstands the test of time, just like Ajay and Nisha’s love story in ‘Bawaal’.

How would you explain the concept of love and conflict to an alien who has never experienced emotions before?
Janhvi: Ha! Love and conflict are like the dual sides of a coin. They co-exist! Our ability to express emotions is what makes us sentient beings.

Varun: Hmm, I’d say love is like a force that pulls two beings together, and conflict is like the barriers that try to pull them apart. But overcoming those barriers only makes the attraction stronger.

What’s your favorite star-crossed romance and why?
Janhvi: ‘Heer-Ranjha’ because it’s a tale of intense love, sacrifice, and heartbreaking separation, reminiscent of our own epic romance in ‘Bawaal’.

Varun: It has to be ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ a classic tale of love against all odds.

Don’t Miss It!

‘Bawaal’ is streaming on Amazon Prime Video on July 21