Varun Badola is Hindi small screen's big man. But he remains humble.

Varun Badola
No pretensions. No airs. No nothing. Thirty-something Varun Badola hardly comes across as the big small-screen star who has endeared himself to millions of female fans across India and the UAE.

Because in the conventional sense of the term, he can't be regarded as handsome: His nose is a wee bit too pointed and there's always an unkempt floppy mop of hair covering his moon-shaped face.

But what Varun may be lacking in physical attributes he more than makes up for with his brilliant acting.

Sure enough, if he had the masses and mandarins in his grip in super-hit prime-time soap operas like Jis Des Mein Nikla Hoga Chand (Star Plus) and Astitva (Zee TV), he had them eating out of his hand in the immensely popular Koshish Ek Aasha, in which he plays a mentally unstable character. His flawless performance in Bollywood movies Haasil and Charas has also won him rave reviews.

Yet for all this Varun hasn't let success go to his head and remains unnervingly modest. "God has been kind to me. I know there are better guys than me out there," says the actor, who was in Dubai recently for the shooting of Zee TV's latest serial, Rabba Ishq Na Hove.

And what was the experience like?

"Oh great. I have been to Dubai a couple of times before. Each time it is an altogether new experience. The pace of development in Dubai is mindboggling. I won't be surprised if Dubai emerges as the favourite destination for Indian television serial and movie producers in the coming years," he adds.

His female fans would be bemused by this, but Varun, who is a part-time writer, director and production assistant rolled into one, actually started his career as a costume coordinator.

"Oh that was long time back — in 1996 to be precise. I had just come to Mumbai and needed a foothold to survive in the industry."

Mud, they say, chokes no eel. And so it was with this strapping actor from the newly created state of Uttarakhand. After assisting director Tigmanshu Dhulia in TV serials like Naya Daur and Rajdhani, Varun got his first big break when he was cast in Koshish.

"It was my first role and my toughest till date. I had to work very hard on the character. Thankfully my ‘koshish' (efforts) paid off and my role caught everyone's eye."

Jis Des Mein Nikla Hoga Chand, in which he plays a lover boy (Dev), and Astitva in which he was cast as an opportunist (Abhi) who marries an older woman only to ditch her, followed later and subsequently stamped his authority on the telly underbelly.

But the roles which required him to romance two of the hottest glam girls on Indian TV — Niki Aneja and Sangeeta Ghosh — also got him into a controversy.

When Varun's character was killed in the serial, there were rumours that he had been chucked out because he was getting too pally with co-star Sangeeta. But Varun, who is happily married to singer-actress Rajeshwari Sachdeva, stoutly denies this insinuation.

"It was part of the script. Had this not been so, I wouldn't have made a dramatic entry in the serial nine months later. But some gossip magazines went wild with stories suggesting that I was removed because producer Aroona Irani was not happy with me and that I was having an affair with Sangeeta. It was quite funny because all along I knew that I was going to return," he says.

Interestingly, there's another girl in Varun's life these days. Her name is Hasina and she's just seven years old. The actor has adopted the girl as part of an initiative taken by Crayons.

"She is a darling and tops her class regularly. I was pretty bad in school, so it feels good when you help some one do well in studies. She is like my daughter and like any father I am proud of her."

Now, ain't dad cool?