Varun Badola: I am in love with the whole creative process

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Varun Badola: I am in love with the whole creative process
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The way Goldie [director, writer and producer Sidharth Sengupta] and I work is that he sends me an open file with the screenplay; I just push the space bar, create space for myself and start writing dialogues,” says actor Varun Badola, known for his work in television serials like Astitva…Ek Prem Kahani, Koshish – Ek Asha and Des Mein Nikla Hoga Chand. Badola admits that he writes primarily for friends like Sengupta and hints at the organic nature of this working partnership. Besides being a well-known face in the Indian television circuit, Badola is also an accomplished dialogue writer, having worked for prominent web shows including ALTBalaji’s Apaharan and Undekhi on Sony Liv. Assisting Tigmanshu Dhulia in Haasil and Charas when he was only 22, and functioning as his additional dialogue writer helped him learn the ropes, shares Badola, now 48. It was an experience he put to good use when he was roped in to write episodes and scenes for Astitva, Koshish and Ek Chabi Hai Pados Mein later. It was his work on the latter which Sengupta came in to direct, that he believes got him the Apaharan job in 2017, a show which Badola believes holds some of his best work.

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The two writing processes, however, have been starkly different. In television, Badola explains, one could be writing the same situation five times over. “When I was writing for TV, the idea was not to have the same conversation, the same words, but to think of something new which was difficult, because one needs to have more ideas.” The writing for web shows on the other hand, needs to be taut and precise, he says. So, does he prefer one format over the other? “I have never written for personal satisfaction or achievement,” he responds. “It’s something to do with the way we’ve been brought up. The idea is to get the job done. Writing a good scene is just about that sometimes.”

For each episode of Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein which went on the floor in late 2020, Badola mentions that there were at least 15 drafts written

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Among writers he has admired over the years, the Salim–Javed pair still stands out, as the actor-writer recalls a scene from Don where the character’s release from jail is accomplished in less than 20 seconds. “Because they have already established that Don is so [influential], there is no need for explanations about security lapses, for instance,” he points out. “Bas story aage bhagao”. “If anyone has used willing suspension of disbelief to its fullest, it has to be them.” At the same time, in spite of Hindi cinema’s dependence on such stellar writers, Badola is quick to point out how this creative sect in our country still does not get the credit or respect it deserves. Badola himself however refrains from writing screenplays and stories as those would take up too much time and prevent him from dedicating his energy to acting. “I don’t want to give up on acting as I love the craft. The idea [ultimately] is to have fun [with both].”  

The years have taught him to make the conversations he writes, more precise although he hasn’t consciously thought of growth in spite of having practised the craft for so many years. “The charm of writing a dialogue and of doing something new would be completely lost then,” he notes. At the same time, there is no strategising involved. “When I write a scene, I still write everything that comes to my mind and then we decide what stays and what goes,” he says. For a creative individual whose simultaneous careers have frequently collided—he has spoken lines he had himself written in shows like Astitva—Badola hasn’t found one art to outweigh the other. “I am in love with the whole process,” he declares. There is also a need to disassociate oneself from one’s writing, he points out, because as an actor he may have visualised a scene differently from how another actor chooses to play it. “If everybody is acting to your whims and fancies, then perhaps all the actors will start looking the same,” he observes. “[The point is to] never get too emotional about your creation.”

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