Bollywood action-drama Dishoom finally wrapped up six weeks of filming in Abu Dhabi, assisted by twofour54, with a special meetup on Wednesday. It was a casual affair, during which stars John Abraham and Varun Dhawan – who portrays an Emirati-Indian in the movie – revealed what it was like to do their own stunts, including hanging out of a chopper over Reem Island.
A buddy-cop film
Varun’s character is a “rookie cop” fresh from the academy, and is very honest – “like most people in Abu Dhabi”, says the actor.
In contrast, Abraham plays a "no-nonsense, nicotine-addicted special task force officer from Mumbai", says Varun's brother Rohit Dhawan, the director. "It's that buddy-cop dynamic, which harks back to Lethal Weapon. The cops team up on a 36-hour adventure and the film packs in police interrogations, car chases and other explosive stuff."
When the film is released this year, expect to see Emirates Palace, the natural beauty of Nurai Island and Liwa Desert, and the rides at Yas Waterworld and Ferrari World on screen. Scenes were also shot in Mussaffah.
“We shot at many locations, because the two officers are hunting down the bad guy, finding clues and decoys along the way,” says Rohit.
Residents of Reem Island got a surprise last week when they looked out of their windows and saw Varun and Abraham dangling from a helicopter. “Everyone was shocked,” says Varun. “I was hanging from the helicopter and John was holding on to me. It may seem like fun, but doing it was something else. “Because he’s my elder brother, he bullies me into doing everything myself,” Varun says about Rohit.
“There’s no way to be prepared for something like that. I was lucky I had John by my side. John has done so much action over the years, so he really comforted me. He told me ‘take your time, only do it when you’re 100 per cent sure’. He was there for me when I was looking down at the ground, psyching myself up. “I thought it would be weird to say: ‘Oh, I can’t do this, let me back out.’ So I sucked it up. Once it happened, I felt like a bird. It was one of the best experiences I have ever had.” The stunt left Varun nursing a sore arm: “Hanging off that helicopter took a toll.” Experienced action star Abraham was blasé about the stunt. “It was fun – we got paid to go up in a chopper,” he says with a laugh. “We had a speedboat sequence that was fun, too. Varun drove it, I was standing next to him – I kept telling him ‘Varun, just go a bit slower’.”
Rohit and Varun admit there were moments on set when tempers flared. “We used to quarrel a lot when we were younger and we still do that,” says Varun. Rohit adds: “We would get agitated really quick [on set], just like we used to at home, and would forget there were about 120 people watching.” Abraham says he just let it all play out. “I’d just watch them going at it. Rohit is very fair, he doesn’t really care whether it’s his brother, me or [US president] Obama. He’s only concerned about his film. I appreciate that,” says Abraham.
Bumps and bruises
When shooting in Abu Dhabi began, both Varun and Abraham were recovering from injuries. Varun's happened during a dance routine, while Abraham hurt himself when kicking a door open for an action scene in another film, Force 2. Abraham's injury, which caused the Abu Dhabi segment of filming on Dishoom to be delayed for three months, is now "70 per cent better". "But even now, when I touch this area, it's numb," he says, showing us his knee. "It will take another three months to get to 90 per cent better. My body is like a car, when you crash it, the parts are never really the same again. I've battered every bone in this body. But I don't waste time crying."
Despite all the stunts, not a day of shooting in Abu Dhabi was lost to injury, although Varun had one stunt – jumping over a moving car – that did not go according to plan.
“On the 15th take, my fingers got locked into the bonnet and twisted,” he says. “Because I was harnessed, my blood pressure fell. It was very hot and I fainted. As soon as I got over it, they made me run two kilometres. That’s how we’ve made this film – with a lot of hard work and love.”
A family affair
Halfway through the Abu Dhabi schedule, Varun and Rohit's father, renowned comedy director David Dhawan, visited. He was one of the first filmmakers to film at Emirates Palace, for his 2006 comedy Partner, starring Salman Khan. David, who will be directing Varun this year in Judwaa 2, provided his sons with a few on-set tips.
“My dad talks to me before the comedy scenes,” says Varun. “He told me, ‘Keep your energy up’.”
Rohit says that his dad’s directing style is different.
“He’s more spontaneous,” he says. “On the script level, I have used most of his advice.”