Sanya Malhotra and Varun Sharma break taboos in “Sasural Wonder Phool”

Sasural Wonder Phool

Actors Sanya Malhotra and Varun Sharma have teamed up to lend their voices for an Audible original called Sasural Wonder Phool. The 10-episode series tells the story of a progressive family who run a sex clinic tucked away in the back streets of Delhi. Prashant Gambhir (voiced by Varun), the youngest doctor in the family, is looking for a suitable wife, but no respectable family wants to marry their daughter to a Dirty Roulette sex therapist. After being rejected several times, Prashant finally meets Ashima (voiced by Sanya). While Ashima is happy with this match, she ignores the profession of Prashant and his family, which leads to both comedy and complications. The Telegraph chatted with Sanya and Varun about this whole new experience and what they admire about each other as actors.

Sasural Wonder Phool had me in the title himself. Was it the same for you two? What made you sign up primarily for this?

Varun Sharma: It’s a new medium for me, as well as for Sanya. My sister really follows Audible and I jumped on it right away. This is a very progressive story and has some great messages. This is something very new and stimulating for me. We recorded from our homes during the lockdown, aur har cheez nayi thi. From how to soundproof his room and record it to a Zoom call with seven other actors … We had to figure out how to synchronize our performances. It was very interesting.

And like you say, the title is very catchy. When I told my mom I was doing a podcast called Sasural Wonder Phool, she was also intrigued. He has a certain zeal. Aur Sanya ke saath record karne ka mauka mil raha tha … toh main kaise chhodta? (Laughs)

Sanya Malhotra: Same for me, Varun! I have always wanted to work with Varun. We have now done a show on Audible and hopefully we can work on a movie very soon. Sasural Wonder Phool was beautifully written by Bodhi Tree Multimedia and directed by OfSpin Media Friends. It’s a great collaboration. Last year I really missed going on set and acting. And that was a refreshing take for me as an actor.

Audible sent me a very sophisticated setup for recording from home. I recorded the show for about seven days, for about five to six hours a day … and I was saying to my parents, ‘Hush! Ab paanch-chhay ghante koi kaam ya awaaz nahin karega ghar mein!‘ (Laughs)

It was such a wonderful experience. Dil khush ho gaya tha. As an actor, I was so satisfied. It’s very similar to comedy. You have to play, you can’t be flat … It’s just that you don’t have a camera in front of you, but you have a microphone that you have to play for. We recorded the show with seven wonderful actors and audio artists, and watching them work was a very enriching experience.

Varun, what about you and the sex clinics, at least on screen? Before that, you were part of the 2019 film Khandaani Shafakhana, with Sonakshi Sinha, which also dealt with a similar theme …

Varun: Oh yes! (Laughs) Sasural Wonder Phool has a totally different story from dirty roulette to this movie, but I’m happy to be a part of those progressive stories. We should shed light on these so-called taboo subjects. We tried to raise awareness, but in a very entertaining way. Agar hanste-hanste kisi ke dimaag mein woh cheez register ho jaaye, so that’s great. As an industry so loved and accepted around the world, we have the power to change the outlook.

How is this experience different from dubbing a movie?

Sanya: During the dub, we have a video reference. But in this one, it was acting without any visuals. As I was recording I felt something was right, but when I heard it again it felt flat. It’s a bit similar to dubbing, but just because you don’t see yourself doing it, it’s also a challenge. It takes a lot of imagination.

Varun: When you do a dub, you’ve already done that scene on set. Your reactions are also based on the reaction your co-star gives you during the shoot. But with a podcast, this is the first time you’ve felt and experienced it. For me, it took me a day or two to figure out my way through this medium.

How independent and technically sound has this experience made you?

Sanya: Not at all! (Laughs)

Varun: These are terms that are very far from our lives! (Laughs)

Sanya: Actually, before we started, we did some rough recordings. I’m pretty dumb when it comes to using technology! (Laughs) So for the first two or three days, it was always like, ‘Record hua ?! Shayad yeh records nahin hua! ‘ But in the end, we were so good that we decided to make our own music album! (Laughs)

Varun: One hundred percent, yeah!

So when is this happening? Or is it just limited to your imagination?

Sanya: In my case, even if that happens, it will take a lot of self-tuning (laughs).

Varun: I’m just a listener, I’m not a singer at all. But after each session, I sang. If you have a microphone in front of you, everyone will sing along invariably, no matter how bad your voice is! My mother even told me: “Bete, main tumse bahut pyaar karti hoon, lekin yeh tum mat karna!” (Laughs)

Do you both listen to audiobooks and podcasts?

Sanya: I usually listen to psychological stuff. I’m currently listening to David Hawkins’ Letting Go.

Varun: I’ll listen to mine first, then I’ll listen to other stuff!

Hope a movie with you two should arrive soon. What do you admire about each other as actors?

Varun: Sanya is a phenomenal actor, ya! In fact, just yesterday I was chatting with an actor friend about the kind of career chart she’s had so far and the kind of movies she’s made, that’s commendable. Even as a person. she is so sweet and down to earth. She is very nice. Anyone who has to do a scene with Sanya has to be very well prepared. She is so good! She has a wide range as an actress. And I’m a big fan of his dancing!

Sanya: Varun, I was on YouTube yesterday, and I saw your scene Chacha Nehru (by Fukrey), and it was a riot! You said you were a good listener, and I totally agree with that … it’s also a sign of being a good actor. Listening to your co-actors is a great asset to have. I was watching this scene and I thought, “He’s such a good actor!” And I’m not kidding! If anyone is reading this, please get us started together. And, of course, your comedic timing … you’re so good! Comedy is the most difficult to pull off on screen.

Varun: I actually didn’t even know I could do comedy. Before the movies, I did theater and acted in hardcore dramas like Ashwatthama and Seduction by Anton Chekhov. I always thought comedy was difficult, and Fukrey was my first attempt. I had no idea what I was doing, I was just happy that my mom could see me in a movie (smiles). I was just happy to make my debut in a movie made by a production house (Excel Entertainment) that had made Dil Chahta Hai and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. But when I finished shooting the film, I realized: ‘Arre, log toh hans rahein hain, unko mazaa aa raha hain.’ But even today, I don’t know how I’m doing!

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