Director Sriram Raghavan and his unique casting choices…

Apart from creating deliciously dark characters, filmmaker Sriram Raghavan’s speciality lies in presenting his actors in different roles.

For example, much before Saif Ali Khan did a negative role in Omkara (2006), he was cast in the role of a smooth charmer who wreaks havoc in the life of Urmila Matondkar’s Sarika in Ek Hasina Thi (2004).

Saif handled this role — his very first negative character — like a pro by showcasing his versatility in a big way.

In Johnny Gaddaar (2007), Sriram Raghavan trusted a complete newcomer like Neil Nitin Mukesh with a challenging role. His role of Vikram comes across as a calculating and cold person who does not hesitate to sacrifice even his friends.

Neil’s performance in Johnny Gaddaar remains his best to date.

Sriram Raghavan also tapped a different side of the veteran actor Dharmendra in this film. Dharmendra played a ring leader. Though the duration of his scenes was less, his role was well-written and enacted.

Now, I will primarily focus on Sriram Raghavan’s last three films Badlapur (2015),  Andhadhun (2018), and Merry Christmas (2024).

Interestingly, in these movies, the director has pushed his lead actors to do something different from what they have done previously.

Badlapur

Sriram Raghavan and Varun Dhawan on the sets of ‘Badlapur’. 

Sriram Raghavan and Varun Dhawan on the sets of ‘Badlapur’. (Facebook)

Before BadlapurVarun Dhawan only did romantic and comic roles; he was absolutely charming in Main Tera Hero (2014) and Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania (2014).

But with Badlapur, the actor stepped into a new zone.

The film is based on a real-life event where Varun’s character goes through many stages — physically and emotionally. Varun Dhawan played Raghu, whose life changed drastically after the death of his wife and son.

Raghu is consumed by revenge, and in the process of retribution, he does some questionable things. Even after succeeding in his mission, Raghu does not find complete peace.

In Badlapur, the viewers saw a new Varun Dhawan. The actor completely submitted to the vision of Sriram Raghavan and delivered one of his best performances so far.

Despite sharing screen space with Nawazuddin Siddiqui, there was not a moment where Varun Dhawan came across as anything less.

Andhadhun

Ayishmann Khurrana in a poster of ‘Andhadhun’. 

Ayishmann Khurrana in a poster of ‘Andhadhun’. (X)

Like Varun Dhawan, Ayushmann Khurrana also delivered a career-defining performance in Andhadhun (2018).

Ayushmann never did thrillers before, but director Sriram Raghavan trusted the actor with the role of a supposed blind pianist.

Even at the end, the viewers don’t know if he is blind. Ayushmann shared a lot of scenes with the veteran actor Tabu, but still, he more than stood his own.

Sriram Raghavan etched the character brilliantly with many shades, and Ayushmann Khurrana did complete justice to the director’s vision.

Merry Christmas

Katrina Kaif in ‘Merry Christmas’.

Lastly, you have the recent Merry Christmas starring Katrina Kaif and Vijay Sethupathi. The film does not match the brilliance of Badlapur and Andhadhun, but there is no denying Sriram Raghavan’s uniqueness in bringing two actors who belong to vastly different worlds.

Vijay Sethupati is a proven actor with a brilliant repertoire of roles as diverse as Super Deluxe (2019) and Master (2021).On the other hand, Katrina Kaif is known more for her dancing skills than her acting.

Not many directors would have thought of bringing them together but Sriram proved his penchant for taking risks.

A big USP of Merry Christmas is how Vijay Sethupati and Katrina Kaif feed off each other as two strangers in the beginning and develop a bond during a Christmas night.

They shared a wonderful chemistry, which helped the film tide over the speed bumps.

In Merry Christmas, Sriram successfully explored a different side of Katrina.

Her character goes from an alluring and vulnerable single mom to a hurt and revengeful wife. Katrina Kaif was proficient in her part managing to pull off both the shades.

Her role as Maria is a new beginning for Katrina even though the film has not done great business.

It is interesting to see Sriram Raghavan’s unique casting choices, which bring out something different from them every time. Hoping to see more such experimenting.

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