‘I’m attracted to scripts that break taboos’

Priyanka Sinha Jha

May 03, 2019 13:26:23 IST

Seven years since Ayushmann Khurrana made a breezy entry into Hindi films with his adventures as an unsuspecting sperm donor in Vicky Donor, he is busier than ever, with three films in the works this year. Fairly astute life and film choices have ensured the 34-year-old is now in Bollywood’s league of the most coveted.

We meet at Yash Raj Studios, a significant spot in Mumbai’s overcrowded filmscape. The studio’s talent pool, cherry-picked by honcho Aditya Chopra mostly comprises those poised for stardom. That Khurrana is on its roster, speaks volumes about the actor from Chandigarh.

He walks in looking like he’s walked straight out of the pages of a fashion magazine.

Off-screen, Khurrana, who cherishes his stardom, is careful about dressing the part. In the movies, it’s a different story. He normally wears Heartland fashion rather than haute couture. Playing the regular Small Town Joe and Dilli ka launda has become such a staple that Khurrana even pokes fun at himself in the promotional video for his upcoming film Dream Girl saying, “Dilliwaale soch rahein hain ki Purana Qilla ka naam ab Khurrana Qilla rakh dein!”

It would be safe to say Khurrana is an extraordinary practitioner of playing out stories of the ordinary folk.

The ex-veejay grabbed everyone’s attention Vicky Donor and then followed it with forgettable turkeys such as Nautanki Saala, Bewakoofiyan and Hawaizaada, only to bounce back with Dum Laga Ke Haisha. He then scored big with Shubh Mangal Saavdhan and Bareilly Ki Barfi, and then came the tipping point with Andhadhun and Badhaai Ho. The comic thriller Andhadhun has just added Rs 300 crore to its kitty after its China release.

Explaining his method when it comes to choosing films, Khurrana says: “There has to be no reference point to the script in India or anywhere else. I am always attracted to subjects that are different, taboo-breaking, and have a subliminal message. They have to be told in an entertaining way. I’m glad we live in India where there is no dearth of taboo subjects or social stigma. We’re full of them.”

Unlike Vicky Kaushal’s more muscular, alpha male image in the ordinary-man space, Khurrana is cast in the softer mould. His is more like a Farooque Sheikh-meets-Amol Palekar image, rather than Dharmendra of Hrishikesh Mukherjee films.

RS Prasanna, who directed Khurrana in Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, says: “I would always tell them (Khurrana and Bhumi Pednekar), ‘you are Farooque Sheikh and Dipti Naval!’.”

Khurrana’s cinematic image is enhanced by the personal — a singer and musician, he counts among the few who delight in chronicling linguistic trivia. “Vocabulary changes every five years or so. For instance there is the colloquial term bhasad (confusion), which is very popular in Delhi. Usage of such words is among small things that make a character, especially the small town persona, convincing.”

In Anubhav Sinha’s upcoming Article 15, again a smalltown story, Khurrana plays a cop for the first time. “Ayushmann is someone who is interested in the story more than the character he plays. This makes working with him a refreshing experience. You won’t find him obsessing about his look or the way he is presented,” says Sinha.

His other upcoming films have intriguing premises, too. In Dreamgirl, he plays a sari-clad character, and in Bala he plays a balding man.

It’s probably Khurrana’s strategy to push himself to the next level by staying ahead in the growing tribe of ‘non hero’ actors, who can slip under the skin of characters with ease even if it makes them prisoner to a sort of a nebulous image.

“The only aspiration is to do fresh content and if that’s creating an image of being different and middle-of-the-road, it’s fine,” says Khurrana.

Prasanna compares him to the perfectionist Aamir Khan, when it comes to strategising his creative career. The filmmaker adds that Khurrana’s image and attitude work to an advantage. “I am hungry for actors like Ayushmann because of his intelligence and what he can pull off with his image,” enthuses Prasanna.

It’s an astute comparison, because quite like Aamir, several new directors have hit the bullseye collaborating with Khurrana — Amit Sharma (Badhaai Ho), Shoojit Sarkar (Vicky Donor) and Sharat Katariya (Dum Laga Ke Haisha) being among them.

Says Khurrana of his next steps: “Once in a while you have to change the gear but you can’t be changing yourself in every film because then you will be exhausted as an actor. As actors, we want to change with every role but people are not interested in a different you every single time. They just want to see a different story, so the idea is to give them a different story.”

Updated Date: May 06, 2019 14:10:49 IST

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