Ayushmann Khurrana took Bollywood by storm in AndhaDhun, headlined one of the biggest hits of 2018 Badhaai Ho and starred in the bravest movie of his career Article 15. Few actors in the industry have the versatility of Ayushmann; his talent allows him to deliver lines as a jilted lover and a tough police officer with the same comfort. But for his next film, much of Ayushmann's delivery comes in facial expressions and a modulated female voice.
Titled Dream Girl, the film sees Ayushmann in the role of a call centre employee whose ability to speak in a female voice leads to hilarious results. The actor, who recently won the prestigious National Award for his brilliant portrayal of a blind piano player Akash in AndhaDhun, sat with us for a brief interaction ahead of the release of Dream Girl on September 13.
Excerpts from the interview:
Films like Badhaai Ho, Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha are redefining the genre of comedy in India. They are in a way helping address so many important issues and give you a sort of an eye-opening perspective on things in an entertaining way. Do you think this new trend stems from the fact that when you just tell people to think, people tend to get defensive?
If you tell people to do things in a certain manner, it will be a documentary or like an educational film. If you're part of the entertainment industry, you've to put entertainment with content and something informative. It has to become infotainment in a way, otherwise, there will be no takers as people come and spend money to mostly get entertained. And thus, you've to make it really funny to make it work. A film is an emotional medium and some emotion needs to be touched by its horror, love, or any other genre.
You have maintained that it's not easy to be an outsider in Bollywood. Has that feeling still stayed with you?
No, not at all. I think this is the best phase, the best career to be on the list. If you're talented, you will get your due. Be it as a journalist, an actor, a director. It is beyond the realms of nepotism. Even star kids have their own troubles. But I think this is the best era to be an artist. I guess, I was in the right place at the right time. I remember, when I came to Mumbai for the first time, they were looking for an RJ. I was there. Then suddenly they were looking for VJs, I was there. Suddenly, this era of new-age content came and I was there.
Did you ever wake up in a cold sweat, worried about the fate of any of your movies?
Of course, I did. I think they were my next three films after Vicky Donor. Even though it was a learning curve, I was not getting scripts as good as Vicky Donor which had set a benchmark and nobody was able to surpass it. Writers were unable to write such scripts. And then suddenly, Dum Laga Ke Haisha happened, which was a rarity during that time. With this, filmmakers actually hit the content, taboos and social issues. Even Vicky Donor was a rarity when it came.
Of late, it has been pointed out by many actors that while critiquing an artiste's work, a critic should be a little respectful and do constructive criticism. Were any of your movies crticised the same way?
Maybe the films after Vicky Donor, someone's review was very nasty. But what will you do? We live in this era of social media where everybody has the license to just give their opinion and say whatever they think on the internet. So, you can't control anybody. The idea is to just take motivation out of it. I have quite a thick skin that way. I might look very emotional, but I am very practical. So, you should take it in a positive manner and it should give you the impetus to do something different. If you're in the public eye, they will praise you wholeheartedly, but they will also put you down. It a byproduct of being famous.
At a time when there's a constant debate about diversity and inclusion in the film industry, how do you see the debate around politically correct casting?
I guess an actor should be able to play anybody. Either you will have to take the casting of somebody who looks exactly like them. It's also a very star-driven industry, so there's nothing politically incorrect in it. It's the audience that has to decide what they like. We have seen this in the past also, old people playing older versions of themselves. So, it has to be convincing, that's all.
Dream Girl is slated to release on September 13 and also features Nushrat Bharucha, Manjot Singh, Vijay Raaz, Annu Kapoor, Rajesh Sharma and Nidhi Bisht in key roles.
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