It is often said that ‘Nice guys finish last’, but when it comes to Ayushmann Khurrana, this adage is not at all true. He came from humble beginnings and worked his way into films playing unconventional roles. Characters that were vulnerable, sensitive, compassionate and gentle compared to the alpha males depicted on the big screen. But after ten years in the business, Khurrana plays a hero’s hero with his latest film, An Action Hero. Read on to know more about his stardom and how he uses it in his upcoming movie.
You’ve mostly played the role of a common man like Vicky Donor, Dum Laga Ke Haisha and Andhadhun. Here with ‘An Action Hero’, you play a superstar. How was that experience?
Ayushmann : Maanav, the superstar in the film is borderline arrogant, very flamboyant, loves cars and enjoys his stardom. I’m glad that I got this opportunity after ten years in my career. I wanted to keep it as real as possible.
I’ve tried to be someone different which was very exciting as an actor. I’ve seen the industry and the circus around it, so I’m not oblivious to it. He’s somebody that I’m not. He is very different from me.
So, what are the perks of being a Superstar?
Ayushmann : Your work is like a holiday because that is your passion and if you are also getting paid for it, then you are blessed. Easy booking at the restaurants because I love food (laughs). You also get to travel for free. My heart is full of gratitude.
When Anirudh Iyer, the director, offered you the role, were you scandalised that it wasn’t inherently about a taboo? There was no social awareness angle in it.
Ayushmann : (Isme mudda nahin mukka hai!) It may be a film devoid of a taboo subject but it is not devoid of quirk. It is full of quirks. It is still part of the films, I have always endorsed. But it is a very fresh take on action and it is topical. It is not something that has happened before in Indian cinema. It is very different.
As an actor, do you feel that you live in two worlds, and sometimes it is difficult to separate the reel world from the real world?
Ayushmann : Not with me. I make a genuine effort to stay as real as I can. You just can’t be pretending 24×7. You play a character and you don’t take that character back home. That is very important for your sanity. I don’t take my characters back home. I prefer it that way; else, I will go mad. In fact, I enjoy being myself and not putting on a façade when the cameras are off.
Every actor’s fame and stardom are courtesy of their fans. Do you feel responsible towards your audience who have given you so much love?
Ayushmann : I have always felt that you have a social responsibility as an actor. People from all walks of life consume your product. I can only take it forward through my art and films. I’m an actor and not an activist. The biggest tool in my hand is my film, my creative product, and that is how every artist should deal with it. I don’t necessarily have to make a statement on social media. There’s no point.
You grew up when Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, and Aamir Khan ruled the roast. Do you feel the definition of stardom has changed from there on?
Ayushmann : It will continually change. We are out in the open now and everyone knows everything about you, but I also think that is the need of the hour. For some people, it might not work, but for me, it really works because I’m that relatable guy. I started my journey as a Radio Jockey followed by theatre and television anchor. I have always interacted with people and been connected with the lowest common denominator. So, it won’t work for me if I try to build a mystery around me because I’m not that person. I’m that reliable guy and that is my USP. For me, the content is the real star. It could be a superscript, not a superstar and I will go with it.
In your latest film, media plays a significant role. As an audience, do you consume news?
Ayushmann : As I come from a journalism background, I do consume news. I am quite up to date with current affairs because of the kind of films I work in. The ideas in my film are fresh and topical and I need to be aware of them. In fact, I watch more documentaries than films because I think the ideation comes from reality.
Do you think twice before posting anything on social media?
Ayushmann : Pehle hota tha, now I’m used to it (laughs). You get to know the fickle nature of the world. Say whatever you want to say; say it via your art.
But often, actors become soft targets by the media.
Ayushmann : Now that I have chosen to become an actor, I will have to endure some hiccups. I will be showered with love in public and it’ll be the same with criticism. We should be ready for that. If you are making films for people, if they like you, they like you; if they don’t, they don’t. We are in the business of selling emotions; we are naturally emotional beings. Hence, actors are intrinsically vulnerable and they become more vulnerable performing. But the only way around it is to be a little detached from your craft and live a wholesome life. Movies are a part of your life; they are not your whole life.
You must discover different aspects of your personality whether it’s being friends with people close to reality. You should never surround yourself with yes men. I’m still friends with my batchmates from school, college, and other walks of life, so cinema is not consuming me. I consume other things also.
You are someone who has constantly worked with new directors.
Ayushmann : Half of my filmography is with debut directors. This is my third film with Color Yellow Productions. First was Shubh Mangal Saavdhan with R S Prasanna, Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan with Hitesh Kewalya and now An Action Hero with Anirudh Iyer. All three were debutant directors and I’m used to working with fresh talent because they have a certain energy, zeal and risk-taking capabilities. My entire filmography is full of risks. I’ll perish without taking risks.
Where does your risk-taking ability come from?
Ayushmann : There is a lot of self-awareness. I know I’m not a conventional star and I have to make those conscious unconventional choices.
Even now? Even after achieving so much success, when the stakes are already so high.
Ayushmann : Conventional choices won’t work for me. I will not be excited, so my audience will not be excited. In every film, I have to give something unconventional and twisted. That’s the crazy endeavour, I will always follow throughout my career.
Do you agree with people who say that Ayushmann Khurrana is a genre in itself?
Ayushmann : Yes, I agree. But, instead of choosing taboo or socially relevant topics, I choose unconventional and quirky characters and stories.