Birth­day boy Ayush­mann Khur­rana says an ac­tor in this day and age has to make “brave choices” in his or her ca­reer as those are the “safest” ones

HT Cafe - - FRONT PAGE - Prashant Singh prashant.singh@hin­dus­tan­times.com

He made his de­but with, what he calls an “un­con­ven­tional” part in Vicky Donor (2012). In­ter­est­ingly, Ayush­mann Khur­rana’s Bol­ly­wood jour­ney too has been any­thing but con­ven­tional. Af­ter go­ing through his share of ups and downs, the ac­tor is clearly on a high now with two back- to-back hits — Bareilly Ki Barfi (BKB) and Shubh Man­gal Saavdhan (SMS). As Ayush­mann turns a year older to­day, he tells us how fail­ure has taught him much and how he “novelty” is much in de­mand these days.

What’s your state of mind now?

I am very over­whelmed be­cause ini­tially, when it be­came known that my two films are com­ing back-to­back, the re­sponse wasn’t that pos­i­tive. Ev­ery­one in­clud­ing my friends were like, ‘Why are two movies re­leas­ing si­mul­ta­ne­ously?’ But I have re­alised that if two films are good, and they re­lease to­gether, they will still make good money and res­onate with peo­ple. As BKB and SMS do so well even now, I feel it’s kind of a case study. When peo­ple come to the the­atre, they don’t come with the bag­gage of the pre­vi­ous films. They start with the films from scratch, and when they start watch­ing a film, they see it in a dif­fer­ent world al­to­gether with newer char­ac­ters.

With two back-to-back re­leases, how scared were you?

I was al­ways clear that it (the re­lease of films) is com­pletely the pro­ducer’s call. They are putting the money, so, they know the best date to re­lease the film. Un­til and un­less you are a Khan or any other su­per­star, you don’t de­cide on your film’s re­lease date.

Be it your de­but film, Vicky Donor, Dum Laga Ke Haisha (2015), BKB or SMS, you seem to be con­stantly mak­ing bold and brave choices. Don’t you ever get ap­pre­hen­sive?

I started my jour­ney with a rad­i­cal choice. I al­ways say that I have no other op­tion but to be brave with my choices be­cause I started as an un­con­ven­tional ac­tor in an un­con­ven­tional film. Ac­tu­ally, this is the day and age where you have to make brave choices and I think they are

the safest choices in this era. We have to give some­thing dif­fer­ent to peo­ple, es­pe­cially at a time where there are lots of choices — on­line or on dig­i­tal plat­forms. So, in cin­ema you have to be as novel as pos­si­ble.

2017 is also the year when you com­plete five years in the in­dus­try. How has the jour­ney been?

It’s been a very fruit­ful jour­ney. I think I have also be­come level-headed be­cause of cer­tain fail­ures in be­tween. Surely, I have a bet­ter head on my shoul­ders now. As I al­ways say, ‘Suc­cess is a lousy teacher, and fail­ure is your friend, philoso­pher and guide.’ I have also be­come more hon­est with my feed­back to who­ever I meet. I have be­come saner and more bal­anced. Plus, I re­spect re­la­tion­ships more than ever be­fore be­cause it is a volatile in­dus­try. Every Fri­day, your po­si­tion changes and in such a sit­u­a­tion, I think we need to main­tain re­la­tion­ships es­pe­cially with our fam­i­lies and friends, who are there with you for­ever, ir­re­spec­tive of your box-of­fice suc­cesses or fail­ures.

You re­cently said that you will never do films that would make your kids cringe?

Yes, ab­so­lutely! To be­gin with, the script should con­nect with me and I don’t think I will re­late to any­thing that is vul­gar. Your na­ture, your char­ac­ter and your up­bring­ing is a de­fault set­ting. So, I prob­a­bly may never choose a script, which will make my fam­ily cringe.

Re­cently, a critic said that you could be the new-age Amol Palekar. Do you agree?

I take it as a com­pli­ment be­cause Amol sir was the one who used to do films which were a lit­tle off-cen­tre and had a touch of re­al­ism in his films. Be it Ch­hoti Si Baat (1976), Gol Maal (1979), or Ba­ton Ba­ton Mein (1979), they were sweet films. The kind of choices I am mak­ing and the kind of films that have worked for me are – in a way – also in the same genre. Hav­ing said that, I would love to ex­plore more gen­res and do some­thing that Aamir Khan has done in Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikan­dar (1992) or Shah Rukh Khan has done in Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa (1994). But at the same time, I also want to ex­plore the grey char­ac­ters like SRK did in in Darr (1993) or Baazi­gar (1993) and which I may be do­ing in Sri­ram Ragha­van’s film. So yes, it’s a com­pli­ment for sure, but I would love to ven­ture in other gen­res as well.

As an ac­tor, where does your strength lie?

As of now, I have been play­ing on my strength, and I know that it’s re­al­ism for sure. That’s the space I would love to own wherein there is a new wave of cin­ema that has re­al­ism. That kind of cin­ema is also do­ing well nowa­days but apart from that, I feel di­rec­tors should chal­lenge me be­cause I would love to – for ex­am­ple – do a body trans­for­ma­tion. For ex­am­ple, I can’t play a pi­anist (in Sri­ram’s film) with six pack abs. So, film-mak­ers should chal­lenge me phys­i­cally bring out some­thing rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent in me vis-à-vis the craft.

Given an op­tion, would you rather be a ‘bank­able ac­tor’ or a ‘big star’?

I think both are two sides of the same coin as big stars are only bank­able ac­tors. But I would say that be­ing a good ac­tor is en­tirely in your hands. See, the suc­cess of a film is [a re­sult of] a team­work but one thing that is in your hands is to keep im­prov­ing your craft with every film. That’s com­pletely in your con­trol but box of­fice suc­cess is a sum to­tal of a lot of things such as your re­lease date, your scriptwrit­ers, your di­rec­tors, the mu­sic team, mar­ket­ing and ev­ery­thing else put to­gether. But at the end of the day, you need to take care of that first thing – be­ing a good ac­tor.

Shubh Man­gal Saavdhan di­rec­tor RS Prasanna has said that you have a knack of mar­ry­ing con­tent with com­merce...

I be­lieve there should be a cer­tain bud­get that a film should be made in. Hav­ing said that, I lis­ten to or read a script sim­ply as a com­mon man, a viewer and a lover of In­dian cin­ema, and then I see how it con­nects with me. If it con­nects, then I know peo­ple will also re­late to it be­cause though I am not from a mid­dle class fam­ily, I have had mid­dle class up­bring­ing and we were high on desi hu­mour. So if I get con­nected to a script then I feel that it con­nect with the masses too. I guess if you make a film within a cer­tain bud­get and have a good script then def­i­nitely it’s go­ing to work.

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