Decoded: Ayushmann Khurrana’s rise to the top.
He has set new rules for success, a trendsetter in the real sense of the term
It is a feat that even the most seasoned of superstars would envy – FIVE backto-back hits at the box office. But what makes Ayushmann Khurrana’s success even more special is that he has managed to woo audiences in two distinct movies released in the space of two weeks! Who does that?
Andhadhun and Badhaai Ho – two films that are as diverse as the proverbial chalk and cheese. One, an edgy and supremely intelligent thriller, and the other, a lighthearted, frothy yet very deep family entertainer. The common thread – an actor who just doesn’t stop experimenting.
Since Bollywood is so obsessed with numbers, let’s get that out of the way first. Not much was expected of Andhadhun, a film about a blind pianist who unwittingly gets embroiled in a sinister murder, when it released, except for the fact that some film aficionados who revere Sriram Raghavan’s work had been talking about it on social media. But when it hit the screens, the industry was taken by surprise. The glowing review (one tough-to-please reviewer even gave it 5 stars!) and fabulous word-ofmouth carried it to the 100 crore club.
By contrast, there was something so warm and fuzzy about the trailer of Badhaai Ho – a social comedy about the embarrassment that a senior citizen couple’s impending parenthood causes – that there was a great buzz about it even before it hit the theatres. Sure, the Dusshera holiday helped but one could see a rare sight – scores of the ‘family crowd’ queuing up for tickets. The result: A 100 crore hit.
Indeed, if the first part of the year belonged to Vicky Kaushal (Sanju, Lust Stories, Raazi), mid-year to Rajkummar
Rao (Stree), then the last three months definitely shone the spotlight yet again on Ayushmann who has had the honour of starring in five consecutive hits – Dum Laga Ke Haisha, Bareilly ki Barfi, Shubh Mangal Saavdhaan, Andhadhun and now Badhaai Ho. For a star-kids’ obsessed industry, these ‘outsiders’ have broken the metaphoric ceiling of nepotism. Purely for the purpose of comparison, Arjun Kapoor’s Namaste England released on the same day as Badhaai Ho and bit the dust. Similarly, Aayush Sharma’s debut Loveyatri couldn’t hold a candle to Andhadhun’s brilliance. The winds are blowing in a different direction altogether in Bollywood and stars like Ayushmann are reaping the benefits.
And it’s all due to his own diligence and steadfast approach. In the last seven years since he made his debut in the quirky Vicky Donor, Ayushmann has charted a path that is unique. He found his calling playing the ‘Amol Palekar’ of his generation – that is, the regular guy with regular problems. Easily identifiable and even more relatable. Critics may say he is repeating himself playing the angry, smart talking Delhi/north Indian guy in film after film. But when there is such an honesty to each of his performances, what is there to complain? A Rajkummar Rao might have won more awards and is lauded for his versatility. A Vicky Kaushal may have had everyone charmed, but in terms of sheer consistency, it’s the underrated Ayushmann who comes out as the winner.
Of course, the actor himself scoffs at the accusation of repetition. As he said in an interview, “It may seem I am doing the same roles but I try and bring a variation in each, be it through dialect or language. For instance, in Badhaai Ho, I actually had to speak three lingos – the regular Hindi of Delhi/gurgaon, the Haryanvi accent when I was speaking with friends and the Upaccented Hindi at home.” Subtle nuances that only an expert can recognise and appreciate.
This ‘ordinariness’ and ‘everyday’ mannerisms is what has endeared him to audiences. Does he evoke the same craze as say, a Ranveer or Ranbir? We can’t say. But he is the solid anchor in an otherwise unpredictable industry.
And he doesn’t believe in pumping iron at the gym or flashing his buff body. Instead, he would rather invest that energy in getting the body language of his character right. It’s said he spent months perfecting playing the piano (“It was not that difficult considering I am musically inclined,” he said) and also worked hard to get his blind man act right for Andhadhun. The result is there for us to see.
Staying away from controversy, not making any unnecessary statements yet being the man who everybody loves, Ayushmann has created a niche that will be hard to emulate. Bollywood heroes, for long stereotyped as the superman-whohad-it-all, badly needed the cool, stable, regular guy you could relate to and also take home to your family. In Ayushmann, we finally have found the ‘ordinary’ hero. Badhaai Ho!