De­coded: Ayushmann Khurrana’s rise to the top.

He has set new rules for suc­cess, a trend­set­ter in the real sense of the term

Masala! - - INSIDE... -

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!

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