He tasted critical acclaim and box-office success with his last release, Dum Laga Ke Haisha (2015). Now, as Ayushmann Khurrana is set to be seen in his next film, Meri Pyaari Bindu (MPB), after a gap of two years, he says he is kicked about it. “I am excited as the audience will see something that’s unique, different and evokes nostalgia. Our trailers, chapters and songs have received a great response, so it will be fun,” says the actor, as he talks about his career, family and more.
You will be seen in a movie after two years. Are you feeling any pressure?
This year is going to be exciting, as I am going to have three releases. Toh saari kasar puri kar raha hoon main (I am making up for the lost time; laughs). All three films are interesting in their own way. I am playing completely different characters in all of them, so it’s quite interesting. In fact, I am really looking forward to this year because I have chosen scripts that are out-of-the-box and unique in a way. MPB has already struck a chord with people.
So, you are relaxed…
See, I am sure everyone feels the pressure at the time of a film’s release, whether a film releases after a two-month gap, or after one, two or five years. It [the pressure] is always there.
You are an actor who can sing too. Is that a special USP?
Definitely. I’ve always wanted to be a singer-actor or an actor-singer. Still, I always wanted to keep that identity away from the actor. In MPB, I am playing a non-singer, so I don’t sing in it at all. In Dum Laga Ke Haisha, it was a deliberate decision to not sing as I was playing a Kumar Sanu fan. It shouldn’t be like, ‘If Ayushmann is in a film, he has to sing a song’. In a film, the topmost priority is the character. Later, if there is space as a singer, you should go for it. Otherwise, there is no point in singing. I may sing in other films, but not doing it in MPB.
Is that why you keep releasing singles?
Absolutely, I cut at least one single a year and also tour with my band. I think that’s a very gratifying experience.
Your family (wife Tahira Kashyap and kids) have shifted to Mumbai now. Is that a relief?
Of course, it is. I was feeling disconnected with them otherwise, because I used to travel most of the time. Also, I was living the life of a single person, which is not fair. So, now, wherever I shoot, they are always around, at least for a while. Of course, the shooting part is hectic, and you need space to get into the character, etc. However, to have that connect with them, you have to see them every 15 days. It’s very important.
We have heard that you spoil your kids.
I can’t afford to be the bad cop, because they see me very infrequently; they will start hating me. So, I can only love them.
Does it help if your family’s in the same city, especially when you have a busy schedule?
Yes, it’s a big plus. If you’re in Mumbai and can’t get out of the city, you’re at least going back home, seeing their faces and interacting with them. Eventually, I am a family man.
Meri Pyaari Bindu (MPB) is looking fresh and new...
For a change, we weren’t shooting in other metro cities, but in Kolkata, which automatically lends a nostalgic vibe. Nothing has really changed in the city, including the old houses. Things are intact, especially in North Kolkata. We also shot at St. Xavier’s College and Howrah Bridge. Also, the yellow taxis, which have existed since the beginning of the universe, will also be seen. So, that’s why that world is beautiful. Also, I got to learn a new language, which was great, as I love learning new languages.
Do you think after Dum Laga Ke Haisha (2015), people expect quality content from you?
People should always expect whatever I do to be interesting and different. If I match that expectation, I am home [comfortable]. I am still trying to understand the numbers game. I was always bad at math. If I am successful in doing that, I think I will create my own niche.
You have completed five years in the industry. Do you feel it?
Mentally, I am realising that, because I have changed a lot in the past five years. I have become wiser. I have had my series of highs and lows. The best part is starting [the five years] with a hit film and ending [that time] with a hit film. I have realised that I have a certain kind of space, and I should work on my positives. Aditya Chopra gave me very solid advice — he said, ‘be yourself in your films. Whatever is the extension of your personality, you should portray that until the time you change as a person. If you have changed as a person, you have become a different person, and only then should you try something different or radical. But until then, just solidify yourself in that space.’ That’s the best advice I got after he saw MPB and loved me in it.
But doesn’t that make you feel limited as an actor?
Not at all. I think I am very comfortable in my space, and want to own this space and become a king of this space. Anyone is welcome, but I rule this space. What’s more important is that you own whatever space you have. And I’m working on it.
So, being a big superstar doesn’t interest you?
That depends on the success of my films. If any one of my films becomes a Rs 100-crore film, then the game will change.
Your brother, Aparshakti Khurana, is also a part of the film industry now. Are you excited?
It’s great, though he discovered his passion for acting a bit late, as he studied law, played cricket, and worked in the radio industry just like I did before exploring films. The best part is that he got this role on his own merit. There’s no way I orchestrated this. He auditioned for Mukesh Chhabra (casting director), who liked his diction and command over the (Haryanvi) language, because he had captained the under-19 Haryana cricket team. I think he is still discovering himself. He is also anchoring shows on TV, and is going to England on behalf of a sports broadcasting company. His passion has been cricket and cinema, and that’s what he is doing right now. What else do you need in life?
The ’90s nostalgia for Ayushmann Khurrana
In Dum Laga Ke Haisha, Ayushmann played the owner of an audio cassette shop, which helps built the film’s milieu. It, in fact, was the common interest shared between the actor and producer Maneesh Sharma. In Meri Pyaari Bindu too, produced by Maneesh, Ayushmann plays a writer, who has a typewriter for company even as a cassette player strums out his favourite songs from a mixtape of classics, while evoking a sense of ’90s nostalgia. In fact, for him it worked as a big draw to take up the film, and got him engaged with the story right from the start.
“Typewriters are the perfect symbol for nostalgia after cassettes. The click of the typewriters has a feel and a bizarre beautiful rhythm to it. And it looks so cool like a vintage gadget,” he says. In fact, the mixtapes have become big reference points in international films and TV shows such as Guardians Of The Galaxy or Thirteen Reasons Why.