His song, ‘Pani da rang’ in Vicky Donor (2012) cemented his identity as a musician. The film also marked his acting debut. In the four years that he has spent in Bollywood, Ayushmann Khurrana has managed to take time out to pursue his passion for music. He has crooned for films and has also released three singles — ‘O heeriye’, ‘Mitti di khusboo’ and ‘Yahi hoon main’. Ahead of his performance on February 14, at the Hindustan Times Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, the actor-singer talks about his journey as a musician, how he wants to work towards the betterment of the indie scene in the country, and more.
How did you end up becoming a musician?
Music is in my genes. My grandmother used to sing in a Gurdwara, and my father used to play the flute. I have grown up listening to retro music, tracks from the ’90s, ghazals and Sufi music. I remember one night, when we bought a car in 1988, my family spent the entire night in it, listening to Ghulam Ali’s ghazals. In the morning, the battery of the car was dead (laughs).
Did you train in music?
I did train in classical music for some time, but I never took it very seriously. I was part of my school’s choir, but I always preferred theatre over music even then. I was always more inclined towards acting.
Listen: Ayushmann sings his hit single Pani da rang
When did you write your first song?
When I was in eighth standard. Rochak (Kohli; music composer) and I wrote a song together, when we were together in school. We had a small keyboard, and we used to create songs on it.
Being an actor, do you manage to spare enough time for music?
Of course, I have to. Music has become a part of my profession now. I started taking it more seriously after ‘Pani da rang’. I do riyaaz for half an hour every day. Even if I am driving, I do it in my car.
You have been releasing singles at regular intervals. Is this a way to revive India’s indie scene?
Yes, it is. In the ’90s, the indie scene was great, with Euphoria and Shaan coming up with albums. But there was a time in the 2000s when there were no musicians catering to indie music. Music companies stopped supporting independent music. But things are changing now. I think being an actor and musician helps grab eyeballs. When popular actors feature on singles, it helps. For instance, Hrithik (Roshan) and Sonam (Kapoor) featured in Yo Yo Honey Singh’s latest single (‘Dheere dheere se’), and Emraan Hashmi and Esha Gupta were seen in Amaal Mallik’s single (‘Main rahoon ya na rahoon’). So, things are improving.
Watch: Ayushmann sings and acts in Mitti di khushboo
So, you enjoy independent music…
I am a purist at heart. I used to listen to Niladri Kumar (sitar player) and Anoushka Shankar’s (sitar player) music while shooting for Dum Laga Ke Haisha (2015). I feel Niladri is amazing. Also, bands like Ankur & The Ghalat Family and The Raghu Dixit Project have a huge fan following in the country.
Who are your inspirations?
I listen to diverse music — from ghazals, Sufi and retro tracks to Bollywood songs from the ’90s and even pop. So, my influences are diverse. I like to discover new bands every week. I am a huge Coldplay fan; I think their latest album is amazing. I also feel Justin Bieber has reinvented himself with his latest album.
Do you see yourself composing music for an entire Bollywood film and also acting in it?
My hands are quite full right now, as I am shooting for films and travelling for shows. I don’t know about the future, but I don’t see myself as a full-time musician.
Listen: Ayushmann Khurrana’s hit song Saadi gali from Nautanki Saala
Has music helped you grow as an artiste?
It’s a very Indian thing to lip-sync. People in the west don’t do it. I feel it adds a lot of credibility if you are lip-syncing the song that you have sung in a movie.
Do you have any favourite artiste?
I think Gurdas Maan (Punjabi singer) is a legend. He is a popular singer, who also has a Sufi touch in his music. He also has a huge connect with the masses. I am into Punjabi music only because of him. I am hugely influenced by Maan saab.
In a recent article, you had said that you want to revisit Bollywood music of the ’90s…
Yes, that’s true. In fact, you will get a glimpse of that on February 14, because I will sing rock versions of Bollywood songs at the Hindustan Times Kala Ghoda Arts Festival.
Tell us about the projects you are currently working on.
I am currently busy with two films. Besides that, I am working on a new single, which I will release sometime this year.
Is there any international collaboration in the pipeline?
No, I am happy with what I am doing. I feel the more local you go, the more global you reach. For instance, my song, ‘Mitti di khusboo’, had a tremendous connect with the NRIs. I get appreciation emails even today.
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