Ayushmann Khurrana on Ganesh Chaturthi: ‘When I’d go for auditions, I would get off autos to dance in others’ Ganpati procession’
He has been constantly on a roll for the past two years. And now, Ayushmann Khurrana is on a clear high with his last two films – Badhaai Ho and Andhadhun – bagging multiple National Awards including the Best Actor honour for his outing in the latter. Amidst all the running around for shoots, promotions of his next, Dream Girl and other professional commitments, we managed to squeeze out some “free time” from the actor’s jam packed schedule for an exclusive Ganpati photo shoot and interview. “I think I am enjoying this madness. It’s great fun but at the same time, I want to strike a balance too,” says Ayushmann. Excerpts from an interview:
To start with, being from North India, how would you explain your connection with Ganpati?
Ganpati [festival] is not very huge in North India, where it’s called Ganesh Chaturthi. But when I first came to Mumbai, I got to know that it’s called Ganpati in Maharashtra. While Holi and Diwali are biggest festivals in the North, but Ganpati is the biggest of them all in Mumbai/Maharashtra. I remember when I landed in the city for the first time, I was overjoyed to see how whole-heartedly people celebrate Ganpati. During my initial years, I used to dance on the streets [along with the Ganpati procession]. So, a lot of times, when I’d go for auditions during the festival, I used to get off the auto rickshaw and randomly start dancing in others’ Ganpati procession. It’s a beautiful festival.
For you, what’s the best thing for you about the festival?
For me, the best thing is the feeling of bonhomie around it. Also, the whole energy that comes with the festival is amazing, so much so that nothing stops devotees. They just keep moving. So, if it rains, even better (laughs). I have noticed that Bappa devotees love to dance as well as take the idols out in the rain. That kind of dedication and pure devotion is infectious.
Lord Ganesha is a favourite god for many, for various reasons. What does he stand for you?
I know a lot of people – including a number of my Mumbai friends – whose favourite God is Ganpati. For them, Ganpati isn’t just a God, but a friend. That’s why they can tell anything to their ‘friend.’ Over the years, I have witnessed that beautiful relationship. Also, Ganesha symbolises prosperity, especially when you are starting something new. There’s a lot of fanfare and bonhomie around it. A number of my friends, who are from the North but they love the fervour and have become too emotional about the festival. Especially, whenever Ganpati leaves and they go for immersion, they get really emotional.
Any interesting anecdotes vis-à-vis the festival?
You know, in the past, I have accompanied a few friends when they went to pick up an idol. And I have been told that there’s an instant connect with a particular idol, so, you look into the idol’s eyes and you are like, ‘this is my Ganpati.’ I have seen that kind of relationships prosper. In fact, a lot of people carry their Ganpati along wherever they go. Last year, a friend of mine came to our place for dinner and they carried their Ganpati along, as they were like, ‘hum inko akela nahi chhod sakte. So, we always carry him with us.’ Toh hum khana kha rahe thee aur hamare centre table ke beech mein Ganpati baithe thee. I enjoy such moments, as they are beautiful. The whole fervour is infectious.
Your new film, Dream Girl comes close on the heels of the festival…
Ekta Kapoor is a very spiritual and religious person. She is a stern believer in the fact that it’s the God, destiny and hard work that comes together. That’s what we have tried with Dream Girl too. Our Ganpati song, Dhagala lagli has come out around the festival. Also, Radhe radhe came out around Janamashtami. Ekta really believes in attaching songs with the films that she believes in. This time, it’s happening with Dream Girl and the entire crew is very gung-ho about it.
Your new film, Dream Girl comes close on the heels of the festival…
Ekta Kapoor is a very spiritual and religious person. She is a stern believer in the fact that it’s God, destiny and hard work that comes together. That’s what we have tried with Dream Girl too. Our Ganpati song, Dhagala Lagli has come out around the festival. Also, Radhe Radhe came out around Janamashtami. Ekta really believes in attaching songs with the films that she believes in. This time, it’s happening with Dream Girl and the entire crew is very gung-ho about it.
Talking of work, Dream Girl releases after a string of your hits. You must be kicked about it?
It’s the most masala film of mine. I feel, till now, my films were middle-of-the-road – something between critically-acclaimed and a commercial hit but since I have done a commercial masala film for the first time, I have gone all out with it. Unlike a film like Article 15, this is the other side of the spectrum. So, I just want to tell the audience to keep their brains at home (laughs) and have a good laugh along with entertainment.
Your last two films, Badhaai Ho and Andhadhun, won National Awards. You must be kicked that two very different films of yours have won highest honours?
I’m very content. Last year, I did two films and both won National Awards. What more could I have asked for? With a personal victory of getting ‘Best Actor’ award for Andhadhun, things are even more beautiful. The whole experience of 2018 – with two super-hits and fetching such glories at award functions especially the national honours is very overwhelming. As for Vicky, I treat him as my brother and it feels great. It is my pleasure that I’m sharing it with him since he is doing great for himself. We have a great bond and share fantastic camaraderie. We even hosted an award show together, and have known each other for a long time now.
From the outside, it looks like your dream period. Do you also feel so?
I am glad if that’s how it looks. This is a beautiful phase. It’s a kind of validation from people and acknowledgement that my choices have worked with them. As an actor, it gives me the courage to choose films like Andhadhun and Article 15. That way, even Dream Girl is very different for me. As I said, I have gone fully commercial for the first time and it’s a huge thing for me the way the film is tracking. My last biggest opener [at the box office] was Badhaai Ho (around 7.5 crore). So, when trade people say all good things that this could be my biggest opener, it is very overwhelming. I am glad the trailer clicked and the songs are doing very well too. Sometimes, it all feels surreal and overwhelming. I don’t know what else to say.
Post Bareilly Ki Barfi (BKB; 2017), your career took a big turn. What did you start doing differently after that film?
I think I started to follow my heart in a more fearless manner. There was certain clarity in my head after BKB. So, that clarity really helped me. I have just stuck to the basics. So, I didn’t think about the projects, how big a director’s name is, who was going to be the co-actor opposite me or anything else. I was just focused on the material/content of the film. And I guess that has really worked.
Any plans to team up again with Andhadhun director, Sriram Raghavan?
I would love to work with Sriram sir again. I hope we get to jam soon because he is extremely busy, and I am also constantly travelling. But I am looking forward to that [jamming with him].
This festive season, do you have a big wish?
For starters, I wish for peace in our country. A personal wish would be to strike a good balance between my personal and professional lives because 2019 is my busiest year in life until now as I have been shooting back-to-back. So, it’s been a bit tough for me to balance my life.
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