HT Brunch Cover Story: Five shades of Ayushmann Khurrana!
The roles that the actor plays in real life make him a superhero among starsUpdated: Dec 10, 2019 14:58 IST
Sperm donation. Check. Erectile dysfunction. Check. Premature balding. Check. Caste discrimination. Check.
When it comes to taboo subjects, actor Ayushmann Khurrana’s CV seems to grow with every release. The 36-year-old is grabbing eyeballs, headlines and every role that normalises anything considered off limits or forbidden. Situational comedies with a social message, where he plays the protagonist, are snowballing into a brand of cinema that he is becoming identified with.
“You need to be a very secure human being to play these [characters]”
“I’m getting scripts that are so fresh that people get intrigued by watching the trailer. Choosing subjects that are most unique is my endeavour throughout,” says Ayushmann. This choice of unconventional subjects comes with a lot of security. “My idea is to give out-of-the-box stories to the audience. That gives me a kick as an artist. I could be self deprecating also, at the same time – most of the time the humour revolves around my situation, and coming from the veejay-ing school of thought, I feel one needs to be a very secure human being to be able to do so.”
Our everyday hero has not only kept critics and commercial cinema buffs upbeat but has also emerged as a fashion and fitness icon. Off the reel-life, he’s a modern family man: a supporting brother and husband as well as a doting dad of two!
In an HT Brunch exclusive, take a peek at five, if not 50, shades of Ayushmann Khurrana.
Sperm donor to impotent hero: A man of character
“You need to be a very secure human being to play these characters”
Ayushmann dived into off-beat subjects right with his first film Vicky Donor (2012) in which he played a sperm donor. Surprisingly, it wasn’t something he chose to do on a whim.
“I was waiting for the correct script. As a veejay and an anchor I had interviewed a lot of actors and celebs. Having seen their growth and their ups and downs I learnt from their mistakes. I knew that with my first film I couldn’t afford to go wrong; I wouldn’t have got another chance because I’m not from the industry,” says Ayushmann.
So it was important to choose a subject that was a little intriguing and at the same time entertaining for a family. “I somehow felt that this kind of role could be my USP. Today, you have to crack your own USP – your niche, your space – and I was fortunate to get that right from my first film,” he says.
“I knew that with my first film I couldn’t afford to go wrong; I wouldn’t have got another chance because I’m not from the industry”
His most challenging roles were in two films. “One was Article 15 as there was no humour and it was a dark yet a very important film for the society. The second is Dream Girl because till now I’ve not played characters in slapstick humour style. I have a very loyal multiplex audience but with Dream Girl my aim was to reach single screen theatres, which I did. I’m known for middle of the road cinema and these films were two separate ends of the spectrum and therefore most challenging,” he says.
Aysushmann in fact was not the first choice of actor for either Andhadhun (2018) or Article 15 (2019). “I was the one who extracted these gems out of Sriram Raghavan and Anubhav Sinha respectively!” he grins.
The husband who fought cancer publicly alongside his wife
“Tahira’s not just a life partner, but a life coach!”
“My idea is to give out-of-the-box stories to the audience. That gives me a kick as an artist.”
Ayushmann has always stood strong by his wife, author-filmmaker Tahira Kashyap, and this was especially evident when she battled breast cancer last year. The Bollywood star displays not an iota of insecurity in admitting that his wife is the centre of his life.
“She’s the most important person and the source of my inspiration. Tahira’s not just a life partner but my life coach – she has inspired me on how to live my life and face my struggles and challenges. So why not just give her the centre-stage? She deserves to be there!” he says proudly.
Ayushmann recalls when after Vicky Donor, he went through a lean phase in his career. “I was not getting good scripts and I began to question myself. She stood rock solid next to me. Together we jammed on ideas about my next move after Hawaizaada (2015) sank. I had to think about other vectors of surviving in the industry but fortunately Dum Laga Ke Haisha (2015) happened and its success put me back on the map,” he says.
He feels your partner plays a vital role in keeping you strong when you go haywire. “She’s always been part of my script readings and whatever decisions I take in my life,” he adds.
The brother, the son, the father
“My brother is more like my father, he’s an extrovert. I’m an ambivert!”
In Chandigarh, where his parents live, Ayushmann is a loving brother and son. Between him and his brother, actor Aparshakti Khurana, who is more like their mother and who has taken after their astrologer father? I ask.
“I’m a mix of both but my brother is more like my father. He’s an out and out extrovert,” he says.
He describes himself as “a subtle Punjabi.” “Since my mom came from Burma, she doesn’t have stereotypical Punjabi qualities. For instance, she doesn’t care if she’s travelling by auto or in a big luxury car. I’ve got a lot of patience from her but my talents – to sing, gauge scripts and mimic – come from my father, who is an avid Bollywood lover,” he laughs.
Last year, with back to back shoots for four movies, it was tough for Ayushmann to devote time to his family. “But right now, since my next two films are ready for release next year, I can afford to take a three- month break and spend as much time as I can with my family,” he says.
“When I first came to Mumbai as a radio jockey, I’d do my show in a pair of chappals and shorts. Now, I like dressing up.”
“I play cricket or chess with my son (Virajveer) and as my daughter (Varushka) likes to draw, I encourage that. It’s fun to be a young parent because you have a lot of energy. In my 20s I became a father of two and I’m glad to have seen life quite early. It gives me a lot of empathy and I’ve evolved as a person because of these early experiences,” he shares.
Apart from Tahira, he’s quite close to his father. “My mother is not very expressive, she doesn’t speak much but adores everything I do. On the other hand, my father is extremely critical of my work and that kind of objectivity is needed!” he admits.
Every Diwali, Ayushmann makes it a point to be in Chandigarh with his family and the celebrations are quite ‘clean.’ “We never burst crackers or play cards, we only put out lights. For me Diwali’s about sweets and meeting my friends,” says Ayushmann.
The box office stimulator
“An over-whelming response at the box-office makes me feel validated”
From his first movie, Vicky Donor to the latest, Bala (2019), Ayushmann’s movies have been box-office successes. Vicky Donor was made on a small budget. It earned over Rs 30 crores and even Article 15 earned Rs 65 crores! “A feeling of validation is natural when I get such an overwhelming response at the box-office,” says Ayushmann.
But the actor who is often referred to as ‘Bollywood’s budget superstar’ puts a lot of hard work into these money-spinners.
“I don’t watch a lot of films but I read a lot of books. I’m curious about different cultures because fodder comes from there! When you watch films you consume existing material but when you interact with people from different strata of society you gain knowledge. I believe if you are rooted you’ll strike that chord with the audience,” he reveals.
“My mom, who is from Burma, does not have stereotypical Punjabi qualities. For instance, she doesn’t care if she’s travelling by auto or in a big luxury car!”
While earlier he was only into non-fiction, now Ayushmann reads everything from Murakami to biographies, Muhammad Ali’s being his favourite. And since he’s interested in history he is fond of William Dalrymple. “Right now I’m reading Lie With Me by Philippe Besson, which is the love story of two gay boys. Since my film Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan is based on the subject I find it deeply insightful. That’s my kind of homework!” he smiles.
The Cover Guy
“My fashion sense has evolved over the years”
While on screen Ayushmann showcases qualities of a dysfunctional man, on magazine covers he surfaces as a flawless fashion icon. How does he cross the line between regular chap next door and borderline superhero?
“My fashion sense has evolved over the years. When I first came to Bombay as a radio jockey I’d do my show in a pair of chappals and shorts because radio is not a visual medium. Now I like dressing up. I don’t like to shop but I’m fashion conscious!” says Ayushmann. His stylist, he says, is solely responsible for this evolution and understands his taste.
“My fashion is in sync with my films – they are quirky and edgy, and similarly I’m experimental with my fashion, complete with a sense of nostalgia. I love high-waisted pants and jeans, for instance.”
Going forward Ayushmann would love to try an action movie and play a negative role.
Join the conversation using #AyushmannKiBaat
Follow @lubnasalim1234 on Twitter
From HT Brunch, December 8, 2019
Follow us on twitter.com/HTBrunch
Connect with us on facebook.com/hindustantimesbrunch