Actor Ayushmann Khurrana, who once again excelled as an average Joe in Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui, on trends in the Hindi film industry and what the future holds for him
One of the most remarkable characters of 2021 was Manu Munjal, the cocky weightlifter from Chandigarh who falls in love with a trans woman in Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui.
For Ayushmann Khurrana, who has made a habit of playing flawed characters with aplomb, once again, portrayed the inability of Manu to process the reality that his girlfriend was once a boy.
“I always look at the script first and then my character,” he says. “Manu mirrors an average Joe on the street who is not woke, who has no idea what the life of a trans person is and what the trans community looks and feels like. Being a Chandigarh boy, I know many such characters. He gets cold feet when he discovers that the girl he loves used to be a boy. It is very important for him to be like this because if Manu Munjal the character can transform, anybody can in India.”
For the role, he had to undergo physical transformation as well with some of the best trainers and nutritionists in the industry. “The lockdown helped but after the gruelling process, where I got injured many times, I would advise one should not go this crazy about transformation.”
‘Space for everything’
The success of protagonists like Bala and Manu gives an impression that the star culture is on the wane, but Ayushmann feels there is space for everything. He reminds the season started with Sooryavanshi.
“For theatres to survive, star culture is still useful as it could bring in the masses. It is good for the business.” But, in the same vein, he adds, a different genre of cinema that is slightly real, middle of the road is also gaining traction. “The point is the film has to resonate with people. It doesn’t matter whether the hero is completely sanitised and picture perfect or flawed. Sometimes, the swagger of a star works, and others’ imperfections become endearing. Remember, as Manu, I had to be a little vain as well for the transformation to work.” The content, he says, is the star because people are exposed to content from across the globe. “It is time for evolution,” says the actor.
Somebody who cut his teeth in theatre, Ayushmann says he is a team player and reminds he has been on both the active and the reactive sides in films. “If I have done Article 15 and Vicky Donor, I have also been part of Dum Laga Ke Haisha and Badhai Ho, where I was just one of the protagonists in the ensemble cast. The characters have to shine for the film to work.” This reality, he says, dawned on him when big banner films like Hawaizaada and Meri Pyari Bindu tanked despite him being central to the story.
He has been in the industry for a decade but Ayushmann retains his innocence. “An artist needs to remain vulnerable from all sides. He should be sensitive and not self-absorbed. It is about seeing the world in totality and remaining rooted.” Since childhood, he says, he has the same set of friends. “Some of them are doing good, some are doing just fine but all of them come from different walks of life. I still have very few friends from the film fraternity. It provides me good objectivity and world view,” he says.
Being a journalism student in college, Ayushmann says, keeping in touch with the real world comes naturally to him. “I can do better but I am trying to do my best.”
Ayushmann admits COVID-19 will change cinema. “The audience have become so used to the OTT content that for the families to return to theatres you have to provide them a completely out of the box experience. My hunch is while OTT will continue to serve dark themes, for community viewing, we will have happy, positive films that are uplifting and engaging.”
New year, fresh projects
With three films lined up, Ayushmann is eagerly looking forward to 2022. He has finished a political thriller called Anek with Anubhav Sinha. “We shot in the Northeast, which is still a very unique and unknown territory for Hindi cinema. I want to break my genre every three films. I had a wonderful experience with Anubhav in Article 15 and thought it would be good to return to his zone.”
He has also finished Anubhuti Kashyap’s Doctor G, where he is playing a male gynaecologist. “Anubhuti has a unique voice as a director and a male gynaecologist is still a rarity, even in urban India. The combination excites me.”
Then there is Anirudh Iyer’s Action Hero, where again, he says, he gets to grapple with a unique dichotomy. “He is an action hero. He has always fought on screen but he has never been in a real fight. What happens when he gets into one…” Made for Ayushmann, one must say!
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