Ayushmann Khurrana: ‘I never choose a film thinking how much conversation it will generate!’

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Ayushmann Khurrana has emerged as the biggest conversation starter of India for the last five years through his social entertainers. He has been on the path of societal change through highly entertaining films, (f)actually all the way since his 2012 debut Vicky Donor. And it is interesting how, after some box-office mishaps, he has emerged as what might be called the “poster-boy” of socially-relevant cinema tackling hitherto unspoken topics in popular Hindi cinema.

Here is a check-list.

Vicky Donor (2012)

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He starred in the Shoojit Sircar-directed Vicky Donor, which was a humorous yet trenchant take on the ‘taboo’ behind sperm donation. The film opened to dismal numbers, but by word-of-mouth, became a huge audience magnet by Friday evening!

Dum Laga Ke Haisha (2015)

The Yash Raj Films’ musical directed by Sharat Katariya took on the issue of body-shaming with leading lady Bhumi Pednekar playing an overweight young man. Helped by Anu Malik’s successful music, the film went on to be a hit.

Ayushmann Khurrana with Bhumi Pdnekar in Shubh Mangal Saavdhan.

Shubh Mangal Saavdhan (2017)

Maybe he caught on because of these early successes as against his few flops, but Khurrana has been a winner since. This successful film saw him boldly essay a man with erectile dysfunction. No leading man in Hindi cinema has ever chosen this kind of subject or character. It was his second success that year after the entertaining rom-com Bareilly Ki Barfi.

Badhaai Ho (2018)

In this revolutionary story of a couple’s late pregnancy, Khurrana essayed the traumatized 20-something son of the parents who decided to go ahead with parenthood again. The film was a massive hit along with his other thriller that year, AndhaDhun. It thus put Khurrana, with four consecutive successes and hits, in a commanding position of popularity, helping him to be braver in his choice of movies!

Article 15 (2019)

He is a go-getter cop on a mission against the caste system and its horrendous and cascading effects—Khurrana as actor worked big time, though the dark film directed by Anubhav Sinha was only a tepid success.

Bala (2019)

It was all about self-acceptance and self-love in this film in which the actor dared to play a young, prematurely balding man. As a side issue, the film also dealt with the prejudice against skin color by Khurrana’s character himself! 

Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan (2020)

This was Ayushmann Khurrana breaking new ground—he played an openly gay man in a commercial Hindi film. The movie did reasonably well before lockdown was imposed.

Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui (2021)

How does one accept a man who undergoes sex-change by surgery and becomes a woman? Does her new boyfriend accept her? Khurrana portrayed a simple, not-so-educated or aware young Punjabi male who discovers with shock, but slowly accepts that the woman he made love to was a man originally! And that now that she is a woman, society must sensitively show inclusivity for her.

Ayuxhmann Khurrana with Vaani Kapoor in Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui, which was on transgender inclusivity.

Khurrana has been voted as one of the ‘Most Influential People in the World’ by the prestigious TIME Magazine for his remarkable intent to back topics that aim to transform India. As he says, “I’m drawn to unique content, to scripts that have heart and soul, to subjects that I feel are important to be backed. I never choose a film thinking how much conversation it will generate. I’m essentially an artiste who is trying to entertain people first with the best films. Generating conversation is a byproduct of the quality of the script that comes my way.”

He adds, “I only choose a film on the basis of the script and what it has to offer to audiences. It needs to be fresh and novel, and if it can propel people into thinking and questioning things about our lives as we know it, then it’s a bonus. People don’t come to see films because they want to start a conversation. They come to get entertained first and then converse about a specific message that is delivered to them in the freshest manner possible.”

He goes on, “I’m fortunate that I have found filmmakers, storytellers and script-writers who are willing to take the plunge to say something new. Whatever I’m today is also because of them, their hard work and their vision. So, while I will keep scouting for the best scripts, I also hope that I get to always collaborate with the best minds in Indian cinema.”

Khurrana will be next seen in Anubhav Sinha’s Anek, Anubhuti Kashyap’s Doctor G and Aanand L. Rai’s Action Hero being directed by Anirudh Iyer. And the first two are likely to be in the same direction, though the social relevance being tackled on screen will be revealed only near their release.

 

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