Exclusive interview: Ayushmann Khurrana, ‘I am a star, not a superstar!’

Ayushmann Khurrana in and as An Action Hero. Photo: Raindrop Media

His filmoraphy is probably the most interestingly varied, quirky and exciting among the newer stars. In his 18 films over 10 years, Ayushmann Khurrana’s roles have traversed a range from a sperm donor to a pioneering pilot, a gay, a small-town youth obsessed with erectile dysfunction, another with premature baldness, a gym owner, a Kashmiri government official, a reluctant gynecologist and more.

Continuing on his journey, Ayushmann Khurrana makes another turn for a first-time role—that of an action hero in the film of the same name. Every meeting with him, thanks to his choices, is different in the shades he also comes across as a real person. And this one’s no different.

Excerpts from an interview follow.

Was doing action for the first time in An Action Hero difficult for you?

Yes, physically, this was the toughest character for me after Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui, in which I was the owner of a gym and a trainer. For this film, I trained for 8 months even as I was shooting for Doctor G. This film was my first post-pandemic choice. Anek did have some action, but it was more of a docu-drama.

In this case, I was doing action scenes a mere two days after recovering from Covid, which was even more taxing.

Your last few films did not do well. Were you shaken by that after a chain of hits and successes? And is there any nervousness now near release date?

In that respect, I think I am unshakeable (Laughs)! My entire career has been unconventional, and based on risks, and I think that if I stop taking risks, I will be finished. Irrespective of success or failure, I will always push boundaries. That is the beauty of small-budget and mid-budget films, in which category most of my films fit in. History will be kind to me 20 years later, as I will be called the first star to do a certain kind of film.

As for the pre-release nervousness, it is always there for every film! It’s like your Board Examinations results—a mix of excitement and nervousness.

Of these last few unsuccessful films, would you like to mention one that truly deserved success?

Doctor G (Smiles), but for an Adults Only-certified film, it did not do too badly.

How do you look back at your decade-long journey in films?

I think my journey has been extremely fruitful. Before joining films, I was a theater actor, a video jockey, a radio jockey, a siner, a composer and an actor and host on TV. The universe has given me beyond my expectations, so there is gratitude predominantly.

Even in cinema alone, I am synonymous with a certain genre, and it is flattering and overwhelming to know that. In the last two years especially, there has been a certain learning and evolution. I now plan to give up on taboo subjects for a while, but I cannot give up on quirk! An Action Hero itself is not far from my other quirky subjects. I now want to do films with more of entertainment, films that are for community viewing in theatres just the way I have grown up watching cinema. I want to do movies that go higher than just giving out a message.

Did you use any personal experience or material while playing a superstar in this film?

(Smiles) Not at all! Firstly, I am a star, not a superstar! (Smiles again). Manav is flamboyant, arrogant and wears his stardom on his sleeve. I think I am pretty down-to-earth (Laughs) But this film is topical in a way, a new-age film that illustrates the fickle nature of the media, the industry and even the people.

And I think it will work on anti-casting, as someone like me, who is best known for social dramedies, is made to do action, which makes it more exciting. Also, as a subject, while it has romance, comedy and drama too, it is different from a normal action film.

Akshay Kumar’s cameo in your film is a kind of ‘open secret’.

Yes, I do not know how the news came out!

He’s a superstar…

Yes, but not like Manav! I have interviewed superstars as a VJ and RJ and seen how superstars behave. But Akshay-sir is very down-to-earth!

This is also your first film without a heroine.

(Smiles) Yes, but that does not matter when you are being true to the story. A heroine here would have meant diluting the subject, which is about two contrasting ideologies with their own reasons. I think in such films a strong antagonist is important, and Jaideep Ahlawat, a powerhouse performer, completes me. I insisted on him as he ticked all the right boxes, and we had to wait for him after he got very busy following Pataal Lok!

What is your study on what the audience of today wants to watch, as many good films have not done well?

Today, good is simply not good enough for them! We cannot test their patience as everything is on their mobilephones. And more than OTT, a medium where you can take more risks than in cinema, there is the real challenge of the social media. We have to engage the audience for two hours and find the right medium for the right audience. That is the victory!

Would you like to do a web series?

Long format, non-fiction—I am open to anything, provided it is different and challenging. I have received many offers, but I still want to be more excited to take up any.

Is there any untouched-as-yet genre in your wish-list?

Horror comedy can be one. It will be great if that happens, but it must be different again.

When will we see you directed by your talented wife, Tahira Kashyap Khurrana?

She has directed me a lot in theater. If she does something for cinema that is apt for me, it will happen!









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