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The Happiness Was Equalized By Sadness: Ayushmann Khurana

Subhash K . Jha

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What a  year Ayushmann Khurrana has had! Two  remarkable  hits, and his career  is soaring,Alas, the dark clouds  did appear on his bright horizon, as  they are wont to. But Ayushmann did not allow his wife’s illness  to eclipse  his optimism.  She’s healing and his career is doing fine, thanks, Ayushmann tells  Subhash  K Jha

Badhaai Ho, Ayushmann aap toh Andhadhun  hits de rahen hain?

Ha ha. I never  get tired  of hearing that. It is  heartening to know  I’ve been appreciated so much. It’s like a gift from God. And of course  as you say, the happiness was  equalized by  sadness,  It just goes to show we must always walk the  middlepath in  life. Never take  either the  happiness  or the  sorrow to heart.Just do  what  you have to do.

Now that  you are a star how has you life changed  during  the  past year?

In Mumbai  there are  no big crowds when  stars shoot.Recently I was shooting outside Mumbai , and for the  first time there were hundreds of people   to  see me. I realized when  you reach the 100 crore-mark   you also  multiply your audience  in the same ratio. Before Andha Dhun which  reached  75 crores and Badhaai  Ho which scored  137  crores my highest  grosser was  Shubh MangalSavdhan which  was  a 45-crore  grosser. I suddenly realized things  had reached. Throughout the outdoor schedule there were  crowds  to be controlled.

Now, they are saying you  and actors like  Vicky Kaushal and  Rajkummar Rao are  changing the boxoffice equation at the  top with the Khans  no more the kings?

I can only  speak for myself.And I can tell you with  surety that  it isn’t  the actor. It is the content.Of course we too have contributed to  the success  of the films this year. But it’s  a fact  that  content  is King.  Actors like us are making unconventional choices and we’ve a lot of options  not just in  cinema  but also in the digital space. The  audience must get a good reason to make  that trip to  movie  theatres.

Till recently it was believed  that audiences went  to the  movie theatre  for larger-than-life experiences. But  Badhaai Ho was lifesize?

Even the  larger-than-life cinema  must resonate with the audience. Big or small , the audience  must be given something  to take  home with  them.Badhai Ho was one of  the  best  scripts I had read.

Badhaai Ho gave us  a  lot to take  home as far as looking at the way we  perceive  the life of parents goes. I  mean we always presume they have no life of  their own beyond their children, let alone have sex?

It depends on the upbringing also. In my home my parents indulged in quite  a  lot of PDA. They would hold hands, etc. And we were used  to it. I see nothing unusual in parents being intimate. But I  know my friends and  my relatives grew up  in an environment where intimacy between parents was unthinkable. I  never  thought  like that.  It was  therefore very difficult  for me to relate to my  character Nakul in  Badhaai Ho who was shocked  when he realized his parents had sex. But I  guess I would also have  a problem if my parents had a child  at that  age. It is not practical.There’re biological problems , and then probably  the  responsibility  of  bringing  up the child would probably go to  the eldest  son  of the  the family.

Did  you  enjoy  playing the eldest son of  the  family   in Badhaai Ho?

Oh  yes. We actually lived  together  like a family during the  making of Badhaai Ho,so much so that that my director(Amit Sharma) said I look more  like Neena  Gupta’s younger brother than her son.

I believe you found Neena Gupta too hot to play your  mother?

I did! The  thing is, I had not seen  her for  a good twenty years and the Neena  Gupta in my mind was the one I had seen dancing to  Choli  ke peeche  kya hai in Khalnaayak. But I must say she is still very  attractive  for a  woman her age. It was  the  director’s idea to cast her. I  was  not sure she would be okay as my mother.Then I saw her in a short  film Khujli that  she had done  recently with Jackie Shroff. Then  I was  convinced.  But Gajraj Rao as my father  was my idea.A  bigger star  wouldn’t have been so convincing.He  gives out  a wonderful honest vibe.  I have worked  with him on  television.  In fact  I had recommended  him in 3-4 films before BadhaaiHo. But he wasn’t keen as he was busy in theatre. Gajrajji  is finally getting the  success he deserves.

Coming to your second hit in 2018, Andha Dhun  did  you  expect have two hits in a row?

I was  extremely  confident  about both the films and their directors.   But I  never expected them  to release back-to-back. In  2017 when I had  two back-to-back releases Shubh Mangal Savdhan and Bareilly Ki Barfi I was more nervous  because they were similar in genre and  mood.I  was more confident  with Badhaai Ho and Andha Dhun since they were  so different from one  another.Andha Dhunwas a  clutter-breaker . It’s genre-defying  idea: a dark suspense thriller accentuated by humour. Though  a veteran director  Sriram  Raghavan has a  very  young mind. Andha Dhun  is my  personal favourite. Because I’ve never done  anything  like this.

Nor have any of your  contemporaries?

True. To play blind and to play the piano, I worked really hard. It was really challenging.  I knew to play the harmonium  but I learnt the piano  for this film.

Have you continued  your piano playing after the film,being a musician?

I would love to.  But I am  continuously travelling. As of now, my 6-year old son is learning the piano. In fact he  recently had a concert in school.

Your brother Aparshakti  had a big hit Stree in 2018. What  do  you  think  of his success?

I am glad he has his own journey. It’s  good that he is  coming into his own. I was pleasantly  surprised  by his comic  timing in Stree. I am relieved he’s a different  sort of actor from me. Though we’ve similar tastes in music and we come from a similar  background—anchoring,  radio etc—we are different  personalities.

Now that you’re a  big star how do you  plan to move ahead?

The plan is  to be  part  of films with great content, which are entertaining and  have a certain value addition. We as  actors are very self-obsessed. But a film is not about any one actor. I want to go with different stories. Currently I am doing two films Dream Girl and BalaBala is about  premature balding.  I play a guy in his 20s going bald.  This  is a rampant  problem. 40 percent men suffer from premature balding.

 Dream  Girl  shows you in a  saree. Are you  playing  a cross-dresser?

In a way. It’s  a very  interesting character.

Sexual dysfunction seems  a running theme in  your roles?

 Only two Vicky Donor and Shubh Mangal Savdhan. That’s all. Taboo subjects is the common thread  to my  cinema. I am glad to get taboo subjects  out of the drawing room, on to the screen. We need to make progressive films in a clean healthy tone, keeping the family audiences in mind.I am  the audience  . I choose the scripts that I want  see  on screen.

Finally how is  your wife recovering from  her  illness? Is she  on  the  road  to  recovery?

Yes she is. And she will start working on her film as director.For keeping both our spirits  high throughout this trying period  the credit goes to Tahira my wife. She  now lectures  and talks to cancer survivors.  When we discovered  the illness  both of us made sure that the  journey  to her recovery would be our journey  together.She  made  it easier for me. We both believe  that both my  success professionally and  her  illness are OUR shared destiny  in  life . When  you take up a collective responsibility for  a situation with your spouse, it always  becomes easier.

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