After the success of his last film, Ayushmann Khurrana seems to have found firm ground beneath his feet. the journey was not without its lows, but he’s not one to shy away from talking about it...
Ayushmann Khurrana has never played it by the book. He’s the only television anchor who has successfully managed to cross over to films. There have been a few misses along the way but his work now is nothing short of the big time. So, when we caught up with him at the Yash Raj offices in Mumbai, the actor was in a rather jovial mood. Excerpts:
You must have received many offers after Dum Laga Ke Haisha. Were you extra careful while choosing the next script?
You see, sometimes the project is good but the script is not exciting. The script has to excite me — that’s my priority. I have learnt that after seeing the pros and cons of both — an exciting project versus an exciting script. If you cannot learn from your mistakes, there is no point. On paper, Bewakoofiyan was a hit. Habib Faisal was the writer, we had Rishi Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor on board, Yash Raj producing it. But it didn’t work. So I guess, one needs to see the novelty of the script, the director’s treatment, the music and what you as an actor can do. I went for my next film Manmarziyan because I thought, I have never done a film based in Punjab. That’s my zone and that makes me doubly excited.
When Bewakoofiyan and Hawaizaada didn’t work, did you feel like you have lost your audience?
Technically, Bewakoofiyan was not a wrong career move. I was getting to do a YRF film and that’s on every actor’s wishlist. Even Hawaizaada, on paper, was brilliant. But we overshot the budget and people didn’t buy into the fantasy we tried to show. You know, a lot of people say that films don’t go wrong, budgets do. After that film, I was iffy for 27 days but after that I was okay. I don’t expect much from life. But I had expectations from Hawaizaada. The film released on January 30 and Dum Laga Ke released on February 27. Those 27 days were terrible — I was losing it.
Who was your emotional anchor at that time?
I was staying alone in Mumbai. I packed my bags and went back to my family in Chandigarh and I switched off my phone. I took to reading, I went for morning walks, and met my friends. Overall, I am glad the low phase was brief. You come here with certain dreams and aspirations and you expect something when you work so hard.
Does it ever feel surreal to you, how far you have come? You’re at YRF now...
Forget Yash Raj, just across the road is the Balaji Telefilms office. There was a time when I would look at their board thinking one day, I’d do a TV show with them. My expectations were that minimal (laughs). I would look to the other side and say to myself, yaar� Yash Raj toh mushkil hai, this (Balaji) is gettable.
Your brother is also here now. Have you listed out any dos and don’ts for him?
He’s more practical and he behaves like the elder brother actually. We are similar in some ways but I am his calmer version. He is doing a big film and has a good role in it. So, he is pretty excited about it.
When do you start Manmarziyan?
We start filming in January — in the cold. It will be foggy and that’s what Sameer (Sameer Sharma, director) wants to capture in Punjab. He says, ‘Mujhey dhundh chahiye’. (‘I want fog’).
Your last film with Bhoomi Pednekar was a hit. But were you reluctant about repeating the pair?
Actors have to reinvent themselves according to each film. With this one, you’ll be seeing Bhoomi in a different mould. She has lost weight, she’s looking hot. Even I’m playing an alpha male kind of guy, and not somebody who is trapped in his circumstances, like my character in my last film. The setting and language is different. It’s Punjab — my land. So I will be having a lot of fun!
Sameer Sharma’s previous, Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana didn’t work. Did that make you sceptical?
I loved Luv Shuv — and how organically Sameer captured Punjab. Our cinema has only shown a very filmi Punjab. The nuances in Luv Shuv — everything was spot on. Both Vicky Donor and Dum Laga Ke� — two films that have worked well for me — had a very authentic setting. So I would like to work with directors who have a realistic approach.
Your family has moved to Mumbai. How are you finding the change?
The move was a conscious decision. The kids will get better exposure and people here are less jud dgemental. Tomorrow, if I’m seen kissing on screen, people should not question my kids. That’s possible in a city like Chandigarh but not in Mumbai. In fact, when they were in Chandigarh, my kids thought that I lived inside a television and only step out once in a while. Now they see me more often.