More than six years after he made his debut, Ayushmann Khurrana seems to have finally found his sweet spot in the Hindi film industry. Last year, his roles in “Bareilly Ki Barfi” and “Shubh Mangal Saavdhan” led some to compare him to Amol Palekar, the 70s Bollywood actor who made an art form out of playing the everyman.
He may not be in Palekar’s league yet, but Khurrana has found success playing the regular guy who is plagued with everyday problems. In his upcoming film, “Badhaai Ho”, the 34-year-old actor plays a man who, much to his horror, finds that his middle-aged parents are expecting another child. Khurrana spoke to Reuters about his knack for picking the right stories and what make for great comedy.
Q: The director of “Badhaai Ho”, Amit Sharma, says you have a knack for choosing the best scripts. Do you agree?
A: I think that is my biggest talent. I love picking out scripts that are different. I consume a script as an outsider, and not as an actor who wants to only concentrate on his part. If the film works in totality, and is entertaining, then it works out for you eventually. Aditya Chopra says that too – that I have great script sense. Sometimes, he gives me scripts to read. I am glad my choices are working.
Q: Do you also consider whether you fit into all stories? Are all scripts a natural fit?
A: I don’t know. I want to do stories where I am not a natural fit. In “Andhadhun”, I was not on Sriram Raghavan’s radar. There were a lot of actors (in the fray). But there were date issues, or someone wanted a bound script, but Sriram Raghavan doesn’t work like that.
He has a screenplay, that too in English, and you get the lines on set, so you have to have that leap of faith in the director. But he is amazing – his style of functioning is so contemporary. I was a fan, and so I approached him directly for the role. It’s rare for an established actor to ask a director for work, but I think he saw the passion in me for the role.
Q: When did you first realise that these off-beat scripts and stories are your forte?
A: Last year, with “Shubh Mangal Saavdhan”. Life came full-circle, from “Vicky Donor” to a film about erectile dysfunction. That’s when I thought – yeah, this is my zone.
Q: You’ve had a gradual rise to the level you are at now. Did you always want to build up your career in a slow but steady way?
A: After “Vicky Donor”, I had three unsuccessful films. Then my career got resurrected after “Dum Laga Ke Haisha” and then the choices were better…
Q: Why were the choices better?
A: I was very confused after “Vicky Donor”. When your first film does well, you believe that you have the midas touch, that any film you do will be gold. But that doesn’t happen. I realized what was right with my first film and what was wrong with my other films. The best part is I realized that all my successful films didn’t have any reference point – there has never been a film like that before. They were all unique in their character. That works for me. It’s good to be in that space, because these films also symbolise new-age cinema.
Q: Is it difficult to find these scripts?
A: It’s not easy at all. I am very fortunate to have gotten scripts like this. Sometimes, script writers think way beyond what you think. There are many good writers in the country, and yet there is a dearth of good stories. Also, you never know who is writing what. That is why I am open to everybody. Most of them time, I have worked with new writers and directors.
Q: What did you bring to the table for your character in “Badhaai Ho”?
A: Empathy (Laughs). There’s nothing wrong with having sex - I don’t want to know what you are doing behind closed doors. But please don’t give me brothers and sisters! I could empathise with that guy, and this is the bone of contention between the kids and their parents in the film. That awkwardness emanates humour.
Q: What does it take to make a good comedy film?
A: Ultimately, it boils down to entertainment. There is an audience for slapstick also, and a bigger audience. You’ll see a “Judwa” and a “Golmaal” becoming blockbusters. If you entertain people, they won’t even ask for logic. I am not judging any genre. I want to do commercial cinema also.
Q: You would do a “Judwaa” or a “Rascals”?
A: It should not be vulgar, that’s it. I am answerable to my family. My parents and my family should not find it uneasy to consume. It could be mindless or illogical. Like I loved it when in “Golmaal”, Kunal Khemu’s character got stuck in a washing machine. It was so funny! I laughed. This is like Tom and Jerry, right? We’ll diss “Golmaal” but praise Tom and Jerry.
Q: Over the years, has your comic timing improved? Have you honed it?
A: Acting is a habit. If you are going it day in and day out, you’ll get better. But comedy is not easy – it’s either something that you either have or don’t.