Ayushmann Khurrana is a name that has become synonymous with hatke. If he's in a film, you inevitably think of it to be different, touching upon subjects lesser spoken about. His recent theatrical release, Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui, while performing below expectations at the Box Office, paved the way for some much-needed conversation about the trans community. The actor talks about the film feeling like a great win, what gives him joy as an actor and why a masala film is next on his bucket list.
Anupama Chopra (AC): What has been the most unexpected reaction to Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui? Is there something that you weren't expecting that happened, which made you really happy?
Ayushmann Khurrana (AK): A call from Hrithik Roshan. We spoke for 30 minutes. He told me he loved my character and the film. It meant the world to me because I started my career as an anchor on a dance reality show where he was the judge.
AC: There's a scene in the film where your character Manu is telling Maanvi (Vaani Kapoor) that he didn't go to a great school, so it took him a while to understand what she had told him. You did that scene so beautifully because I could see this man struggling to be better than who he is. How did you do that? How did you get into his head?
AK: It was very easy to get into the head of that person because he was a representation of a common man in India who has no idea about the trans community. They have no idea about the existence of the community. Manu Munjal's character is a representation of that person. Him doing the research on his own and learning about the community, and the emotional and physical transformation that a trans person goes through, means a lot. So, if Manu can understand, anyone can. That was the theory behind the character.
AC: It's early days of going back to the theatres, so there's no fixed measure to sense what a good or bad opening is. However, this film hasn't done the kind of numbers that your pre-pandemic films have done. I read a piece on Box Office India about how that could be because these films have become streaming films. Do you think what they're saying is true? Will only event movies work now?
AK: I've realized that it has to be a family entertainer. It may or may not be an event film but it should appeal to everyone because that's the crux of community viewing. If it's not appealing to everyone then you can watch it on OTT. If it's a dark film or a niche film, OTT is perfect for that. That's what I've understood from the current scenario. It's still too early to say though since 50% occupancies are still there, the new variant of the virus is there and people are afraid [to go out]. For the theatres to survive, you need these mid-budget films to work. Event films will happen only four times a year, so there's no other option.
AC: Do you think the risk paid off for this film?
AK: As a conversation starter, it's a great victory. We got great acclaim critically, and whoever is going [to watch it] is loving the film.
AC: So, no hesitation on the next taboo subject?
AK: Frankly speaking, what is even left? I've covered it all. (laughs) My next film is Anek, which is a political thriller. Then I have Doctor G, which is quirky but not a taboo subject. I'm a male gynecologist. In Action Hero, I play a superstar who's known for action but can't fight in real, so it's a spoof on the industry, in a way. So, it's different but again, not a taboo subject.
AC: You complete 10 years in the film industry next year. What are the things that give you joy as an actor now and are they different from when you started?
AK: What gives me joy as an actor is that you are a different person every time. There's no 9-5 job, there's no schedule. As an artist, you just need that. Routines are dangerous.
AC: And what keeps you up at night?
AK: As an artist, you always have a little insecurity in security. You can't thrive if there is no insecurity. The idea is to figure what to do next, how to take the next step or decision. After reading hundreds of scripts, you decide on one project, so it [insecurity] will always be there. On the other hand, security gives you happiness. There has to be a fine balance, and that keeps me up at night. I'm a night person anyway.
AC: Like you said, you've done a lot of the taboos. So now, as an actor, what would you like to do that you haven't done so far?
AK: I want to do a mainstream masala film, an event film. I've grown up watching Hindi masala films and would love to do at least one masala film every year. If I do them, then my films like Article 15 and Anek will be bigger hits. True victory will come when an Article 15 makes a 100 crores instead of 60-65, which is great for that film, but if it does 100 crores theatrically, that'll be great. For that to happen, I need to do masala films.
AC: So, that's next?
AK: I really hope so. There will be one next year, I think. Let's see. I have signed one that is a commercial masala film.