In an exclusive session of FC Front Row, Anupama Chopra does a deep dive into the brand that Ayushmann Khurrana has built. He talks about his film choices, if he thinks about whether his future films will be hits or flops and why he sleeps on scripts before deciding whether to do them:
Anupama Chopra (AC): In the trade, you're considered one of the most profitable actors because your budgets are very contained. With 8 back-to-back hits, you're considered to be top notch in terms of profitability or return on investment. You said you thought Dream Girl would do well when you signed on to it. How much of a consideration is that factor when you're picking scripts?
Ayushmann Khurrana (AK): I seriously believe that the script is everything. The budget, the locations, the look, the feel – all that is garnishing on the top. You can't take away from the script. I think that even if a script is made on a shoestring budget, if it has something amazing to say, then it will automatically do well. Half my films have been directed by first-time directors. So I've always been a risk-taker. My first film was a huge risk. Every film of mine has to be a risk because I have survived by taking risks.
AC: But you don't think about whether a film will be a hit or flop?
AK: That can be detected from the script. If I'm reading that script or listening to it being narrated, I want to feel that connection to it – aside from my character. I want everyone to enjoy the film and the narration. So sometimes I sit for narrations with popcorn in my hand. It's really fun. I try to make it feel as organic as possible.
AC: If you don't like the script or narration, and you get bored, what do you do then?
AK: It's very difficult. I zone out after 30 pages or 30 minutes, then I start thinking about some other scripts.
AC: Do you tell them that immediately or do you let them know later?
AK: Earlier, it was just impromptu. I used to think that I should take my time and sleep over scripts – if I fell asleep, I would not do the film and if I did not fall asleep, I would. That's because I get really excited after reading a good script or hearing a good narration and I want to shoot the next day itself. It's like that.
AC: You've talked about using method acting when the subject is very different from who you are. Can you give us examples of movies in which you did this?
AK: Two movies: Andhadhun and Article 15. Both roles were very different. For Andhadhun, I had to acquire the body language of a blind pianist. And for Article 15, I did lot of reading and I had to have lot of empathy for the downtrodden or the lower sections of the society. Both were very difficult films and required a lot of method acting. With Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui, there was a lot of physical transformation – my gait, the way I stand. Anek also has a different terrain and texture. Both these films are off-genre.
AC: Next year, it will be 10 years since your debut in the movies. Do you find the process getting easier? Or is it still as challenging as it was when you started?
AK: As I said, I have only survived on risk-taking. So there is a challenge in each of my films. I have played a boy-next-door in about 80% of my films and it is very difficult to break that. So the challenge there is how to be different.
AC: Is there a moment of panic or now are you a seasoned actor?
AK: I have to maintain the vulnerability I had when I did my first film. I get really excited when I go for my first shot. I'm a bundle of nerves on day 1. And it's a lot of fun. That vulnerability, that imperfection – it shows onscreen. It adds a layer to the character, and it adds freshness. You should not be bored of the same medium. If you are bored, then the audience will get bored. I remember when I shot for Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui, the fourth AD knocked on the vanity van and she was like, 'Sir, your shot is ready.' And I was so emotional, I almost cried, 'Oh my God, this is happening after a year!' So it's a lot of fun. As an artist, you have to be vulnerable and excited every single time.