Bewakoofiyaan and beyond
|Ayushmann Khurrana with Sonam Kapoor in Bewakoofiyaan|
VJ-turned-actor Ayushmann Khurrana arrived with a bang in Bollywood, playing a sperm donor in the sleeper hit Vicky Donor. His second film Nautanki Saala! was a misstep, but this Friday, he’s managed to impress as Sonam Kapoor’s suitor and Rishi Kapoor’s would-be jamai in Bewakoofiyaan. A t2 chat.
For most actors, promoting their films is a strenuous job. But you’ve been a VJ, so it shouldn’t be so tough for you, right?
Believe me, it is! There’s no 10-hour shift or 12-hour shift. You just have to go on and on and the more you promote, it always seems less. We’ve been hopping from city to city and it’s really very hectic, but it’s all part of the game. But yes, as you said, I am a people’s person. Being an anchor has made me love meeting new people. So yes, it’s an advantage.
In that Delhi boy look and feel, Mohit Chaddha of Bewakoofiyaan seems so much like Ayushmann Khurrana…
(Laughs) Oh, Ayushmann is a lot like Mohit. I am an urban Punjabi and so is Mohit. Unlike Vicky (of Vicky Donor) who was an earthy and rooted guy from Lajpat Nagar, Mohit is a high-flying executive who knows the ins and outs of the corporate world and all the politics that goes on in it. Though I have never worked in a corporate environment, I feel I know Mohit Chaddha as well as I know Vicky or Ram (of Nautanki Saala!).
Bewakoofiyaan is my first conventional role. I’ve always done unconventional roles and even after Bewakoofiyaan, all the films I have signed up for, will have me playing edgy, quirky characters. In between, I decided to explore a new space with Bewakoofiyaan, which is as commercial as a film can get. One major reason for me to do this film was that it’s written by Habib Faisal, who I feel, gives, so much depth and character to anything he writes. The director, Nupur Asthana, is very urban and cool and Habib is very earthy and real and I think that combination really works very well.
And of course being offered a Yash Raj film so early on in your career must have been a high…
It was! It’s one of the things I can actually strike off my bucket list. Being a Bollywood fan since childhood, the ultimate dream was always to work in a Yash Raj film directed by Yash Chopra. That, unfortunately, didn’t happen, but I have been part of the next best thing… a Yash Raj film produced by Aditya Chopra. Bewakoofiyaan is the first film in a three-film deal that I have with Yash Raj. I count myself lucky.
Bewakoofiyaan is about Mohit and Mayera’s love story with her dad acting as the roadblock in the relationship. How was it when you met your wife Tahira’s parents for the first time?
(Smiles) Oh, it isn’t anything close to what Mohit has to go through in the film. My in-laws were always fond of me… we were family friends for years. I believe I am quite a likeable person (laughs), so they instantly took to me. Also, my father-in-law is a singer besides being a journalist and we kind of found common ground in that passion. In the film, I wouldn’t really paint Mayera’s father as negative… she’s motherless and so he’s naturally a little overprotective of her. Also, the backdrop is that of recession and so the father is naturally worried about whether the boy his daughter has got home is financially well enough to be able to provide for her.
With Sonam Kapoor and Rishi Kapoor as your co-actors, did you ever feel like an outsider on set?
Not really. Yes, in the beginning I was a little worried about how a guy-next-door like me would get along with a fashionista like Sonam! But we spent a lot of time together on shoot and we found that we had a lot in common… she’s really good at heart. Mr Rishi Kapoor is such a natural actor and so lovely to be with on set. He is a one-take actor who believes that a scene becomes mechanical if it goes beyond two takes. Shooting with him, I also became a one-take actor. We used to have lunch together… while shooting in Delhi, food used to come for us from his daughter’s (Riddhima) place. We really bonded well.
You started off on a high with Vicky Donor. Have you been happy with the choices you have made since?
Vicky Donor became a cult film and you really can’t compare anything to it kyunki aisi filmein bahut kum banti hai. I think Nautanki was also an unconventional film and though it didn’t work commercially, I feel it was an interesting choice to do that role. Even with Bewakoofiyaan, I promise you that it’s such a sweet and cute love story that you will leave the theatre with a smile on your face. After that, I will again be taking the unconventional route… I play a village guy in Dum Laga Ke Haisha (also produced by Yash Raj Films) who gets married to a really fat girl. Then, there is Bambai Fairytale in which I play the Maharashtrian scientist Bapuji Talpade, the man who flew the first aircraft… even before the Wright brothers. Then, I go back to the Vicky Donor team of Shoojit Sircar and John Abraham for 1911, in which I play a footballer based in Calcutta. So, it’s really an eclectic mix of films.
Shoojit Sircar has been a very important part of your career. Do you seek his advice while making these choices?
I always keep telling everyone that Shoojit Sircar has given birth to me as an actor and Aditya Chopra has adopted me. They are both my mentors and their advice and guidance is always invaluable to me. I count myself very lucky to have them as my mentors.
From Ranbir to Ranveer, Sushant to Sidharth, Arjun to Varun, there’s so much competition among the younger actors today. Do you constantly feel the pressure to be at the top of your game all the time?
Every year, at least five newcomers make their mark in the industry. The Bollywood we have today is so welcoming of newcomers, whether from within the industry or outside. Honestly, I share a great camaraderie with all these guys. I also don’t shy away from praising my contemporaries… I have done that a lot in many interviews. Competition for me, honestly, is not really as much as it is for the others because the niche that I have created for myself as actor-singer-composer is unique. I am a realist and to be honest, I never expected to land up where I have today. I believe in destiny… and I am happy where it has got me so far.