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Meet the mentors of Zee cinestars ki khoj — Ayushmann Khurrana and Parineeti Chopra

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SUDESHNA BANERJEE   |   Published 15.07.14, 12:00 AM

Ayushmann, how does it feel mentoring participants in Zee TV’s acting talent hunt India’s Best Cinestars ki Khoj?

Do you know I was a reject on the show’s first season (in 2004)? I got rejected in the Chandigarh round itself. It was the most devastating day of my life. Back then, all the other boys from Chandigarh were 6’5” and I also looked nerdy with glasses. In hindsight, perhaps I was not ready for the screen. After the rejection, I went on to do veejaying, singing, theatre.... I was experimenting as well as earning good money. Mere paas time tha.

Which judges rejected you?

(Laughs) Chhodo na yaar. Ask these people (points to Zee programming head Namit Sharma). But this is the golden age of Bollywood. In those days, people with unconventional looks like me had no place in the industry. Now the doors are open for anyone with a decent amount of talent.

What would your role be on the show?

I would be mentoring participants in the first few episodes. I am a reality show expert. There was no show in those days for which I did not audition. You have to experience it to know the backstage butterflies while you await your turn or to deal with rejection.

What made you sign up for Animal Planet on their environment month initiative?

I am from Chandigarh. When I came to Bombay I saw the stark difference in the environment. Chandigarh is a green city with a man-made lake called Sukhna. I used to do shramdaan there in my school days in afforestation drives. Mumbai is a concrete jungle with hardly any trees. This reflects on the quality of life of even the stray animals. We, human beings, are at the top of the food chain and only we can make a difference. And as members of the film industry, it is our moral duty to influence the masses as they follow us on Twitter and elsewhere.

Growing up, were you allowed a pet at home?

No. My parents were never animal lovers. My brother (Aparshakti) and I were. We were such brats that my father used to say: “Do paaltu rakhe hain humne, isske alawa kya karein?” There was a mini zoo by the lake which we used to visit. In the Chandigarh zoo, also, there were tigers and peacocks and lots of birds. They even had a white tiger.

Have any animal issues touched you in recent times?

I was supporting the ‘Free Sundar’ campaign of Peta. I have endorsed Peta in the past and shot a campaign with them, like I am doing with Animal Planet now. Sundar is a temple elephant in Maharashtra who was being abused by his mahout. Thankfully he has been released. I also tweeted on a puppy which had lost its mother. Somebody came forward and has taken him in.

From your tweets it seems you are very excited about your film Hawaizaada.

Yes, it is a unique film. The character I play, Shivkar Talpade, built the first Indian aeroplane that flew even before the Wright brothers flew theirs. His plane was called Marutsakha. He lived only for 52 years. The whole story, set in the 1890s, is fiction as we have barely 100 words on him. The character has been built by the writer and the director. I have learnt some Marathi for the film.

The World Cup is on now and you are supposed to do 1911, a football film on the famous Mohun Bagan victory over a British team. Are you a football fan? (This interview was taken before the World Cup got over)

Not really. All I can say is I am supporting Brazil and Neymar. But Shoojitda (Sircar, the film’s director) lives and breathes football. When we were shooting for Vicky Donor, he used to play during the breaks with my brother. Shooting for 1911 will start next February. So I don’t have to train before October.

You shot in Rishikesh recently for the Yash Raj film Dum Laga Ke Haisha.

It is also a period piece in the sense that it is set in the 1990s. It’s about the complexities of the common man on the banks of the Ganges. I play an uneducated guy married to an educated fat girl, played by newcomer Bhoomi Pednekar. Both are complex characters who are underdogs. Rishikesh is a quaint place. Normally people don’t shoot in Hardwar or Rishikesh. That adds a different flavour to the film.

What is the status of Hamara Bajaj?

I don’t know. It depends on Shoojitda. I think he is more busy with 1911 now.

You became a father the second time over.

Yes, I have taken my donor tag a bit too seriously! (Laughs) We have named our daughter Varushka. My son Virajveer is two years old. I love playing with kids. But my job is such that I live out of my suitcase, either shooting outside the country or doing gigs and concerts. Since I am shooting in Bombay now, I am with them.

You used to be a regular blogger. Do you still blog?

Not really, I hardly get the time. My last blog was four months back. I usually write satirical Hindi poems on circumstances in life.

You don’t have to belong to Bollywood to be in Bollywood. The message rung out loud and clear as Zee TV relaunched its acting talent hunt franchise India’s Best Cinestars ki Khoj in Mumbai recently. The winners of the weekend contest, which went on air from July 5 at 9pm, would be helped with getting acting assignments in films and television, Zee’s Namit Sharma announced.

The launch was attended by Vijay Krishna Acharya, the director of Dhoom:3 (the other judge will be Sonali Bendre), and the two young mentors (described by Sharma as the “Bollywood buddies” of the contestants) Ayushmann Khurrana and Parineeti Chopra who will be present in the initial episodes.

The four-film-old Parineeti was all wide-eyed candour and giggles when asked what advice she would give aspirants. “Kya aukaat hai meri?” she blurted out. t2 sat in on a chat with the disarmingly real Bolly star.

Would you advocate that actors take a course in PR before launching their career?

(The former Yash Raj Films PR laughs uncontrollably for half a minute) No! Iss career mein PR se baat zyaada aage nahin badhti. I will tell them: ‘PR chhodo, audition shuru karo’.

Have you ever faced rejection?

Touch wood, no. I had once given an audition without being aware that it was a serious audition and I got selected for a role (in Ladies vs Ricky Bahl). But I am sharing my personal experiences with the participants. There is no rule book to become an actor. It’s more a case of them (studios) choosing us than us choosing them. I have been to some of the auditions for the show. Kaise kaise log aaye hain actor banne! A housewife who has just delivered a baby, a student, a college professor, a safaiwallah….

What is the most important piece of advice you can give Bollywood aspirants?

Always have a back-up plan. Aur naukri waukri chhodke mat aa jaana, please. Get an offer before you quit your job. If you have a wish to be an actor, try by all means, but not too many are lucky to get a chance at the first go.

What is your back-up plan?

The day you stop liking me I will go back to banking. I have spent years getting a degree in the UK. Because it was recession time and I was not getting a job in London, I came back and joined the PR team (of Yash Raj Films).

What is your strength as an actress?

The homework I do. I do a lot of research and become the character.

Do you have a mentor in the industry?

It has to be Shanoo Sharma (the Yash Raj casting director who spotted her) and then Adi (Aditya Chopra). Even now, I call them at night to discuss every issue... ‘Yeh script aayi hai, film karoon ya na karoon?’ ‘Gandi photo nikli hai, main kya karoon?’

What keeps you so down to earth?

My weight! I stay down. I can’t fly even if I wanted to.

Newcomers are likely to be apprehensive about the so-called casting couch in Bollywood. What would you tell them?

Don’t sit on the couch.

Which team are you…

Please don’t ask me about the World Cup! I don’t know anything about football.

Pictures: SB

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