'Have you guys eaten anything?', asks Ayushmann Khurrana before settling down for his interview with us at the swanky Yash Raj Studios. That's the moment when you realise that this down-to-earth fella is a charmer in real life too.
Over to the 'Meri Pyaari Bindu' actor who shoots straight from the heart...
I Have Become More Practical In Life Now
What is it about love that makes your character Abhimanyu Roy write pulp fiction?
A. (laughs) My character in the film loves writing pulp fiction and horror novels. But at the same time, he ironically imagines Bindu in each and every protagonist of his novel. But of course these are not the eulogies or dedications to his beloved. It's just that it's his expression of love or maybe his weird imagination.
How much do you relate to Abhimanyu in real life?
A. In my early 20s or probably in my teens I was vulnerable and naive and that's how Abhi is in the film. So, I could relate to that part. Probably I have became more practical now in life. Apart from that I could relate to his love for music.
I Still Believe That Success Is A Lousy Teacher
After the success of your last film 'Dum Laga Ke Haisha', do you feel that the burden of failure is off you now?
A. I think that if you have talent then you would definitely get good opportunities as an actor. I am glad that in a span of five years I have given two National Award winning films- Vicky Donor and Dum Laga Ke Haisha.
I am very fortunate that I am getting quality roles. Success and failure will come and go. I still believe that success is a lousy teacher. You should have failures. That's the path of growing up in life.
What have you learnt from your failures?
A. Sometimes you get very myopic when you think about a particular role. Now I have learnt that the film is at most importance. You should look at totality and not just prioritize your role in particular.
Does a film's failure take a toil on you?
A. I am a very level-headed guy. But of course as a human it does affect you. I am not very expressive as a person. I think it's the perspective which changes of the outside world. But internally, I just take it as an experience.
If Every Actor Is Doing A Commercial Film Then Where Is The Space For The Amol Palekars & Farooq Sheikh's Of Today's World?
Was it a conscious decision of yours to take up content-driven films?
A. I started my career with unconventional films. I always believed that I was an unconventional actor. If every actor is doing a commercial film then where is the space for the Amol Palekars and Farooq Sheikhs of today's world?
I think I am happy being in that space. I want to do films which are novel and unconventional and own that space.
Ayushmann, in most of your films you have played a common everyday character which one could relate to. But then do you think that in some way then you won't be getting offers for a larger-than-life or action-oriented roles?
A. It really doesn't matter. A month back Aditya Chopra had told me that my real life persona reflects on screen which is great. You come across an enduring guy which reflects on screen. We evolve every day.
Till the time I don't feel that I can be an action hero, I cannot become one. I think it's an internal process. I still have a long way to go.
I Am Glad That I Get Those Kind Of Roles Where I Don't Have To Bulk Up Or Lose Weight Drastically
A lot of actors these days are going out of their way to look their character. If given a chance, would you like to gain or lose weight if your role demands such transformation?
A. It depends on the character in the film. If given a chance then why not? I think Bhumi Pednekar was one of the first female actresses to do that. But of course, it's not easy. It takes a toil on your health.
I am glad that I get those kind of roles where I don't have to bulk up or lose weight drastically. But if given a chance and the script is crazy then I would definitely do it. I don't want to do it just for the heck of it.
Any plans of making a comeback on television?
A. I think web excites me more than television. I started my career as an anchor for a youth channel. Not many people know that I even did a fiction show for three-six months. There was a lot of edgy content on TV in 2008. That youth channel was known for edgy content but it's not the same anymore.
I think now web is the place where edgy content happens. Television is still slighty regressive. I would love to do some progressive stuff on web.
This is your third film under the Yash Raj banner. Has it become a family to you now?
A. I am glad that I am a part of this family. It's like a boutique managing agency. There are a few selected actors who are being managed by YRF- Arjun, Ranveer, Parineeti, Anushka, Bhumi and myself. I think it's great to be here because you feel really secured here.
You have a mentor like Aditya Chopra who has seen the world and is doing different kind of stuff. He is someone who makes something like 'Dhoom' and then 'Dum Laga Ke Haisha'. They are doing variety of stuff and also evolving with times.
For The Visual Thing And Commercial Aspect, An Actor Would Be More Saleable Than A Singer
What's your take on this debate about actors taking up singing?
A. It's a very Indian tradition of lip-syncing songs. In the west you generally sing your own songs. So, I don't know what this hullalaboo is all about. I think that if you sing your own songs, it just lends credibility to your character on screen.
But having said that, talking about this Justin Bieber concert, I think it's just the commercial aspect. There is is a hierarchy in our industry which I don't know whether it is right or wrong. We are obssessed with cricket and cinema. They are two huge entities in our country. Automatically there are given the spotlight.
If somebody like Shahrukh Khan sings Sooraj Hua Madham or Gerua, people believe he is a singer. He owns that song. It is ironic that we consume music visually.
So, I think that for the visual thing and commercial aspect, an actor would be more salable as compared to a singer. Whether it is right or wrong is highly debatable.
Cricket and films are the primary passion of this country. When it comes to IPL they do tend to mix. Do it think sometimes it's like a forced marriage?
A. It can't be forced for sure. But IPL is a great franchise. I think it's doing very well because two great entities are together. This marriage is so perfect because these two entities are biggest in the country.
But having said that, I think talking about the anchors, they should be pure sportsperson. I wasn't a sports anchor. Though I have played cricket at the district level.
But I wasn't well versed with IPL. I still don't watch them. I am more into test cricket or probably I will watch something else. But yes, sports anchoring is a complete different ball game.
We Have Realised The Potential Of A True Indian Story Through Baahubali
These days we see a lot of comparison being made between Bollywood films with that of a magnum opus like Baahubali or films in the west. Do you think that's fair?
A. Comparisons will also happen be it with international cinema or Indian cinema. It depends on what kind of audience it's catering to. For example a UP Hindi speaking audience may not relate to something in the west unless it's dubbed.
I think Baahubali is a great franchise because it's dubbed and too Indian. It's mythology, historical in a way and fiction. That's why it's working.We have realised the potential of true Indian story through Baahubali. It's like a case study.
Do camps in industry bother you?
A. I was so lost after Vicky Donor. I was like 'why are they after my life now?' (laughs) Over the years I have realised that this is a part of the drill. This is how it works and now I have a part of Yash Raj camp in a way.
But at the same time, Arjun (Kapoor) has worked with Dharma and their actors are working here. So, it's all fair now and majorly depends upon the character that you are playing.
Was there any life-changing moment in your life?
A. I think my life changing moment was when I became a video anchor. When I was doing fiction on TV, I was rejected a lot of times. I was playing the second lead in a TV show called Kayamath and I had accepted it that this was my life.
I was doing radio and TV simultaneously. But when I became a VJ on televsion, I was like this is it. I was determined to establish my name as Ayushmann.
We Were Like Nerds On Roadies
You have been a part of a reality show in your early days. So how real are they according to you in today's times?
A. When I started as a reality show contestant, that was the time when these shows had just started in India. I was 18 that time. My first reality show was Popstars. After that Roadies happened in 2004. That was the time when it was just the onset of reality shows.
It was just a journey from point A To B without any faff. We never used to abuse each other. We were a bunch of decent, intelligent people. That's why that was the worst season of Roadies as they were no TRPs. We were like nerds on Roadies. Later on, I think they just started taking back benchers so that they can just fight among themselves.
Sometimes You Just Want To Play Your Alter Ego On Screen
Writers are known to be more expressive when it comes to written words. Whereas actors need to be more animatedly expressive. How did you strike a balance?
A. I feel I am more expressive as a writer. I am a different person when cameras are on. Otherwise in real life, I am not much expressive. But sometimes you just want to play your alter ego on screen. I feel like a superman but I am not.
My Films Mostly Depend On Reviews And How People Accept Them
How much important are box office numbers to you?
A. The kind of films which I have done normally do well with the word of mouth. They mostly depend on reviews and how people accept the film. So, I am the least person on the earth who can comment on box office numbers. I don't understand numbers.
I Am A Bengali Trapped In A Punjabi Body
With Mother's Day round the corner, what's the essence of a mother in your life?
A. I have got my dimples from my mother (smiles). I am subtle because of my mother. Being a Punjabi, I am not loud which is an oxymoron. I still feel that I am a Bengali trapped in a Punjabi body.
I am in love with Bengal these days. I have discovered Rabindranath Tagore and Rabindra sangeet. I have planned to put a life-sized portrait of Tagore in next house. That academic side of reading about Premchand, Manto comes from my mother. I have got patience from her.
Of course, my talent comes from my father's side but my mother is responsible for my character.