VERSATILE ACTOR AYUSHMANN KHURRANA ON NEW FILM ANDHADHUN AND UNUSUAL CAREER CHOICES


by ASJAD NAZIR.

The talented Mr Khurrana.

AYUSHMANN KHURRANA SAYS ANDHADHUN IS A QUIRKY THRILLER.

WITH hit film Vicky Donor, the versatile actor Ayushmann Khurrana perhaps made the
most unique leading man debut in Bollywood history.

Since then he has carved out a unique path with out-of-the-box subjects that gave commercial Hindi cinema a new dimension.

The talented actor continues his distinctive journey with brand new thriller Andhadhun,
in which he plays a blind pianist who finds himself caught up in a deadly conspiracy. The
latest film from ace director Sriram Raghavan is a twist-laden drama that also stars acclaimed actresses Radhika Apte and Tabu.

Eastern Eye caught up with Khurrana to talk about Andhadhun, his unique cinematic path,
inspirations and more.

You seem to find out of the box projects. Do you go looking for these subjects or do they find you?
I think it is both, Asjad. I started with an unconventional subject like Vicky Donor and have been treading the path since then. It’s great that I am attracted to these scripts. I am glad that I get a chance to carve out that niche and space for myself in this Bollywood movie industry.

You do subjects that perhaps other commercial actors would not. Are you fearless?
It is good to be fearless, I think. You need to give something different to the audience. We have web and digital content also, which is working great, so if somebody is spending money to be in the theatre, you better give something different to the audience. But at the same time you need to know that the entertainment quotient should not be compromised and should remain intact. If it is an unusual film, it has to be merged with entertainment.

Is it true that you auditioned for Andhadhun?
Yes. For the first time I actually gave a screen test for a film. When I found out that Sriram sir had a film script with an interesting premise, I asked him for a screen test. He was surprised and the next day the cameras were set. I did a couple of scenes from the film and he was like, ‘let’s go, let’s do this’. It was exciting.

At the same time, I liked that the casting was different and no one would expect me to be in a Sriram Raghavan film. So it’s different for him as well.

The trailer for Andhadhun is superb. What attracted you to the film?
First of all, thank you. I think director Sriram sir, who is the master of thrillers, was one factor. I have always wanted to work with him. It was on my bucket list.

Apart from that, I wanted to do something different. I have been doing slice of life cinema for the past six years and thankfully they have done pretty well, but at the same time, I wanted to change the image with something completely different. This is the first time I am doing a thriller and that is a different genre for me.

Is this your most challenging character yet?
Yes, definitely. This is the most challenging character I have ever played. I have seen a lot of actors playing blind characters, but I didn’t use any movie as reference and observed blind people in real life and musicians too. I think that observing is the best learning as far as acting is concerned. So it was very exciting.

How did you approach this character because it is something you’ve never done before?
To begin with, the best part is that he is a musician like me with a natural inclination towards music. I took lessons from Akshay Verma, a Mumbai-based pianist from Los Angeles, who worked me really hard on various pieces.

Apart from that, I went to a blind school in Mumbai and met a lot of students, including those who became blind recently and those who have been so since childhood. I observed their body language and the way they approach a piano. I also met a blind pianist and observed how he makes facial expressions and the way he walks and everything else. Normally I do films and characters that are relatable, but this is something that is not and completely out of the box. It was challenging and exciting at the same time.

Watching the trailer you think the character is a good guy and half way through it you question that. Is he a good guy or a bad guy?
I think he is a good guy. It is a quirky thriller and not that dark. It does have some moments of darkness and people may expect a dark film, but it is an entertaining film.

How much does it help when you are working with gifted actresses like Tabu and Radhika Apte who are at the top of their game?
I think it’s just a co-ordination of energies on set. If you have great actors you automatically start acting better, because I think it’s like give and take. Almost like a table tennis match. Acting is more about reacting. The more the other actor is doing emotionally, the more you automatically feel that in a similar way. Radhika is in top form with this film, so is Tabu who is a veteran.

She comes from the 1990s as a heroine and at that time the tonality was slightly higher and more filmi, but she was well-adapted to different scripts and characters. I don’t think there is anyone from her contemporaries, who has acted like that. The scripts she is choosing from – commercial films like Golmaal Again to Haider or Andhadhun – are so diverse. And I think Tabu is brilliant.

Director Sriram Raghavan is picky about the subjects he does. What was he like to work with?
Sriram Raghavan is a purist when it comes to films, scripts, music and everything else. You may say he is picky, but he is a very easy-going person and has no ego. He will take opinions from everybody – from a top actor to the office boy – to gauge what they think. Sriram sir feels everyone has the right to give an opinion because he sees that the audience comprises of every strata of society and every culture, so he takes every feedback very seriously. That is the character of a great artist.

Do you have a favourite moment in the movie?
There are a lot of great moments. It is very hard to pick a single one. I think the climax is my favourite. You will have to watch the film for that.

How do you feel before your film releases and does the weight of expectation ever affect you?
I am 10 films old and have been in the industry for six years. So I have learned the art of treading the middle path of being attached at one point of time and later being detached.

You have done varied work, but do you have a dream role?
I never thought I would start my film career as a sperm donor (in Vicky Donor), so my dream roles are in the minds of scriptwriters. I did have certain references when I came to Mumbai to be an actor. I wanted to do Shah Rukh Khan’s role in Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa and Aamir Khan’s character in Joh Jeeta Wohi Sikandar.

I would love to play a certain kind of rockstar because I sing. In terms of a dream role, every film has some quirk and new nuance to the character. I treat every character seriously.

Talking of music, you are a good singer, will you be doing anything in the musical space?
You know, by default, I am singing one song in every film and I cut one single every year. I think that is enough for me because I do two or three films a year. I am mostly busy with my films. Three songs a year is good enough, I guess. My focus is mostly on acting. I want to maintain myself as an actor who sings, not a singer who acts.

What kind movies do you like watching?
I like to watch every kind of film. In fact, I don’t get a chance to watch many movies, I am more into reading, observing life and watching plays as I come from a theatre background, which really helps. But when I do, I watch every kind from commercial cinema to art films.

What are your inspirations?
I guess the drive to evolve as an actor. Inspiration can come from anybody including someone doing a mundane nine-to-five job with all seriousness and excitement, which is tougher for an artist because we don’t like a routine. I am glad that artists don’t have routines as we can regularly play different characters in diverse films, so there is always a certain excitement. But a majority of people have nine-to-five jobs and doing that with upmost honesty and excitement is something that really inspires me.

Finally, why do you think we should we watch Andhadhun?
The film is quirky, full of excitement, thrill, a dash of humour, but also at the same time, it is something you haven’t seen on celluloid before.

  • Andhadhun is in cinemas now.