It’s an air of quiet, happy confidence that actor Ayushmann Khurrana exudes and fittingly so as he steps into the room to chat with me. With two back-to-back successful films— Bareilly Ki Barfi and Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, Khurrana kitted in a dapper blue and brown ensemble, looks more GQ cover than the mofussil-boy- next-door avatar from his movies.
Right off the bat, he admits to being more of an urban boy, although ironically, his small town boy act has worked wonders for his career. Indeed, a testimony to the young actor’s acting capabilities.
The talk veers towards small towns, their quirks and of his success with the chote sheher ka ladka roles. He explains, “If you get the language and the nuances right and are true to the milieu then you are sorted. It helps that I am a linguist.”
When quizzed about Chandigarh where he hails from, he proclaims that it isn’t a small town anymore. Although, he reveals he has many happy memories from growing the town, including ‘Gedi Lagana’- a spin around the areas between Chandigarh’s Sector 8 to Sector 11. The ride is lovely, with smooth roads, and a scenic view of the lower Himalayas. But, its most attractive feature he discloses is the bevy of colleges located along the route, making it a popular hangout for youngsters. “In fact, when I go back to Chandigarh, I go for ‘Gedi’ with my wife,” he recalls with a charming smile lighting up his endearing face.
His early dreams of becoming an actor were met with shock and surprise. For instance, when he revealed his secret to his doting Daadi who loved imitating Hindi film stalwarts Dilip Kumar and Dev Anand, he was reprimanded severely for harbouring such dreams.
Watch: Ayushmann Khurrana gets candid with Priyanka Sinha Jha in the second episode of Expresso
In fact, years later even his long-time girlfriend Tahira (now wife) was surprised at the extent of his ambition (to pursue a career in acting). It is now a well-known fact that surprisingly it was his father who insisted on the actor leaving the comfort of his home for a career in television in Mumbai. Aptly, the actor gives the lion’s share of credit to his father who gave him the much-needed direction and grooming to turn into a confident young man and subsequently an actor.
Over the five years that he has been in the movies, Khurrana to his credit has kept his personal life on an even keel. “Things around you change every Friday so it’s important to value your family because they are the only ones who don’t change,” he reasons.
Both Tahira and Khurrana strike a fine balance between projection and reality. He says that for the most part they are fine through the ups and downs of the filmi-life, although he reveals that among their first tiffs was one around an on-screen kiss in Vicky Donor.
Khurrana is rather amused recollecting the incident. “I am her first boyfriend and now her husband so she can never imagine me kissing anybody else. I am the only one she has ever kissed in her life,” he says laughing at the memory.
Things are highlighted and underlined in this profession, he says adding, that it is important to love one’s partner and keep things steady. His learning seems to have worked for the couple who have two kids and the actor is becoming a more hands-on as a parent attending sports day and parent-teacher meetings.
Khurrana is most definitely a quintessential family man. He talks lovingly about his parents. He admits that his father has been instrumental in shaping the actor’s personality. “He groomed me into a people’s person,” says the actor.
One of the most important things his father taught him was discipline and practice of writing—he would make him write out daily precis on newspaper editorials. From his mother, Khuranna inherited his love of Hindi. Being a Hindi professor she would converse more in Hindi than Punjabi. This helped him with his Hindi diction even though he was growing up in Punjab.
In Mumbai, he has extended his family to include people that he works with— mentor Shoojit Sircar and actor-producer John Abraham who he calls his Godbrother. Aditya Chopra, the head honcho of YashRaj Films, the company that manages his career is also a mentor and Khurrana is grateful for the guidance they offer.
Ayushmann Khurrana is a self-professed SRK fan. He idolises and can mimic Khan rather well.
“I am so good that I can even dub for Shah Rukh,” he says with a big smile breaking into a dialogue from Devdas and then Anjaam (Khan’s films). He confesses that he didn’t do too much of mimicry when he came to Mumbai for fear of being categorized as a mimicry artiste. Khuranna was clear that had to make his own mark here. Following in his idol’s footsteps, he has not done too badly for himself—with two resounding hit films this year and a Sriram Raghavan thriller coming up, Khurrana is certainly hitting the right notes and making a place for himself in big-town Bollywood.
(Priyanka Sinha Jha is a senior journalist, author, and digital-media specialist)