Ahead of the release of Bewakoofiyaan, Ayushmann Khurrana talks about his film roles, his unique position as a singer-actor and how he dislikes self-promotion.
What made you sign Bewakoofiyaan?
For any Hindi film viewer who has grown up watching Chandni, Lamhe and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, working with Yash Raj Films is a dream. It was my desire to be a part of a YRF romcom. Vicky Donor and Nautanki Saala weren’t typically commercial, so you can say that Bewakoofiyaan is my most commercial film till date. The film is not a typical romcom — writer Habib Faisal has given it a sort of rootedness and director Nupur Asthana comes with urban sensibilities, which is an interesting combination.
You are playing a Delhi-based guy in this film just like in Vicky Donor. So how are the characters different?
In Bewakoofiyaan, my character, Mohit, is a corporate guy in the time of recession. It’s based on real-life situations that happened a couple of years back when an airline company went bankrupt. Unlike Vicky (in Vicky Donor), he is more polished and not as brash and bindaas. Mohit is extremely ambitious who is in a relationship with a girl who is equally ambitious. Vicky was Lajpat Nagar, Mohit is the shining, new corporate Delhi.
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How have you managed your film career till now?
Till a point, I was consciously choosing roles I can relate to in real life. Vicky, being a Punjabi, was easy, and so was a theatre actor in Nautanki Saala. I can also relate to the urban Punjabi in Bewakoofiyaan and to the struggling actor in my forthcoming film Hamara Bajaj. In my early roles, I needed something immediate to latch on to, because I was still learning as an actor. My forthcoming roles are going to be drastically different, and not like how I am in real life. In 1911, I play a Bengali footballer, whereas I have been a cricketer all my life. I play a Bhojpuri speaking illiterate in another film with YRF called Dum Laga Ke Haisha. The film is set in Haridwar and Rishikesh and is about how my character gets married to a fat girl who is quite intelligent and how they fall in love eventually. In Bambai Fairytale, I play a Maharashtrian scientist. Now, I am looking deeper into the characters and choosing challenging roles.
You’ve had an interesting journey: from winning Roadies, to becoming an RJ, TV anchor to finally a singer-actor. Were you always aiming to be a movie star?
I always wanted to be more of an actor than a star. I acted in a couple of school plays and I was a fan of Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan. But I was not good looking as a kid. I was skinny, spectacled and nerdy and I never thought of myself as a chick magnet. Although now I get female attention, and people find me cute at times, I never aspire to be that. I’ll always be the guy-next-door. The good thing is that nowadays unconventional actors are accepted as stars. I can’t chase stardom, I can only try to be an earnest performer. I came to Mumbai for the first time after my post graduation in 2006. I went back to Delhi as a radio jockey, returned to Mumbai to try my luck as an actor. I auditioned for four years but didn’t get good opportunities, so I became a TV anchor. But I always had my eyes set on films.
Although I was hosting several musical reality shows, I never revealed that I could sing and compose because I was saving it for the right opportunity. It’s important to choose the right film as your first film. Only once Vicky Donor came my way, did I decide to showcase my musical side.
Since you’ve donned so many avatars, what image do you think you hold in the audience’s mind today?
I think I have managed to create space for myself as a singer-actor, which is pretty cool. People expect something out of my films and music. I am also not just an actor or singer. If you read my tweets, they are not self-obsessed. I don’t re-tweet praises like a lot of celebs do. I realise it’s such a turn off for people. I can never promote myself that blatantly. Also, I am not insecure as an actor because I have seen so many rejections in the past.
How did you get into music? Does an understanding of music complement your acting in any way?
My father used to play the flute. I used to take lessons but never took it seriously. I started listening to ghazals, and later in college got exposed to international music: soft-rock and metal. When I was doing theatre in college, we would compose, jam, play percussion to score for plays. At that time, I thought Punjabi soft rock would be a good genre to explore, since Punjabi music usually is seen as loud and only bhangra. So all my songs, be it Paani da, Sadi galli or O heeriye, are in Punjabi love ballad-soft rock territory. My sense of music gives me a sense of sur in acting. When I am dubbing, I realise the finer differences of high and low pitch. Moreover, I believe life is about rhythm, and those who know rhythm well can do everything.