As someone who has made a career out of playing regular guy roles, Ayushmann Khurrana believes it is a great time to be an actor in Bollywood where the space to experiment has grown like never before.
The actor, who has cemented his standing in the industry by featuring in middle-of-the-road films such as Vicky Donor, Dum Laga Ke Haisha and Bareilly Ki Barfi, says not playing safe has worked in his favour.
“This is the best era to be an artist in the industry. You get to explore a lot of things which were not possible earlier. Parallel films did not make money but in this day and age, content films are doing commercially great. The trend probably started with Vicky Donor.
“These films give confidence to not just actors but also directors, writers and producers. They know that one can put their money on such films. Actors get to experiment a lot because viewers seem to like that,” he said in an interview.
Ayushmann says he is always looking to reinvent himself and his next, Sriram Raghavan-directed AndhaDhun, is a thriller that will see him playing a blind pianist.
“I started my career with an unconventional film. There is no point in playing safe because the audiences love different quirks, something that is crazy and out-of-the-box. I think that’s what my space is and if you are going to have your own space in the industry, this is where I want to be.”
Working with Raghavan, who has best thriller films in India to credit, be it Ek Haseena Thi, Johnny Gaddar or Badlapur, was on Ayushmann’s bucket-list.
The actor approached Raghavan when he heard about “AndhaDhun”. They met and Ayushmann offered to take a screen test, his first as an actor.
“When I got to know that he was looking to cast his film, I met him. He told me ‘This is not a slice-of-life film’. And I told him, ‘This is why I have come to meet you. I don’t want to do a slice-of-life film with you. I want to do a thriller’. Working with him was on my bucket list,” he recalls.
To perfect his role, Ayushmann decided he would not see any film, Indian or Hollywood, for reference. He and Raghavan visited a blind school and in a case of life imitating art, ended up meeting a blind pianist, who helped the actor in understanding the world.
“We called him to Sriram’s office and recorded his body language and I realised the space was completely alien to him because in his school he was familiar about the geography. But a new place becomes difficult to navigate. So, I spent a lot of time researching and rehearsing.
“In all the characters I have played before this film, there is something that I have taken from the people around me but I had no reference for this character. It has been my most challenging role so far,” he says.
Ayushmann believes he has become a more assured artiste and he credits his experiences, both good and bad, for that.
“It only comes with experience and it has been six years for me in the industry. I have seen both highs and lows. It gives you a perspective about life, your career and everything. The confidence about a certain product or a character comes from there and then there are directors who you really trust like Sriram Raghavan, who is a credible name in the industry.”
Ayushmann’s brother Aparshakti is also finding his feet in the industry and the actor is happy that he has already featured in films like Dangal and recent release Stree.
“I’m really proud of him. He has made a mark for himself and is doing good stuff. Both Rajkumar (Rao) and Aparshakti and all the other actors in Stree are so good. Aparshakti has his own journey and as a sibling, I can only wish him good luck. I would also love to work with him as an actor,” he says.
Also starring Tabu and Radhika Apte, AndhaDhun releases October 5.
Ayushmann will follow it up with another release, Badhaai Ho, which is slated to hit the screens on October 12.